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Saturday, 27 April, 2002, 16:17 GMT 17:17 UK
Rushden 2-2 Rochdale
Rochdales Paul Simpson (bottom) celebrates scoring the 2nd goal
Simpson scored a second for Rochdale

Rushden defender Garry Butterworth scored a priceless goal to earn his side a dramatic draw in the play-off semi-final first-leg clash with Rochdale at Nene Park.

John Hollins' side looked to be heading for the return leg at Spotland on Tuesday night with a narrow advantage after Paul Simpson produced a stunning finish shortly after half-time.

But Butterworth's strike from the edge of the box, his second goal of the season, kept the Diamonds' Division Three promotion hopes alive.

Lee McEvilly had given Dale the lead with a contender for goal of the season after just eight minutes. Stuart Wardley headed home to level shortly afterwards.

Rochdale took the lead with a wonderful individual effort from McEvilly.

David Flitcroft's pass found McEvilly inside his own area. The midfielder burst forward past four defenders before coolly lifting the ball over goalkeeper Billy Turley.

Brian Talbot's team, though, were desperately unlucky not to pull themselves level on the half hour mark.

Lowe's stinging free-kick beat the dive of keeper Neil Edwards but drifted narrowly past the post.

In their next attack, Diamonds midfielder Hall caused confusion in the visitors' box with a set piece. Wardley was left unmarked to head home.
Rushden & Diamonds Garry Butterworth (c) is congratulated by his teammates on scoring their second goal against Rochdale
Goal hero Butterworth is mobbed by his teammates after equalising

Simpson strike

Onandi Lowe continued to look dangerous after the break and he came close again after 51 minutes with a powerful strike which flew off target.

Diamonds were caught out again five minutes later, though, when Simpson produced a sublime finish.

The midfielder appeared to have few options after picking up the ball 40 yards from goal but his curling shot from the left wing caught Turley out of position and screamed into the back of the net.

Rushden thought they had equalised immediately but Lowe's effort was ruled out by referee Graham Barber for a foul.

On 67 minutes the woodwork denied the home side again as Scott Partridge's shot dipped over Edwards before crashing back off the underside of the bar.

But Rushden finally claimed the equaliser they deserved with 18 minutes remaining through man-of-the-match Butterworth.

His drive from the edge of the box found the top corner of the net and gave Diamonds hope for Spotland.

Rushden & D'monds: Turley, Mustafa, Tillson, Peters, Underwood, Hall, Wardley, Butterworth, Burgess, Partridge, Lowe.
Subs: Brady, Angell, Mills, Pennock, Setchell.

Rochdale: Edwards, Evans, Griffiths, Jobson, Doughty, Flitcroft, Oliver, McLoughlin, Simpson, Platt, McEvilly.
Subs: Coleman, Gilks, Durkan, Townson, McCourt.

Referee: G Barber (Tring)

BBC Sport's David Croft
"A cracking match"
Rushden boss Brain Talbot
"It was a fair result"

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