Football: Struggling Diamonds lose their shine

Non-League notebook
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The Independent Online
When Rushden & Diamonds embarked on their debut season in the GM Vauxhall Conference back in August, expectations were high. The wealthy Northamptonshire club, who had paid a non-League record transfer fee of pounds 85,000 for the striker who had helped them secure the Beazer Homes League title last season, were widely tipped to compete for a second successive championship crown.

Instead, Diamonds have been stuck in a struggle against relegation and Carl Alford, their record-breaking purchase from Kettering, is on the transfer list. Alford's awful form has been only one of the problems for Roger Ashby, Rushden's manager - he has also had to cope with an injury crisis.

Fortunately for him, Ashby continues to enjoy the support of his chairman, Max Griggs, and, predictably, he has been busy in the transfer market to try to brighten Diamonds' fortunes. Dover's David Leworthy, Slough's Simon Stapleton and Kidderminster's Simeon Hodson have all moved to Rushden in recent weeks.

With only Bath City beneath them in the Conference table, Rushden are in trouble. They are in 21st place with 25 points, just below four clubs - Hayes, Bromsgrove, Dover and Halifax - on 28 points.

Although Rushden's home form has been patchy, their gates have held up well - this season's average crowd at Nene Park is 2,308. Tomorrow, though, they face a tough trip to second-placed Macclesfield, who are just four points behind the leaders, Kidderminster Harriers, after Tuesday's 4-0 thrashing of Hednesford.