Rushden opened the defence of their crown with a 2-0 win over the
Goals from ex-Middlesbrough striker Craig Dove and man of the match Andy Burgess in either half condemned the Manx man to another festival defeat.
The game was marred, however, by the harsh sending-off of
Bates was excellent throughout and seemed to get a touch on the ball before connecting with Hay. Premiership referee Peter Walton took a different view though and brandished the red card much to the dismay of the home support as well as most neutrals.
The Islanders started confidently on a warm summer evening, Chris Bass forcing former “Milton Keynes Dons” keeper Lee Worgan into an early 5th minute save from his left-foot drive.
Diamonds soon settled though and after Burgess had placed a free-kick over the bar on 14 minutes they took the lead 11 minutes later.
A timely ricochet inside the Islanders penalty area fell to the feet of Dove who coolly swept home across young keeper Mark Blair to fire the Northamptonshire outfit into a 1-0 lead.
The Manx men created a couple of chances straight after the goal, Worgan firstly saving a Johnny Myers volley from the angle and then watching helplessly as a Bass drive was deflected past his far-post.
Right on the half-time whistle Rushden nearly made it 2-0 as Stuart Wardley and Dove both missed half-chances as the Islanders defence creaked.
An excellent start to the second half by the home side was ended by Rushden’s second goal in the 59th minute.
Lee Dixon and Peter Langridge had both forced Worgan into saves before Burgess made space for himself on the edge of the Islanders box and cracked a left-foot shot low beyond Blair.
The game came to life again in the 68th minute when Bates was sent off but it soon fizzled out after that as Rushden spent the last quarter playing keep-ball against 10 men.
Simeon Jackson, who had replaced Hay in the 80th minute, almost made an instant impact a minute later when his low drive was tipped onto the post by Blair.
The Manx men almost grabbed a consolation goal three minutes from time as the excellent Bass stabbed a Callum Morrissey cross inches wide, Rushden coasted in the main though and it was no surprise to see them claim a 2-0 victory over a limited but spirited home side.
Lee Worgan, Sean Connelly (Andrew Sambrook 56), Peter Hawkins, Rob Gier (John Dempster 46), Phil Gulliver, Stuart Wardley (Danny Talbot 46), Stuart Gray (Gary Mills 46), David
Unused subs : Marcus Kelly + Jason Taylor.
Mark Blair, Kevin Megson, Robert Cottier, Robin Bates, Daniel Lace, Johnny Myers, Lee Dixon, Nick Hurt (Julian Ringham 63), Peter Langridge (Chris Feeney 74), Johnny Cowley (Callum Morrissey 71), Chris Bass.
Unused subs : Daniel Wade, Glen Hamilton, Andy Perry, Gavin Faragher.
Yellow cards : Nick Hurt 55, dissent.
Red cards : Robin Bates 68, professional foul.
Tim Graham (thetashkentterror)