Andy Peaks believes Tuesday’s NFA Hillier Senior Cup semi-final success over Brackley Town has set AFC Rushden & Diamonds up for a “really important stage of the season”.
Goals from Tom Lorraine and Jon Stevenson secured a 2-1 victory over their Vanarama National League North opponents to set up a final clash with Kettering Town at Sixfields on April 12.
But Peaks was more concerned with the reaction of his players after they suffered a shock 4-0 defeat at Beaconsfield SYCOB last weekend.
The loss did limited damage to the Evo-Stik Southern League Division One Central table with Diamonds retaining a two-point lead at the summit.
However, Peaks was furious with his team’s display and was delighted to get the appropriate response at the Dog & Duck in midweek.
Now, as they prepare to host Ware tomorrow (Saturday) and Arlesey Town next Tuesday, Peaks has spelled out what he expects from his players as they get ready for the final push for automatic promotion.
The Diamonds boss said: “We have some massive games coming up but, because of the position we are in, every match is going to be huge.
“We just have to take it one at a time and we aren’t thinking about anything else apart from Ware.
“We are heading into a really important stage of the season and Tuesday night’s win and performance sets us up for that.
“I set the challenge and the boys answered all the questions. It was the perfect reaction.
“There were smiles back on faces around the ground, on the pitch and in the dugout and that’s what we want to see.
“We were under pressure at times, which you would expect when you’re playing a good team like Brackley.
“We defended well and we showed a lot of commitment and spirit.
“Those are the attributes I like to see from my teams whether that be an under-13 side or the seniors.
“I can accept anyone having an off-day but I will always expect spirit, commitment and work-rate and that’s what the lads gave me on Tuesday.”
Peaks revealed captain Richard Bunting (hip) is a “major doubt” for this weekend’s home clash.
But Ollie Wilkinson is expected to recover from illness and Connor Kennedy will be available again after being cup-tied midweek as Jack Ashton completed 90 minutes for the first time since returning from a knee injury.
Dan Quigley is also set to feature again after impressing in his first game since returning to the club on Tuesday