Saturday April 27th 2002
Third Division Play Off Semi-Final, first leg
RUSHDEN & DIAMONDS v ROCHDALE
Rushden & Diamonds 2 (Wardley 34, Butterworth 74)
Turley, Mustafa, Underwood,Tillson, Peters, Burgess, Wardley, Butterworth, Hall, Lowe, Partridge (sub: Angell 83 min).
Rochdale 2 (McEvilly 8, Simpson 57)
Edwards, Evans, Griffiths, Jobson, Doughty, Flitcroft, Simpson, McLoughlin, Oliver, McEvilly, Platt (sub: Townson 53min).
Booked: Griffiths, Oliver, Simpson
This match brought together Rushden, who were aiming for promotion in their first League season, and Rochdale who had only once before earned promotion in their 80 year League career.
The new-boys made the most promising start with Lowe and Hall having clear chances in the opening five minutes before Rochdale's Lee McEvilly made a fantastic run from inside his own half before firing past Billy Turley from 15 yards. Scott Partridge came close for Rushden before the home side equalised, Hall floating over a free kick for Stuart Wardley to head home.
After 57 minutes Rochdale regained the lead when the ball fell to Simpson after the home side failed to clear a corner. Goalkeeper Turley was off his line and Simpson volleyed into the goal from fully 35 yards. Rushden scored the final goal a quarter of an hour later, Garry Butterworth scoring from 25 yards.
A magnificent contest had the edge taken off it with post-match violence aimed at the Rochdale contingent. Unfortunately worse was to follow in play-off matches that season.