Mickleover FC 2-0 AFC Rushden & Diamonds

Diamonds suffered another away defeat as they were comfortably beaten by mid-table Mickleover.

Despite an inconsistent start to the campaign which had seen them only win once at home, the hosts started brightly as a close-range effort went just wide and Rhys Dolan hit the post after jinking in from the left. Danger-man Andy Dales had a fizzing strike tipped over by Dean Snedker, and the visitors then came close as Jenson Cooper’s lob from distance dropped narrowly past the post.

The home side kept up the pressure though and, after Oliver Greaves struck the upright and a cross flew inches wide, they forged ahead early in the second half. Dales cut inside before slamming an effort off the bar, but Ryan Wilson struck home a follow-up effort for a deserved lead.

Ryan Hughes made three timely blocks and Snedker parried an effort away as Rushden tried to hold on, but Mickleover doubled their advantage in the 74th minute. Dales got in behind on the left before his cross was turned home by Greaves at the near post.

Although captain Nathan Hicks had a long-range attempt tipped away and defender Hamilton Bunga almost turned home a corner, the visitors were consigned to their sixth away defeat of the league season.

First half

Manager Richard Maxwell made two changes to the side that had been beaten by Redditch at Hayden Road last time out. Dante Grey and Kartell Dawkins came in to replace the unavailable Evangelos Empochontsif and Connor Tee as Diamonds continued with a 5-3-2 formation. New signing Andy Kanga lined up amongst the substitutes.

Mickleover came into the contest with the worst home record in the division, though they had only played four matches at the Don Amott Arena so far in the campaign. Aside from their victory at Barwell in September, Rushden had lost every away game and were looking to move up the table.

It was the home side, nicknamed Sports, who made the quicker start as they put Diamonds under pressure from the get-go. After a free-kick was charged down by the defensive wall, a cross from the left seemed destined to end up in the back of the net but the ball was somehow bundled wide from close-range. Left-back Rhys Dolan then jinked into the area and rounded Dean Snedker before toe-poking against the upright under pressure from a couple of desperate Diamonds challenges.

Just over ten minutes was on the clock when another neat home passing exchange led to ex-EFL striker Stuart Beavon getting in behind the away defence, but he slashed an effort wide of the near post. The visitors worked hard to close down the space for Mickleover, though they struggled to maintain possession and build any pressure, before the hosts forced Snedker into his first save. The influential Andy Dales found space around 25 yards out, and he hit a fizzing strike that the Diamonds keeper did brilliantly to tip over. After the initial corner was cleared, Sports won another corner that found captain Phillip Watt at the back post, but his header was cleared off the line by away captain Nathan Hicks.

Just before the half-hour mark the away side created their only chance of the half. A long ball forward saw Miguel Ngwa pressurise home keeper Jonathan Hedge, and his rushed clearance dropped for Jenson Cooper. He looped the loose ball back towards the unguarded net, but it rolled a few yards wide of the target.

Mickleover continued to press as Diamonds looked to withstand the home attacks. Elliott Reaves headed wide after a pinpoint cross from the left, and then winger Oliver Greaves crashed an effort off the post after a loose ball had dropped inside the area. Moments later Beavon had a free header, but Snedker comfortably claimed the attempt.

Two minutes of stoppage time was signalled and, after Dawkins was shown a yellow card following a full-blooded challenge by the touchline, the hosts came close again. A curling cross from the right missed everybody in the box and left Snedker rooted to the spot, but thankfully for the visitors it flashed just past the post.

Half time: Mickleover FC 0-0 AFC Rushden & Diamonds

Second half

Seven minutes of the second period had elapsed when Spots took the lead. Dales ran at the defence before cutting in and curling an effort off the bar, Diamonds were unable to fully clear and the loose ball ran to Ryan Wilson who drove a low strike unerringly into the bottom corner past Snedker’s despairing dive.

Rushden looked for a quick response, but they were still unable to create many opportunities and get into dangerous areas. It was the hosts who almost scored again when Beavon almost found Reeves through on goal before Ryan Hughes made two crucial goalbound blocks and Snedker denied Greaves.

Maxwell made his first substitution in the 64th minute when Kanga replaced Ngwa, and shortly after Eniola Agemoh-Davies made his return from injury as he came on for Courtney Lashley. In between the changes Hughes made another important block and Snedker dived to his left to parry an effort aside.

Snedker made another save, this time to his right, but he was beaten a few minutes later. Dales advanced down the left and got to the byline before his clip across goal was turned home off the far post by Oliver Greaves.

Dawkins came off for Nigel Chikamba, and Diamonds almost had an opening ten minutes from time when Fraser Corden slid a precise through-ball in behind for Cooper to run onto. He held off a couple of initial challenges, but he was forced wide and eventually crowded out. After Dales had a free-kick tipped over, Hicks had a fierce strike parried by Hedge and Harrison Bunga almost reached a corner from the left.

However, Diamonds were ultimately unable to find a way back into the contest as their loss was confirmed by the final whistle.

Full time: Mickleover FC 2-0 AFC Rushden & Diamonds

Diamonds are soon back in action as they travel to Suffolk to take on third-placed Leiston on Tuesday evening (25 September, 7.45pm kick-off).

Attendance: 428

Match report by Ollie Mortimer

Diamonds: Snedker, Dawkins (Chikamba 75), Lashley (Agemoh-Davies 68), Grey, Hughes, Bunga, Corden, Cooper, Hicks (C), Pinto-Leite, Ngwa (Kanga 64) (subs not used: Worsfold-Gregg, Sutherland)

Diamonds yellows: Dawkins (45+1), Grey (89)

Mickleover FC: Jonathan Hedge, Lucas Yeomans, Rhys Dolan, Ethan Mann, Phillip Watt (C) (Olelekan Osideko 79), Andy Dales, Mason Warren (Mitchell Rose 56), Elliott Reeves (George Nunn 56), Stuart Beavon, Oliver Greaves, Ryan Wilson (subs not used: Pablo Mills, James Butler)

Mickleover FC goals: Wilson (52), Greaves (74)

Mickleover FC yellows: Wilson (40)