HARTLEY Wintney couldn't continue their good from their FA Trophy victory falling 2-0 to Evo Stik South East league leaders Rusden & Diamonds.

In close matches the outcome is often decided by fine margins. This appeared to be the case in this contest as one and possibly two key difficult refereeing decisions went against the Row on Saturday.

Hartley started brightly and in the first minute a Dean Stow cross found Jake Baxter who saw his header easily saved by home keeper Ben Heath. The Row continued to set the pace and on three minutes Steven Duff saw an effort saved by Heath.

The visitors nearly took the lead when Heath came out of his goal to clear but only found Rowan Vine, but the Hartley striker saw his attempt at putting the ball into the empty net from distance go narrowly wide.

Diamonds started to get some momentum in the game after 19 minutes, but it was the Row, who again, should have broken the deadlock.

On 36 minutes Steven Duff created space on the left and his cross found Vine on his own 10 yards from goal, but again the experienced striker was unable to direct the effort on goal and the ball went wide.

If the first half was an open end to end game the second half saw both sides tighten up. Rusden had an early chance which fell to Ryan Robbins who blasted over when well placed.

With the scores still level, tempers began to fray, when on 55 minutes play was stopped when there was a coming together of many players. Hartley players were upset by an alleged ‘spitting’ incident and referee Scott Chalkley had to intervene. Several minutes passed and the official spoke to a number of players with the exception surprisingly of the alleged culprit. Play restarted with no cards issued.

After 59 minutes the pivotal moment of the match arrived. Steve Noakes in trying to set up an attack played a cross field pass too short to Liam Eagle. Lorraine intercepted and bore down on goal. Noakes recovered and got goal side of the striker who then went down. The Row players to a man claimed ‘dive’, the home crowd and Rushden team claimed ‘foul’, referee Chalkley awarded the free kick on the edge of the box and issued a red card to Noakes.

With the man advantage Diamonds took the lead with 20 minutes left to play. A good move down the right saw a fierce drive blocked well by Stow, but the ball was slammed into the net by Ryan Robbins.

The hosts were making the most of the extra man and on 84 minutes a cross into the area allowed Lorraine to set up Ben Farrell who shot home from 10 yards to give the home side all three points.