Diamonds draw some consolation at the gate

Non-League notebook
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The Independent Online
Times have changed for both Rushden & Diamonds and Stevenage Borough. The latter's last visit to Nene Park was in 1984, when they lost 2-0 to Irthlingborough Diamonds in a United Counties League fixture. On Tuesday, Stevenage returned to a much-changed stadium as defending champions and current leaders of the GM Vauxhall Conference.

John Ugbah's first-half goal ensured maximum points for Stevenage and maintained their two-point lead at the top of the table. Rushden, who have failed to live up to their pre-season tag of championship challengers, remain just one point clear of a relegation place. They will have been heartened by Tuesday's crowd of 3,288, the best of the season in the Conference, but dismayed by record signing Carl Alford's early dismissal for violent conduct.

Kidderminster Harriers claimed second place from Slough Town, who were held at home by Kettering, thanks to a 3-0 win at struggling Bath City, in which Lee Hughes, the league's top scorer, hit his 10th goal of the season. After a hat-trick against Rushden last Saturday, Clive Walker, the former Chelsea forward, scored his fourth goal in two games for Woking in a 1-1 home draw against Dover, for whom David Leworthy struck his fourth goal against Woking this season.

Stalybridge Celtic, bottom of the Conference, yesterday named the former Northwich and Southport manager, Brian Kettle, as the new man in charge at Bower Fold. The former Liverpool full-back replaces Peter Wragg, who resigned earlier this month.

In the Icis League, the newly-promoted Essex side Heybridge Swifts beat Kingstonian 2-1 on Tuesday, thanks to a last-minute winner from Dave Matthews, to go level on points with Yeovil at the top of the Premier Division. In the other Conference feeders, Leek Town are five points clear at the top of the UniBond League while Gloucester City and Gresley Rovers share the leadership of the Dr Martens League.

Newport AFC, bottom of the Dr Martens Premier Division, sacked their manager, Graham Rogers, and his assistant, Linden Jones, on Monday. Nigel Vaughan, the former Newport County, Wolves and Wales midfielder, has been promoted from the playing ranks to take temporary charge at the Gwent club.

Newport can take a break from their league struggles when they visit Bath in the FA Cup second qualifying round tomorrow. Heybridge have what should be a hectic Essex derby at home to Chelmsford City, while Aldershot Town must make do without their latest recruit at Dover.

The Shots fielded Neil Webb, the former Nottingham Forest and England midfielder, in last weekend's 5-2 Icis League win over Whyteleafe. Webb turned out as a favour for Aldershot's manager Steve Wigley, once his team-mate at the City Ground, but he is seeking a return to League football and does not want to become Cup-tied. Webb joined the Shots after a short spell with Grimsby Town.

A memorial service will be held in Macclesfield this morning for Arthur Jones, who was chairman of Macclesfield Town when they won the Conference in 1995 and the FA Trophy last season. Jones, who was 50, was found dead at his business premises in the Cheshire town last Thursday.

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