Diamonds are ready for crunch clash at Royston

AFC Rushden & Diamonds will be looking to avenge their 4-1 loss to Royston Town in December when the two promotion contenders clash again this weekend

AFC Rushden & Diamonds will be looking to avenge their 4-1 loss to Royston Town in December when the two promotion contenders clash again this weekend

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Crunch time is approaching for AFC Rushden & Diamonds.

For the first time since the middle of January, Andy Peaks’ side will step onto a football pitch not as the leaders in the Evo-Stik Southern League Division One Central.

With last weekend’s home clash with Barton Rovers falling foul of the weather, Kings Langley moved to the summit thanks to a 4-1 win at Aylesbury United.

And then Egham Town, who still have two games in hand, pushed Diamonds down to third on Tuesday night.

It’s tightened up at the top with just four points separating the top four and Diamonds now have Royston Town breathing down their necks after they thumped Leighton Town 6-0 in midweek.

So, it’s fair to say that Diamonds’ trip to Royston tomorrow (Saturday) is a big game. In fact, it’s huge as far as Peaks’ side’s title aspirations are concerned.

They go into it on the back of successive 1-0 defeats to Kings Langley and Potters Bar Town, which have gone a long way in derailing their assault on the title.

But Peaks knows a win this weekend will change the whole complexion of things once again, although he admits his side will be up against “the best team we have played this season” after Royston ran out 4-1 winners at the Dog & Duck in December.

Nonetheless, Peaks remains in a bullish mood and he insists tomorrow’s clash is simply the first of nine “massive matches”.

“It’s a very important game as far as the title is concerned,” the Diamonds boss said.

“We are in a position I expected, especially after we didn’t play last weekend.

“The teams around us had games that you would expect them to win and, in general, they have won them.

“We have dropped points recently and teams have caught up on their matches and now the table probably has a little bit more reality to it.

“We have got nine games left and we need to get on a bit of a run to, first and foremost, get us in the play-offs and hopefully to something even better.

“Royston are the best team we have played this season. They beat us 4-1 and it could have been more.

“It’s a big game but when you are in the position we are in every game is massive and that’s how it will be from now until the end of the season.

“We all know a win can turn it back round. Others have come to the fore and it will be up to them to handle it like we had to for so long.

“We will just do what we have always done and that is concentrate on ourselves.

“We need a big reaction from the game at Potters Bar.

“But I just want us to worry about our matches, get as many points as we can and see where it takes us.”

New signings Elliot Sandy, James Jepson and Jason Lee are all in line to make their debuts for Diamonds tomorrow.