Diamonds’ fitness levels get a boost in Brackley clash

Andy Burgess believes his AFC Rushden & Diamonds squad’s fitness levels will be “a lot better for that” after they held Brackley Town to a 1-1 draw in their penultimate pre-season friendly of the summer.

AFC Rushden & Diamonds defender Ryan Hughes challenges Brackley Town's Callum Stead during the 1-1 draw at Hayden Road. Picture by Glenn Alcock
AFC Rushden & Diamonds defender Ryan Hughes challenges Brackley Town's Callum Stead during the 1-1 draw at Hayden Road. Picture by Glenn Alcock

Diamonds found themselves up against a strong starting XI from last season’s Vanarama National League North runners-up and Brackley took a deserved half-time lead through James Armson’s near-post header.

But Burgess’ side improved in the second half, particularly when the visitors made a number of changes, and Diamonds were rewarded when summer signing Jenson Cooper hammered home a long-range effort into the bottom corner.

“The fitness levels will be a lot better for that,” Burgess said.

“I was a little bit disappointed with the levels in the first half in terms of commitment and competing with them.

“Their front three or four were getting the better of our back four, they were just a little bit brighter.

“But I felt we were a bit more on the front foot in the second half, we were a bit more competitive all over the pitch and we were rewarded with the goal.

“We did ride our luck at times though but, again, it’s about learning about the players and getting those fitness levels up.

“It was always going to be a tough test against a club who finished second at the level above last season but we got lots out of it.”

Diamonds round off pre-season with a home clash against a Luton Town XI on Friday evening (7pm kick-off) and Burgess is hopeful both Connor Furlong and Jesse Akubuine will be fit for it.

Both players limped off after taking knocks to their achilles late on in the clash with Brackley.

“I am hopeful it’s just a kick, it’s difficult to tell at the moment,” Burgess said of Furlong’s injury.

“Jesse (Akubuine) has also taken a kick on his achilles so they are a couple we just have to monitor and make sure they are okay.

“Usually Connor is a quick healer. He is an important player for us so hopefully it’s not too bad and we see him back and ready to go on Friday.”