Oundle coach Peter Croot believes supporters are turning their back on Northampton Saints to watch his promotion hopefuls.
Croot hopes there will be a record crowd when the second-placed Eagles welcome table-toppers Rushden & Higham to Occupation Road for Saturday’s clash in Midlands Three East (South).
Rushden currently hold a two-point lead at the top ahead of a match Croot describes as the biggest of the season.
“It’s a big day for us, on and off the pitch,” he said.
“We’ve put some new pitch side fencing up and are hoping for a big crowd.
“We’ve been having crowds of around 150 and people are telling me they are coming to watch us rather than going to watch the Saints!
“Obviously the standard isn’t the same, but I think the crowds have enjoyed what they’ve seen here this season.
“From what I’ve been told, it’s just as enjoyable as watching the Saints.
“Rushden should be bringing a few people as well, so we just hope the weather stays dry and we have a good game of rugby.
“We are both scoring lots of points and I think defences could decide the match.”
Rushden put together three straight wins before the Christmas break and, according to Croot, the visitors are the favourites going into the match.
He said: “We are probably the underdogs going into this game based on current form and the history of the clubs.
“Rushden seemed to be the form team going into the Christmas break and it’s definitely our biggest game of the season.
“This is a 10-pointer.
“We are not pinning everything on it because there are still eight more matches to go after it.
“But this one will make the rest of the season either easier or more of a challenge.
“At the start of the season, we wanted to stay in this league and now we will be disappointed if we don’t have a shot at promotion.
“We have only lost two games – and both of those were by a single point.”
On the other side of the fence Rushden club skipper Dan Sharp, who has been ruled out with a dislocated knee since October, also accepts Saturday’s match is crucial.
He said: “Whoever wins, it will propel them forward for the rest of the season – and hopefully that’s us.
“We didn’t really set out to win the league at the start of the season. We came down last season and it was all about rebuilding confidence.
“We’ve brought in some new players, got them playing together and we’ve ended up top of the table at Christmas, so we have to be happy with that.
“But it’s still wide open. We’ve got to go to Rugby St Andrews and Vipers and they are tough places to go to.
“It’s going to be an exciting second half of the season and we are just glad to be in the thick of it.”
In September, the sides fought out a 26-26 draw and for the return fixture the Eagles could be without centre JC Sagoe and prop Mark Carter, who are struggling with a hand injury and tonsillitis respectively.
Corby will be hoping 2015 brings a change in fortune.
They suffered a rather torrid end to last year and currently sit bottom of Midlands Four East (South) win one win from their 10 games.
A home game with mid-table Thorney gets them back into action this weekend.
A return to action brought a return to winning ways for Kettering in Midlands One East.
The Blues went into Christmas with back-to-back defeats – against Syston and Market Rasen & Louth – having previously gone on a 12-match winning streak.
But their first game of the new year saw them beat Newark 11-0 in a match more memorable for the conditions than anything else.
It looked good from the start when Kettering went ahead with a fourth-minute try but they could only add a couple more penalties – one in each half – to their tally.
They have another huge game this weekend when they travel to Old Northamptonians who have overtaken them and moved into second place in the table.
Wellingborough’s hopes of making an impact in the Intermediate Cup were ended on a tough day at Bridgnorth.
The long trip to Shropshire brought a 25-6 loss for Boro although their hosts have been in impressive form all season.
They are currently 10 points clear at the top of Midlands Two West (North) with 12 wins from 12 and try bonus points in all but one.
League action is back on the agenda this weekend with eyes on narrowing the gap on leaders Old Scouts when they head to Dunstablians.
Also in Midlands Two East (South), Stewarts & Lloyds will look to build on their pre-Christmas 46-7 win over South Leicester when they nip across the county border for a game with mid-table Lutterworth.