Diamonds were defeated by a late Alvechurch goal in a tight affair at Hayden Road.
After a quiet opening spell, Rushden came close when Tom Lorraine was brilliantly denied from close range, but a minute later the visitors broke away to strike first. Nicholas Clayton-Phillips got down the left before hitting an effort that Dean Snedker allowed to roll under him.
They should have doubled their lead when captain Jamie Willets headed wide, and Diamonds did the same when Alex Collard glanced off-target from a promising position.
The home side improved in the second half as they began to build pressure and dominate possession. It paid off in the 58th minute when Ben Diamond headed home a free-kick into an unguarded net, and they almost completed the turnaround when Lorraine shot inches wide.
Alvechurch regrouped though and, after a couple of dangerous set-pieces, they grabbed what proved to be the winner twelve minutes from time. Clayton-Phillips sped forward before slipping a precise ball through to Zak Brown who fired low into the far corner.
Manager Peaks kept the same starting XI and bench from the entertaining draw at home to Rushall last time out. Though Diamonds hadn’t won any of their last four in all competitions, they had only been defeated in one of their last six league matches. The visitors came into the contest with a strong home record, winning four out of six at Lye Meadow, but they hadn’t won a league away match so far this campaign.
The early exchanges were keenly contested, with plenty of midfield tussles and a high turnover of possession, but pretty short on goalmouth action. Diamonds won a couple of early free-kicks, the second of which found a towering Alex Collard at the far post only for his header across goal to be cleared ahead of the lurking Ryan Hughes.
Alvechurch responded with the first clear opportunity of the encounter. Nicholas Clayton-Phillips, who would prove to be a danger throughout, was played in down the left, and his fizzing effort drew a brilliant save from Dean Snedker low down to his right.
After the visitors were forced into an early substitution, Ravi Shamsi had a sight of goal when Ben Diamond neatly flicked the ball into his path. However, his half-volley was skewed and drifted wide of the target. The visitors were soon down the other end as Samuel McLintock hit a hopeful effort from around 30 yards out, and Snedker was able to catch it easily.
Rushden’s best chance came in the 24th minute when a neat move saw Shamsi play an inviting low ball across the face of goal, and Lorraine ran to meet it with just the keeper to beat. His powerful effort looked destined for the net, but away stopper Daniel Jezeph spread himself wide to make the block from point-blank range.
This save proved crucial when the visitors took the lead only a minute later. Nicholas Clayton-Phillips again found space down the left, and his low effort squeezed past Snedker to open the scoring.
The Alvechurch man was involved again only moments later as his threatening cross from the left forced Collard to head behind. From the resulting corner, defender Jamie Willets had a free header but could only place his effort harmlessly wide.
Diamonds had a similar chance just after the half-hour mark. Following a cross from Casey that was deflected behind, Shamsi’s inswinging delivery found Collard at the far post. The defender had already come up with important headers against Needham Market and Hitchin earlier this season, but he couldn’t make it third time lucky as his header flew wide of the post.
The remainder of the half passed without much action, aside from two Liam Dolman long-throws and Tyrell Skeen-Hamilton hitting the post for Alvechurch after the offside flag had been raised against the striker.
Half time: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 0-1 Alvechurch
Rushden emerged from the changing rooms a few minutes before their opponents, and it was clear to see from the resumption that they were playing with more intensity and forcing Alvechurch back. The pressure told when, feeling Connor Furlong was tripped on the left, Shamsi’s drilled delivery passed over the flailing Jezeph and found Ben Diamond to gleefully head home into the empty net.
The home side won another free-kick shortly afterwards, and it led to a corner which was eventually cleared to the waiting Jay Williams on the edge of the area. His powerful strike was deflected, and it ran for Lorraine only for the offside flag to go up.
Diamonds’ all-time top goalscorer almost had another to add to his tally in the 64th minute. Williams won possession and fed Shamsi, who in turn tried to thread it through to the onrushing Furlong. Though it was partially cut out, the loose ball was collected by Lorraine who ran into the area and unleashed a low effort that flew just wide of the far post.
Sam Warburton replaced Dolman in an enforced change, and Alvechurch then started to regain a foothold in the game. After Collard was forced to make two important defensive headers, they retook the lead twelve minutes from time. Clayton-Phillips was this time the provider as he picked up the ball in space, ran at the Diamonds defence and slid a through pass to Zak Brown who hit a low strike past the sprawling Snedker.
Diamonds almost found another leveller immediately as Furlong intercepted a poor pass and drove through on goal, but his rising shot was well tipped over by Jezeph. Collard met the resulting corner but could only head wide under pressure.
Will Jones and Nathan Tshikuna were introduced, and moments later they won a corner that fell to Jesse Akubuine. His low strike deflected to Lorraine, but his effort was scuffed and it rolled wide of the target.
Despite five minutes of additional time, Diamonds weren’t able to find an equaliser and were consigned to defeat.
Full time: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 1-2 Alvechurch
Diamonds struggled to get going in the first half, but improved in the second period to get back on terms and then look the side most likely to find a winner. Despite chances for Lorraine, Collard and Furlong throughout the contest, Alvechurch were more clinical with the few chances that they had. They then defended stoutly to limit any late home pressure and to see out the victory.
Diamonds have a chance to bounce back when they entertain Barwell at Hayden Road on Tuesday evening (19 October), 7.45pm kick-off.
Diamonds Man of the Match: Paddy Casey
Match report by Ollie Mortimer
Diamonds: Snedker, Casey, Hughes, Williams, Dolman (Warburton 65), Collard (C), Diamond (Tshikuna 83), Akubuine, Lorraine, Shamsi, Furlong (Jones 81) (subs not used: Bell-Toxtle, Dias)
Diamonds goal: Diamond (58)
Diamonds yellow cards: Diamond (70), Jones (89)
Alvechurch: Daniel Jezeph, Josh Ezewele, Ethan Sephton (Ben Cassidy 14), Tom Turton, Jamie Willets (C), Ash Carter, Samuel Mclintock, Zak Brown, Tyrell Skeen-Hamilton (Daniel Waldron 70), Nicholas Clayton-Phillips, Charlie Dowd (Joseph Hull 87) (subs not used: Leon Phillips, Luke Yates)
Alvechurch goals: Clayton-Phillips (25), Brown (78)
Alvechurch yellow cards: Jezeph (90+2)
Images courtesy of Hawkins Images ©2021