Diamonds ready for 'great moment' at Hayden Road

Andy Peaks will lead AFC Rushden & Diamonds into their first game at Hayden Road this weekend
Andy Peaks will lead AFC Rushden & Diamonds into their first game at Hayden Road this weekend

Chairman Ralph Burditt believes it will be a “great moment” when AFC Rushden & Diamonds step out to play their first home game at Hayden Road on Saturday.

Diamonds’ groundshare with Rushden & Higham United will begin in earnest this weekend when they take on Barwell in their opening pre-season friendly of the summer.

But while all of Diamonds’ home friendlies will be played in Rushden, their Evo-Stik South League East season will begin at Kempston Rovers’ Hillgrounds stadium while the necessary work to bring Hayden Road up to the appropriate standard continues.

It’s a new era for the club after their stay at Wellingborough Town’s Dog & Duck ground came to an end after last season.

And Burditt is hoping the people of Rushden will come out in their numbers on Saturday.

“To be honest, Saturday is going to be a great moment for the club to be playing in Rushden,” the Diamonds chairman said.

“We have been fortunate to have annual pre-season matches with Rushden & Higham United and people will remember that when we played against them in the United Counties League Division One, there were 1,200 people there to watch it and that broke the record for the biggest attendance in that division in the modern era.

“Hopefully the sun will shine for us this weekend and the people of Rushden will come out in force to see the team and look around the place.”

Volunteers have been working at Hayden Road over the summer as Diamonds bid to get the ground ready for Southern League football as quickly as possible.

Burditt revealed the work done by those volunteers has saved the club around £10,000 and while he would not commit to a timeframe for when it will be fully ready, he is hopeful it will be much sooner rather than later.

“We have had an amazing band of volunteers who have been helping around the place but we need more,” he added.

“To show how important those volunteers are, we believe that with the hard work they have put in has taken some £10,000 off the cost of the move. Our estimate for it was £40,000 but now it’s £30,000 so what they have done so far is immense.

“The job now is to ensure that it is ready for ground grading and that the inspectors agree it is ready when they come and look around.

“It is going as quickly as we can make it go. I would hope that we could be in there late in the summer rather than the autumn but it is dependent on a number of factors.”

On the pitch, not a great deal has changed with Andy Peaks retaining the majority of last season’s squad who were beaten by Witton Albion in the Evo-Stik League South play-off semi-final.

And Burditt added: “Having spoken to Andy, I think he is very happy with the business he’s done this summer.

“We were strong in a lot of areas last season and that showed because we finished in the play-offs in a very tough division.

“He has strengthened in the areas he wanted to and I think he has brought in players who will add something to the squad.

“He has kept the key members so overall, from that side of things I think it has been a good summer.”