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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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About Author

Former Swansea City and Kettering Town defender who has been managing the likes of Kettering Town u18s, Rothwell Town, Desborough Town and Wellingborough Town for 33 years as well as being technical director at AFC Rushden & Diamonds. Began in non-League journalism as editor of Team Talk magazine back in the early 1990s and then as editor of Non-League Daily, joining Pitchero to set up Pitchero Non-League in January 2011. Also works for the National League.

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