The start of what could prove to be a season-defining month for AFC Rushden & Diamonds begins with a trip to take on the world’s oldest football club this weekend.
The race for the play-off places in the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League Division One South is well and truly on and Andy Peaks’ team are right in the thick of things.
Last weekend’s 4-0 victory over Loughborough Dynamo sent them into a season-high position of fourth.
But there are plenty of teams still in contention for a top-five finish, including this weekend’s opponents Sheffield FC, who sit in eighth place and just three points behind Diamonds.
With further clashes against fellow play-off contenders Spalding United and Basford United as well as a trip to Kidsgrove Athletic, who claimed a 5-2 win at the Dog & Duck last month, to come later in the month, it looks as if Diamonds are heading into a crucial period.
Peaks’ team booked a place in the last eight of the Integro League Cup on Tuesday night after a much-changed line-up beat Spalding on penalties after a 0-0 draw between the two sides.
But it’s back to the serious business tomorrow (Saturday) as Diamonds head north to take on a Sheffield side who claimed a fine 1-0 win at fifth-placed Newcastle Town last weekend.
“It was a nice distraction from the league on Tuesday because there was a bit less pressure on us,” Peaks said.
“But we are focused on Sheffield now and it’s going to be another tough game.
“It’s one we are looking forward to and we are up against a team who are in and around us.
“There are lot of points to play for and a lot of games to be played. Saturday is just the next one and we will be up for it.
“We have done our homework on them and if we perform like we have done in the last three games then we will be in with a chance.
“We are in a good position and we are sitting where I hoped we would be.
“We will take each game as it comes and keep ticking them off and try to pick up as many points as we can.”
While securing a play-off place remains at the top of Peaks’ priority list, the chance of picking up some silverware was boosted further by the midweek success over Spalding.
After 10 perfect penalties, Ben Heath saved from Jordan Lemon and Jake Newman stepped up to fire Diamonds into the last eight.
And Peaks added: “It will be another game for us and it will be an opportunity for me to give players minutes.
“Everything I am in, I want to win and I have said that from the start.
“That’s the nature of me and that’s the nature of the players.”