BBC SPORT Arabic Spanish Russian Chinese

BBC Sport
 You are in: Football: Eng Div 3  
Sport Front Page
FA Cup
Eng Prem
Champions League
Uefa Cup
Eng Div 1
Eng Div 2
Eng Div 3
Eng Conf
Scot Prem
Scottish Cup
Scot Div 1
Scot Div 2
Scot Div 3
League of Wales
Rugby Union
Rugby League
Other Sports
Special Events
Sports Talk
BBC Pundits
TV & Radio
Question of Sport
Photo Galleries
Funny Old Game
Around The UK: 
N Ireland

BBC Sport Academy
BBC News
BBC Weather

Monday, 6 May, 2002, 15:54 GMT 16:54 UK
Cheltenham crack Diamonds
Goalscorer Martin Devaney celebrates Cheltenham's opening goal
Devaney rips off his shirt in celebration of his opener
Cheltenham 3-1 Rushden & Diamonds

Cheltenham completed their journey from the Southern League to the Second Division as Steve Cotterill's side deservedly held off Football League new boys Rushden and Diamonds.

Cheltenham's victory continued the Millennium Stadium's remarkable lucky dressing room statistic and 11 teams from the North End have now emerged victorious in 11 Cardiff finals.

  Millennium Stadium goals
27 mins: Devaney fires home after Partridge blocks his shot
28 mins: Hall's dazzling run and finish serves an instant response
49 mins: Alsop taps home after seeing his header blocked
80 mins: Finnigan curls home after Grayson's shot comes back off a post

But there was nothing lucky about Cheltenham's win as they made up for the disappointment of missing out on automatic promotion on the final day of the regular season.

The grandeur of the Millennium Stadium provided a somewhat overpowering backdrop as two of the Football League's freshest faces looked to come of age.

Fitting, then, that the early exchanges had more of a feel of a playground squabble than a heavyweight title fight.

But, after 25 minutes of tentative sparring, the match finally came to life with two goals in the space of a minute.

Cheltenham drew first blood, with a mixture of positive attacking play and outrageous good fortune.

Martin Devaney cut in from the left and fed the ball into the danger area, where Scott Partridge could only manage to steer the ball back into the midfielder's path.

Rushden's Paul Hall shows great composure to clip home the equaliser after a fine run
Paul Hall clips home for a superb equaliser
Devaney gratefully accepted the gift, cutting the ball past goalkeeper Billy Turley from an acute angle.

But Cheltenham's celebrations were short-lived.

In fact, they lasted a mere 14 seconds.

That's how long it took Paul Hall to weave his way through three Cheltenham defenders and clip a neat left-footed shot past helpless keeper Steve Book.

Cheltenham, with three Football League seasons behind them, are relative veterans compared to Brian Talbot's Rushden, looking for back-to-back promotions having come up from the Conference last season.

But it was the new boys who looked the sharper side for most of the second half.

Former American Major League Soccer star Onande Lowe was a constant danger in the first half, though he faded badly after the break as Cheltenham dominated after the break.

Simple chance

But Cheltenham had a prolific front man of their own.

Julian Alsop came into this final with 25 goals to his name this season, but none could have been easier than than his crucial 49th-minute tap-in.

The 6ft 4in striker rose well to meet Antony Griffin's cross and, though Andy Tillson blocked the header, Alsop was left with a simple chance to put Cheltenham back in front.

Julian Alsop celebrates after putting Cheltenham 2-1 up
Alsop salutes his 26th goal of the season
The goal meant Rushden were behind for the fifth time in three play-off matches - and this time there was no coming back for Talbot's side.

In fact, Cheltenham should have ensure a more comfortable final 30 minutes when Alsop sent a free header wide of Turley's goal.

The Gloucestershire side also had clear claims for a penalty turned down when defender Stuart Gray handled in the area under pressure from Devaney.

The lively Devaney eventually limped out of the game after suffering from cramp 15 minutes from time, but his replacement, Neil Grayson, played a crucial part in the third goal.

His curling shot smacked against a post, but John Finnigan showed great composure to bend home the rebound and put the seal on Cheltenham's promotion.

Cheltenham: Book, Griffin, Duff, Walker, Victory, Williams, Yates, Finnigan, Devaney, Alsop, Naylor. Subs: Grayson, Howarth, Muggleton, Lee, Tyson.

Rushden & Diamonds: Turley, Mustafa, Peters, Tillson, Underwood, Hall, Wardley, Butterworth, Gray, Lowe, Partridge. Subs: Brady, Angell, Pennock, Setchell, Hunter.

Referee: A Leake (Darwen)

BBC Five Live's Ian Brown
"From the Southern League to Division Two in five years"

Division One

Division Two

Division Three

Click here for all the latest from the My Club section

Match coverage
Click here for all the latest from the My Club section

Match coverage
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Eng Div 3 stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Eng Div 3 stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

Sport Front Page | Football | Cricket | Rugby Union | Rugby League |
Tennis | Golf | Motorsport | Boxing | Athletics | Other Sports |
Special Events | Sports Talk | BBC Pundits | TV & Radio | Question of Sport |
Photo Galleries | Funny Old Game | N Ireland | Scotland | Wales