AFC Rushden & Diamonds kick off the new season this weekend with boss Andy Peaks aiming high.
Diamonds welcome Petersfield Town to the Dog & Duck in the Evo-Stik Southern League Division One Central Division tomorrow (Saturday).
Last season, Diamonds won 31 of their 40 matches in the UCL Premier Division to finish top of the table and though Peaks accepts the new level will be tougher, he isn’t ruling out another title challenge.
He said: “I want to aim as high as we can. I want us to win the league.
“We don’t know too much about the league we are going into but I believe we have a good squad and there’s no reason why we can’t compete at the top.
“I would like to think the play-offs are possible. We will have to see how we start the season and if we need to, we can make changes as we go along.”
Skipper Richard Bunting is suspended this weekend and of the players Peaks has brought in during the summer, Steve Spriggs is doubtful with a groin strain.
Dom Lawless, who arrived from Newport Pagnell during the summer, has joined AFC Kempston Rovers on a dual registration after failing to score during pre-season.
Peaks, who’s also decided goalkeeper Rhys Redding and Harry May should “get some minutes” with Kempston and Harborough Town respectively in the UCL, said: “Dom’s been working hard, but he needs fitness and he needs goals. It will do him more good playing for Kempston than sitting on the bench for us.”
Peaks last weekend saw Tommy Berwick, Tom Lorraine and Scott Joseph find the target against Loughborough Dynamo in their final pre-season friendly after Courtney Herbert went off with an injury that makes him doubtful for this weekend.
Peaks hopes Berwick’s strike is proof that his luck in front of goal is changing.
He said: “The goal against Loughborough when in off the post and last season it would have hit the post and bounced out.
“Tommy did a lot of work for us last season, but he couldn’t buy a goal.
“He’s got three goals in pre-season and that will give him confidence. That’s crucial for any striker.”
In Petersfield, Diamonds face another side new to Step Four.
They’ve reached the level with back-to-back promotions, last season capturing the Wessex League Premier Division championship.
And Peaks said: “They will have momentum and belief which goes a long way in football.
“We are delighted to be at home and hopefully there will be a good crowd on Saturday.”