Andy Peaks was delighted with the “belief, work-rate and desire” of his AFC Rushden & Diamonds team after they secured a dramatic 3-3 draw with Biggleswade Town at Hayden Road.
Diamonds looked like they were heading for defeat against their top-five rivals in the Evo-Stik League South Premier Division Central when they fell 3-1 behind with 11 minutes to go.
But Peaks’ side fought until the end and two stoppage-time penalties, both cooly converted by Ben Farrell, saw them extend their unbeaten run to seven matches as they now gear up for the huge local derby at Kettering Town on New Year’s Day.
All the goals came in an explosive second half with Albie Hopkins bringing Diamonds level after a mix-up between Blaize Punter and Alex Collard had let Joe White in for Biggleswade’s opener.
White scored a penalty and then Jonny McNamara’s superb 30-yard strike looked to have put the visitors out of sight before the late drama.
And Peaks said: “You always look for your team to stay in the game but when you are two goals behind so late in the game, you do start to think it might not happen.
“But, like I keep saying, we have got a group that is full of belief and we have proved it against a team that doesn’t give a lot of goals away.
“It’s a fantastic point and it felt a bit like a win straight afterwards.
“We felt, certainly at half-time, that the first goal could be vital and they scored when we were having a good spell. It was one of the few mistakes we made defensively. It was a terrible goal for us to concede.
“Our first goal was a good one, Albie took it well but the build-up was great and at 1-1 I thought we would go on and win it.
“But we got caught with the penalty and then their third goal is one that is worthy of winning any game. Thankfully it didn’t!
“We changed the formation and we just tried to put a bit of pressure on and it paid off.
“We had nothing to lose and we gave ourselves a chance. The belief, the work-rate and the desire to keep going epitomised us.”
The dramatic draw rounded off a fine calendar year for Diamonds, which has seen them move up to Step 3 and launch a challenge for a play-off place.
They sit in fourth place in the table going into the derby clash at Latimer Park.
“It’s been a great year for everyone associated with the club,” Peaks added.
“We have moved the club onto the next step and we have added good players who have fitted in well. I think it all bodes well for 2019.”