AFC Rushden & Diamonds 3 Ware 0
The long and the short of it; Ware still struggling for form.
The longest and shortest named clubs in the division (not to mention the league) met with Ware still searching for their earlier form. However a visit to the league leaders was probably not going to be the place to end the current disappointing streak and so it proved.
Given the midweek mauling at home to then sixth-placed Royston, Ware's young side might have been overawed by this occasion but they were never that. Yet whilst there was no doubt that the home side had the majority of possession and territory, they never dominated. With more composure and confidence the visitors could have presented a far more difficult hurdle to overcome.
After overnight rain the pitch was slippery making it difficult for players to keep their feet and there was a strong wind blowing diagonally across the pitch. In the circumstances there was little flowing football from either side but Diamonds kept their heads and waited to exploit mistakes from their opponents. They weren't disappointed.
Ware were without leading scorer Kieran Bishop and the influential winger Rod Young both through illness. Jimmy Hartley, another skilful attacker, was available but the conditions did not suit his style of play and he was withdrawn in the second half.
The visitors generally looked lightweight going forward, often coming up against a Diamonds defence well marshalled by the substantial Liam Dolman. The only exception was Murat Karagul who gave his usual hardworking performance but on the day Ware were a side of individuals with supportive team work mostly at a premium.
Even so, with the advantage of the wind at their backs and with the home side struggling with the conditions Ware looked entirely capable of making it to half time all square and, with better accuracy, might even have taken the lead on a couple of occasions.
But almost ten minutes short of the target Diamonds found theirs. Claudiu Hoban, scorer of Rushden's goal in the 1-1 draw at Ware, put over a cross from the left which was not dealt with and the ball eventually fell to Andy Hall whose shot made it inside the post through a crowd of players.
Shortly after that Josh Oyibo, with two yellows in midweek, picked up another and it seemed the wisest thing might be to take him off and allow Khale Dacosta his chance. As it was Oyibo made it into a second half that found the home side with the wind at their backs and play now much more in the Ware half.
With Ware looking for some relief DaCosta eventually made it on to the pitch in a double change that also saw Dernell Wynter take the field but they weren't enough to materially affect the direction of the game and come the 68th minute the match was to all intents and purposes put beyond them. Lewis Leslie was on hand when the ball came loose in the six yard box and scored with comparative ease for 2-0. Immediately after this Onur Bakici came on for Hartley and put in an energetic shift.
Possibly it was too energetic with one pursuit of the ball ending in a collision with Matt Finlay in the home goal. The referee felt, with some justification, that it was dangerous play and produced a yellow card and topped that with a card for Karagul who tried his patience with over zealous protests.
That set the seal on what had turned out to be a poor afternoon for Ware following, as it did, the home side's third goal. Jon Stevenson was able to score after an 85th minute free kick found him relatively free in the six yard box.
Ware: Tom Coulton, Jack Mace, Alaa Oujdi, Ryan Hervel, Ben Crilley, Marcus Rose, Karl Stevenson (Khale Dacosta 58mins), Josh Oyibo (Dernell Wynter 58mins), Harley Haag, Jimmy Hartley (Onur Bakici 69mins), Murat Karagul. Unused subs: Elliot Bailey, Joe Simmonds.