Captain Collard feels the momentum is with AFC Rushden & Diamonds

Diamonds are involved in a crucial clash in the battle for the play-off places at Alvechurch this weekend

By Jon Dunham
Friday, 21st January 2022, 7:30 am
Alex Collard celebrates after he opened the scoring in AFC Rushden & Diamonds' midweek win over Needham Market. Picture courtesy of Hawkins Images
Alex Collard celebrates after he opened the scoring in AFC Rushden & Diamonds' midweek win over Needham Market. Picture courtesy of Hawkins Images

Alex Collard believes AFC Rushden & Diamonds have the momentum with them as they bid to maintain their surge up the Southern League Premier Central.

A run that has seen them win nine of their last 12 league matches has catapulted Diamonds up to sixth place in the table and to within five points of the play-off places with two games in hand on Alvechurch who hold the final top-five placing at present.

The two sides are set to meet in a crucial clash in Worcestershire this weekend and Diamonds will head there in good spirits after they bounced back from last Saturday’s 2-0 defeat at runaway leaders Banbury United with a 2-0 win over Needham Market at Hayden Road on Tuesday night in which captain Collard scored one and set the other goal up.

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After a tough start which saw Diamond pick up just three points from their first four fixtures, the season has gradually gathered some steam.

So, is the play-off push really on?

“Absolutely,” skipper Collard replied in a confident manner.

“We had a rocky start to the season, it wasn’t great.

“But we have got a bit of momentum, we have played some good stuff recently and it has got us flying up the league.

“To be fair to Peaksy (manager Andy Peaks) and Champs (first team head coach Neil Champelovier) and the management team, they have worked really hard with us.

They have stuck at it, they have stuck to what they believe in. The boys have dug in and we are reaping the rewards.”

Centre-half Collard has established himself as a fan favourite at Hayden Road and it’s hardly surprising with performances like the one he produced on Tuesday.

He was solid in his defensive duties, he headed home the opening goal from AJ George’s cross after 11 minutes and then a first-time cross of his own was brilliantly finished off by Ty Deacon nine minutes into the second half to give Diamonds the cushion they needed.

And, after that defeat at Banbury last weekend, it was a welcome and immediate return to winning ways.

“The weekend was a tricky one and it was a free hit for us really,” Collard said.

“We lost to a better team and Banbury are where they are but we have set our standards and you have to turn up after an unfortunate defeat and put in a performance.

“It wasn’t pretty but getting three points was the main thing.

“The pitch wasn’t great and we showed we are capable of grinding a result out and doing it the ugly way.

“I try to make sure I get on the scoresheet every season and we know we are strong at set-pieces.

“If we don’t win the first or second ball, we try to recycle it and create chances and we did that for both goals.

“It was good to score and then it was nice to set up the second. I just tried to get the ball across as quickly as I could and, to be fair to Ty, it was a great finish because he had a lot to do.

“When you get a 2-0 lead, some people think it can be tricky. But for us, we know we won’t concede many goals so we felt comfortable once we got the second goal.”