Rough for Diamonds

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The Independent Online
Non-League notebook:

The battles for the two available promotion places to the GM Vauxhall Conference are both becoming tight, tense contests. Hayes, the Icis League leaders, are only one point ahead of the second and third-placed teams while, in the Beazer Homes League, Rushden & Diamonds are finding life tough at the top.

Since spending a non-League record fee of pounds 85,000 to prise the striker Carl Alford from Kettering, Rushden have found points hard to come by and now lead Halesowen Town - who are also eligible for promotion - by only two points, although Rushden have a game in hand. Alford scored on his debut at home to Halesowen but could not prevent a 2-1 defeat - and there was worse to come: a 1-0 home loss to lowly Dorchester in their next match.

Alford scored an 88th-minute winner as Rushden sneaked a 2-1 success over Cambridge City on Easter Saturday but, on Monday, despite Alford's third goal for his new club, they crashed to a 4-1 defeat at Sudbury Town, for whom the former Birmingham City striker Ian Brown struck all four goals.

At the top of the Icis League, Hayes also have a game in hand over their two closest rivals - but they will have to hit peak form in the run-in to see off the challenge of second-placed Enfield and third-placed Yeovil. All three clubs are eligible for promotion.

Another leading Icis League club, St Albans City, lost their player-manager last weekend when Allan Cockram resigned just three days after agreeing a new three-year contract with the Clarence Park club.

Cockram, who last night filled the managerial vacancy at Chertsey, effectively quit during last Saturday's East Anglian Cup tie against Soham when he substituted himself after 65 minutes of the match and removed his shirt on the pitch. "What he did was a disgrace. He has let the club down," Bernard Tominey, the St Albans chairman, said.