Andy Peaks is hoping his AFC Rushden & Diamonds players will “put on a show” for their supporters when they take on Kettering Town in the big New Year’s Day derby at Latimer Park.
The first-ever league meeting between the two clubs couldn’t be set up any better with the Poppies battling it out with Stourbridge at the top end of the Evo-Stik League South Premier Division Central while Diamonds sit in fourth spot after an impressive debut campaign so far at Step 3.
Peaks’ team head into the showdown on the back of a seven-match unbeaten run, which continued after a dramatic late fightback at Hayden Road on Saturday as two Ben Farrell penalties secured a 3-3 draw against Biggleswade Town after they had trailed 3-1 at one stage.
The Diamonds boss knows his players will be in for a thorough examination in the first game of 2019 and he insists they will “work their socks off” as they bid to secure the local bragging rights.
“The year really couldn’t start with a tougher or bigger game than this,” Peaks said.
“We are delighted with where we are at, I would think they (Kettering) expected to be where they are, if not higher.
“We will go there and do what we always do away from home. We will work or socks off and try to get something out of the game.
“We know we will have a lot of supporters there and we will try to put on a show for them.
“But what a game it is for people to be playing in. It should be a great occasion and the players need to enjoy it. But they will only enjoy it if they give a good account of themselves.
“From a manager’s point of view, I just add points up across the season. I am not bothered where we get them.
“But you always want to go and get a result at your neighbours. It means a lot to the supporters and it will mean a lot to the players.
“All I ever ask of the boys is that they put a shift in and I expect that from them again.”
Peaks will be hoping that some members of his squad recover from illness in time for the clash.
Sam Brown missed the game on Saturday while Declan Rogers was withdrawn at half-time.
And Peaks added: “Sam was full of cold and flu and wasn’t well enough to be involved and then Dec wasn’t feeling great either, he has a bit of a virus. We gave him the first half and he wasn’t himself.
“It’s key for me to have a strong squad and it’s important to keep those on the fringes part of it for when situations like this arise.”