COMMENT - Diamonds capable of going all the way this time

Andy Peaks will be hoping AFC Rushden & Diamonds can go one better than the last two seasons as they begin a new era at Hayden Road
Andy Peaks will be hoping AFC Rushden & Diamonds can go one better than the last two seasons as they begin a new era at Hayden Road

At the risk of putting unneeded pressure on Andy Peaks and his players, I have high hopes for AFC Rushden & Diamonds this season.

For the past two campaigns, they have been the ‘nearly men’.

The play-off final defeat at St Ives Town was a bitter pill for all at the club to swallow but they bounced back last season and, despite a switch to the Evo-Stik League South, Diamonds secured another top-five finish only to fall to an impressive Witton Albion team who went on to secure promotion.

Disappointment again but not without a sense of achievement as Diamonds took no time to get used to new opponents and ensure they were competitive throughout.

Now, as a new season dawns, Peaks and his men find themselves back in the newly-named Evo-Stik South League East.

At the risking of upsetting anyone (upsetting people seems to get easier these days) I don’t believe this division is as strong as the one Diamonds have just come from.

Peaks has ensured it has been a fairly straightforward summer. He’s kept the majority of his squad together and has been calculated when targeting the areas that needed strengthening.

He’s opted for, in the main, young and hungry players while the addition of experienced frontman Chris Dillon could prove to be a more than useful signing if his form in the latter stages of pre-season is anything to go by.

On top of all of this, of course, is the much-anticipated move to Hayden Road in Rushden.

Seen as something of a homecoming for those associated with the club, not least Peaks who played there for Rushden Town back in the day, there has been a real buzz about it.

And that only grew yesterday when it was confirmed that they will be able to stage their first game of the season against Hanwell Town in Rushden on Saturday.

It truly has been an incredible effort by the club’s volunteers who deserve a lot more credit than I can give them for their efforts to make this happen for their club.

It all adds up to what could prove to be a season to remember.

Given his work in the transfer market, I believe Peaks feels he has a squad that will more than compete in this division this season.

I fully expect them to be up there and challenging for the two automatic promotion places available. It would certainly be nice to take the play-offs out of the equation.

And with the momentum of the move to Rushden behind them, this might just be the season where it all falls into place...