Diamonds all set for Spalding showdown

Andy Peaks' AFC Rushden & Diamonds take on Spalding United in a big game at the Dog & Duck tonight

Andy Peaks' AFC Rushden & Diamonds take on Spalding United in a big game at the Dog & Duck tonight

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Andy Peaks is expecting AFC Rushden & Diamonds’ “biggest test of the season so far” when they take on Spalding United in a huge game at the Dog & Duck tonight (Tuesday).

The fifth-placed Diamonds maintained their four-point advantage over the chasing pack in the race for the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League Division One South play-off places thanks to a 1-0 success at Kidsgrove Athletic at the weekend.

Spalding remain in second place after they were beaten 3-1 in the top-of-the-table clash at leaders Shaw Lane in what was Chris Rawlinson’s first game in charge after he stepped up from assistant to replace Dave Frecklington who left for Gainsborough Trinity last week.

This will be the third meeting between the two teams this season after Diamonds staged a late fightback to win 2-1 with 10 men at Spalding back in November before knocking the Tulips out of the Integro League Cup on penalties last month.

Peaks insists nothing will be decided no matter what happens tonight and he knows his team will have to be at their “absolute best” if they are to take anything from it.

“This is the sort of game you want to be involved in at this stage of the season, it’s what you work all season for,” Peaks said.

“I am expecting a really tough game, I think it is our biggest test of the season so far.

“The two games we have had with them so far have been very tight and could have gone either way, fortunately both went our way.

“They have had a change of manager and they got beaten at the weekend but I am not going to read too much into all that.

“They have got themselves up to second in the league for a reason and we know we will have to be at our absolute best to get anything from the game.

“It’s certainly not a case of winner takes all. It’s a big match but there will be 13 big matches to come after it as well.

“The way things have gone this season with us and Spalding, it wouldn’t surprise me if we were to meet again in the play-offs.

“And if that was the case, I’d take it now because it would mean that we have secured that play-off place, which is what we are focused on.”

Peaks confirmed there were no new injuries in his squad after the weekend success while he expects Callum Westwood to be back from a knee injury next week.

Tom Lorraine hit the only goal at the weekend and will become the club’s all-time leading scorer if he finds the net again tonight.