VERDICT: Diamonds' promotion push suffers a setback
No-one ever said it would be easy!
AFC Rushden & Diamonds hit a bump in the road in their push for promotion as fellow high-flyers Hayes & Yeading United claimed a 1-0 success at Hayden Road.
It proved to be one of those nights for Diamonds.
There could be no arguments in the first half. Hayes looked the better team as they passed the ball well and attacked with pace before scoring what proved to be the winner right on the stroke of half-time.
But Diamonds reacted well after the break and, in the end, they could count themselves unlucky as they did everything but score what would have been a well-deserved equaliser.
In the end, it was not to be.
There were some despondent faces around the ground after the final whistle had sounded.
Losses, thankfully, have been few and far between for Diamonds in the Evo-Stik League South East this season and when they do come along, they are always that bit harder to take.
But Peaks’ team still have their fate firmly in their own hands despite this setback.
The key, of course, is to ensure it is only a setback.
It turned out to be a very watchable contest between undoubtedly two of the best teams in the division.
Hayes were impressive in the opening 45 minutes. They asked most of the questions and Ben Heath was forced to make saves from Manny Duku and Ismael Ehui before the breakthrough came just before half-time.
Jack Westbrook’s poor clearance eventually found its way to Laste Dombaxe and he took aim from 25 yards with the shot bobbling in the sandy goalmouth and beating Heath as it found the bottom corner.
But Diamonds were much brighter in the second period, particularly after Ross Oulton had been thrown on from the bench as he began to pull the strings in the midfield.
However, on this occasion, the luck wasn’t with the hosts.
Ryan Robbins beat Hayes goalkeeper Zaki Oualah with a fine strike across goal but it smacked off the inside of the post and was eventually cleared.
But Oualah did have a big say in things in the final 10 minutes when pulled off a stunning save to help wrap up his team’s win.
Sam Brown launched a trademark long throw into the area, Liam Dolman flicked it on and Jack Westbrook’s header looked for all the world that it would find the net, only for Oualah to intervene with a flying save to tip it over the crossbar.
Diamonds continued to push on but no further clear-cut chances came as Hayes held on.
A disappointing night, no question.
But there is no time to dwell on it. Diamonds have things in their own hands and face another tough examination at Hartley Wintney on Saturday.
There will be no better place to bounce back…
Diamonds: Heath; Dolman, Ashton (sub Punter, 11 mins), Brown; Gyasi (sub Westwood, 79 mins), Farrell, Westbrook, Curtis (sub Oulton, 58 mins), Fairlamb; Lorraine, Robbins. Subs not used: Ford, Dean.
Hayes & Yeading: Oualah; Robinson (sub Olajubu, 90 mins), Kinnave, Smith, Farquharson; Cash (sub Little, 64 mins), Donnelly, Dombaxe; Mentis; Ehui (sub Kabba, 58 mins), Duku. Subs not used: Fehmi, Roper.
Referee: Scott Tallis.
Goal: Dombaxe (44 mins, 0-1).
Bookings: Dombaxe, Robinson, Farrell (all fouls).