AFC Rushden & Diamonds’ debut season in the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League Division One South started with a dramatic 1-0 defeat at Newcastle Town.
Andy Peaks handed debuts to summer signings Kyal McNulty and Aidan Bradshaw while Jake Newman and Sam Brown also started having returned to the club.
Newman had the best chance of the first half when he first just over from 12 yards but the frontman’s afternoon was cut short when he was forced off with an ankle injury before the break.
Substitute Lewis Leslie went close early in the second half and then Richard Bunting fired over soon after.
Leslie was close again just before the hour when he headed over but there was late heartbreak for Diamonds.
Newcastle took the points as Jake Lovatt’s header found the net via the crossbar with just two minutes to go.
Corby Town’s opening game of the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League Premier Division campaign ended in a 0-0 draw with Matlock Town at Steel Park.
Jamie Anton captained the Steelmen who were without summer signing Femi Orenuga but were otherwise at full-strength.
A scrappy first half saw Corby carve out the better chances with Connor Kennedy’s shot being deflected just over after a neat build-up while Andre Johnson headed a fine Liam Marshall cross wide at the far post.
The visitors offered little, although Aidan Grant had to backpedal to tip over a cross from Anthony Griffiths Jnr.
There were early chances at both ends in the second half with Grant saving well from Dwayne Wiley’s header before Corby broke and won a free-kick from which Callum Ball hit the outside of the post.
There were few chances after that but there was a flashpoint with 20 minutes to go when Matlock goalkeeper Arron Jameson’s angry reaction to Oneil Odofin’s challenge sparked a mass brawl, which resulted in four yellow cards being dished out.
Corby went close late on with Ball shooting over from a good position before he was then denied by a good save from Jameson.
There were no goals at Latimer Park either as both Kettering Town and Hitchin Town ended the game with 10 men each in the Evo-Stik Southern League Premier Division.
The Poppies were without the injured Liam Canavan but there was a start for new signing Anthony Howell while Callum Westwood was handed his full debut for the club.
Dom Langdon started at left-back while James Haran moved alongside Brett Solkhon at the heart of the defence with Gary Mulligan deployed in a midfield role.
The flashpoint of the first half came just before the break when Hitchin’s Ben Walster was sent-off for an elbow on Westwood.
But the numbers were evened up seven minutes into the second half when Howe was also shown red for an apparent elbow on an opponent.
Neither side was able to create a real clear-cut chance after that as the game ended goalless.