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Diamonds Take Final Play-Off Spot – Rugby Go Down

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There were only a couple of issues to settle in the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League First Division South on the final day of the regular season.

They were who would occupy the final play-off berth and who would join Northwich Victoria in bowing out of the division.

And, despite a thumping 6-0 victory over a Newcastle Town team who had the same top five aspirations as Basford United, it just wasn’t quite enough as the Nottinghamshire side missed the play-offs by an agonising solitary point as AFC Rushden & Diamonds clinched the final spot with a 5-1 victory over Basford`s neighbours, Carlton Town.

A fine 2017 that saw Basford go on a run of only three defeats in twenty-four games and the last nine unbeaten, saw them fall just short of what looked an impossible task at the end of 2016.

That was despite a hat-trick from Kieran Wells and goals from Deon Meikle, Courey Grantham and Ben Hutchinson which killed off any slim hopes Castle had of pipping both for a top five slot.

A crowd of 663 at the Dog & Duck – for the final time in a league game – saw Diamonds clinch a second successive play-off campaign.

Last season saw final disappointment against St Ives Town in the Evo-Stik League Southern Division One Central, and this time they have to travel to Wincham Park to tackle in-form second-placed Witton Albion, whose only defeat in the last eleven games was to champions Shaw Lane AFC.

Tom Lorraine netted a hat-trick for Diamonds in the opening 45 minutes (third goal shown), with a Lawrence Gorman own goal and then Shawn Richards 12 minutes from time wrapping up a 5-1 win against fourth-bottom Carlton, whose Will Mellors-Blair netted their second half consolation.

At the opposite end of the table, Loughborough Dynamo produced a last-day escape from the drop back into Step 5 football after they beat Market Drayton Town and Rugby Town lost 3-1 at Butlin Road to Kidsgrove Athletic.

Karl Demidh helped himself to a hat-trick for Dynamo, with Danny Durkin sandwiching the other after Danny Beddows had given Drayton a 29th minute lead.

Rugby`s disappointing campaign ended with a defeat in which Anthony Malbon bagged a brace for Grove as they won 3-1.

Levi Rowley had given Valley a 10th minute lead before Lee Pickerill equalised.

Spalding United will take on Stocksbridge Park Steels in the other play-off semi-final, but only the Tulips managed to limber up for that with a last day win, 3-1 at home to already-relegated Northwich.

Bradley Wells netted a hat-trick with goals in the 10th, 20th and 84th minutes, while Yaw Gyimah replied 4 minutes from time.

Steels were held to a 1-1 Bracken Moor draw by Bedworth United, whose experienced Iyseden Christie cancelled out Brodie Litchfield`s early 8th minute opener in the 35th minute.

Elsewhere, Witton warmed-up for their clash with Diamonds with a 1-0 Wincham Park win over Sheffield FC, courtesy of a 32nd minute Steven Tames effort, while Leek Town finished the season well, hammering Gresley FC 5-1 at Harrison Park in which Tom France bagged a brace.

Yohan Rutty-Smith, Ricky Hill, Nathaniel Waite and Jordan Francis were all on the mark for Romulus in a 4-1 Coles Lane win over Lincoln United, and Belper Town and Chasetown played out an entertaining 3-3 Christchurch Meadow draw in which Ruben Wiggins-Thomas for the Nailers and Matty Gardner for the Scholars both bagged braces.

Champions Shaw Lane signed off with a 3-1 home win over Stamford AFC with goals from Gavin Alott after 23 minutes, Oscar Radford 15 minutes from time and Ben Algar a minute from the end.

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