Diamonds in good shape for big one after a ‘kick up the backside’

Russ Dunkley returned from injury with a goal in AFC Rushden & Diamonds 3-0 win over Sleaford and is now in contention to start in Saturday's UCL showdown at Holbeach United

Russ Dunkley returned from injury with a goal in AFC Rushden & Diamonds 3-0 win over Sleaford and is now in contention to start in Saturday's UCL showdown at Holbeach United

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Andy Peaks believes AFC Rushden & Diamonds’ response to a “kick up the backside” has helped put them in the best possible form for Saturday’s showdown at Holbeach United.

Diamonds head to Carters Park eight points clear of the Tigers at the top of the ChromaSport & Trophies United Counties League Premier Division.

But, crucially, Holbeach have four games in hand on the leaders, a fact that makes Saturday’s clash the biggest game of the season so far.

Diamonds go into it on the back of two 3-0 home wins in a row, which came against Harborough Town and then Sleaford Town last weekend.

Those victories were much-needed after the shock 2-0 defeat at Oadby Town, which well and truly opened up the title race.

And Diamonds boss Peaks said: “The fact we lost at Oadby just proves what can happen, there are some good teams in the division who are capable of raising their game when they play the likes of us and Holbeach.

“We have bounced back well. We have probably beaten two teams that most would expect us to beat but I think the defeat at Oadby was a kick up the backside for us.

“It was a reality check for us as a group and we have responded by taking things up another level with two good performances.”

Diamonds are set to be roared on by a large following at the weekend and Peaks knows that will only be a benefit to his team.

“Our following away from home is always good and I hope they are there in numbers again at the weekend,” he added.

“It does help the boys if we can get good support behind us on the road and hopefully we can all help each other to get to where we want to be.”

Diamonds’ frontline has been boosted this week by the arrival of former Corby Town and Daventry Town striker Tommy Berwick.

But Peaks insists the welcome return of Russ Dunkley from injury last weekend has also given every a lift.

“Russ has been out with injury but he came on at the weekend and scored and I think that gave the players and fans a massive boost,” Peaks said.

“He has had no reaction and that means he will be in contention to start the weekend.

“He is a big player for us and to have him fit for the run-in is excellent news.”

There was one departure from the Dog & Duck yesterday (Tuesday) when it was announced that frontman Fazel Koriya had joined Rugby Town.

Koriya hit 34 goals in 70 games for Diamonds and Peaks added: “I would like to thank Fazel for everything he has done for the club in the last 18 months – he has been crucial at times for us.

“However at his age he wants to be playing week in and week out and he knew his options would be limited with us at the moment.

“Rugby came in for him, he knows the club well and he goes with our best wishes.”

Don’t miss more news ahead of Diamonds’ clash at Holbeach and the rest of the UCL previews in Thursday’s Northamptonshire Telegraph