St Ives Town slid back into the Southern League Premier Division Central drop-zone – and they only had themselves to blame.

Dylan Wilson finds the net for St Ives Town against AFC Rushden & Diamonds. Picture: LOUISE THOMPSONDylan Wilson finds the net for St Ives Town against AFC Rushden & Diamonds. Picture: LOUISE THOMPSON

Ricky Marhienke's side tumbled two places into trouble after suffering a 4-3 home defeat at the hands of AFC Rushden & Diamonds on New Year's Day.

Dismal defending was the deciding factor in Saints' opening fixture of the new decade as they conceded a stack of sloppy goals in front of a bumper Westwood Road crowd of 377.

Saints hit the front in their first meaningful attack thanks to a former Diamonds player as Joe Curtis finished after Aaron Phillips had burst down the right.

But that ninth-minute breakthrough was cancelled out just before the half-hour as former St Neots Town striker Nabil Shariff finished from close range.

Joe Curtis opened the scoring for St Ives Town in their defeat to AFC Rushden & Diamonds. Picture: LOUISE THOMPSONJoe Curtis opened the scoring for St Ives Town in their defeat to AFC Rushden & Diamonds. Picture: LOUISE THOMPSON

The visitors completed the turnaround five minutes into the second half when a reshuffled Saints defence (Jarvis Wilson having replaced the injured Phillips at the break) failed to deal with Sam Brown's monster throw and a surprised Nathan Hicks was able to apply the finishing touch.

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Hicks then fluffed a golden chance to extend Diamonds' advantage and that proved costly as Saints replied just after the hour to level when Dylan Wilson had a simple task of converting a fine Matt Foy pass across the face of goal.

A ding-dong tussle continued as Diamonds regained the advantage within seven minutes as Zack Reynolds finished after a Hicks cross fortuitously fell into his path after rebounding off Saints defender Ben Toseland.

And the visitors then doubled their lead in simple fashion with 13 minutes to go as Liam Dolman was allowed to head in a Matthew Slinn corner.

Saints undoubtedly saved the best until last - in terms of goals at least - as Toseland halved their arrears with a stunning 25-yard strike late on.

It was an effort deserving of considerably more than merely being a consolation at the end of a contest in which defensive failings again proved costly.

They need to be correctly quickly given a daunting trip to table-topping Tamworth awaits this Saturday for Marhieneke's men as they bid to haul themselves out of the relegation zone again.