Alford enlivens quiet night at Rushden

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The Independent Online
Non-League notebook The two most valuable strikers in the non-League game enhanced their reputations with a goal each in the England semi-professional side's 3- 1 victory over the Netherlands at Rushden & Diamonds on Tuesday.

It was the season's second comfortable win for the England team - and Carl Alford and Barry Hayles were also on target in February's 4-0 win over the Republic of Ireland. For Alford, Tuesday's goal was his second in four days in front of his new home crowd: he had scored Rushden's only goal in their 2-1 home defeat by Halesowen Town last Saturday, two days after his non- League record pounds 85,000 move from Kettering.

It is a measure of Rushden's rapidly rising status that they provided three of Tuesday's starting line-up, quite a feat for a club outside the GM Vauxhall Conference. One of the three, midfielder Steve Stott, opened the scoring in the fifth minute, flicking in a cross from the left by the Harrow Borough winger, Lee Endersby.

Another left-wing cross, from the Rushden left-back, Nick Ashby, allowed Alford to hook in a 12th-minute goal to double England's lead. Aschwin de Bruijn, the towering Dutch centre-forward, pulled one back in the 18th minute, but Endersby skilfully set up the chance for Hayles to drive in England's third goal from the edge of the area in the 33rd minute.

It was the 31st goal of the season in all competitions for Hayles, the highly rated Stevenage Borough striker and Conference leading scorer. For Endersby, a late call-up to the injury-hit England squad, it was a chance to shine on the international stage for the first time - and he took it, producing a vibrant first-half display. However, he faded in a dull second half, when the Dutch offside trap regularly caught out the home attack.

The attendance was 1,660 - adequate, but put in perspective by the crowd of 3,481 at Nene Park for Rushden's Beazer Homes League game against Halesowen. The international lacked passion and atmosphere, and seemed more like a pre-season friendly than a competitive representative match - problems that may not be overcome until the authorities can organise a home international championship or, even better, a semi-professional European Championship.

ENGLAND (4-4-2): Price (Macclesfield); Webb (Kidderminster), Smith (Stevenage), Brown (Woking), Ashby (Rushden); Hughes (Kidderminster), Stott (Rushden), Rose (Witton), Endersby (Harrow); Hayles (Stevenage), Alford (Rushden). Substitutes: Kimmins (Hyde) for Alford, 75; Venables (Stevenage) for Endersby, 84; Power (Macclesfield) for Rose, 84.

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