(Rushden won 4-3 on penalties)
CHESTER let another trophy slip through their fingers on Tuesday, failing to make the most of an extra half hour for the second time in a week.
Following their Cheshire Senior Cup exit last week, the Nationwide Variety Club Trophy holders first lost the lead and then a penalty shoot-out against last season's Conference champions in the JC Thompson Championship Shield at Nene Park.
And with a Conference defeat by Forest Green in between, Steve Mungall is quickly learning the hard facts of managerial life, but at least he was encouraged by his team's performance against Division Three's newest recruits.
'I feel for the boys, because we matched them and finished strongly,' he said.
'I was gutted for them and the fans, but overall I was pleased with the way the team went about it.'
There was certainly a big improvement on Saturday's league performance, even though the absence of at least three regulars may have dulled some of the Diamonds' sparkle.
City gave as good as they got for most of the match, with new loan Gary Williams impressing up front and scoring an opportunist goal after 34 minutes from 20 yards to put City ahead before running out of steam in the second half.
Both goalkeepers were in action, with Wayne Brown making fine saves against Jon Brady and Scott Partridge in the first half and surpassing even those in the second half to deny Mark Peters and substitute John Grant.
The Diamonds found their cutting edge on 52 minutes when Daniel Talbot, son of manager Brian, hooked the ball home for the equaliser, only for Mark Beesley to restore City's lead four minutes later with a sharp finish from 20 yards from Scott Ruscoe's pass.
Jim Rodwell's header in the 66th minute set up extra time, which hardly produced a chance and when Chris Blackburn and Mike Rose made a mess of their kicks in the penalty shoot-out, the good work of David Kerr, Beesley and Brown from the spot was undone.
For the record, the successful penalty takers for Rushden were Michael McElhatton, Rodwell, Grant and Peter Thomson.
Rushden and Diamonds: Turley (Pennock 45), Mustafa, Peters (Dempster 90), Brady, Partridge (Grant 64), Rodwell, Carey, Setchell, Thomson, Hall (Talbot 45), Hanlon (McElhatton 45).
Chester: Brown, Ruscoe (Lancaster 81), M Rose, Porter (Spink 62), Halford, Ruffer, O'Brien, Blackburn, Malkin (Baxter 105), Beesley, Williams (Kerr 62). Sub: S Rose.
Referee: K A Woolmere.