Andy Peaks believes the race for the one automatic promotion place in the Evo-Stik Southern League Division One Central will go to the wire this season.
Peaks’ AFC Rushden & Diamonds side move back to the top of the table following last weekend’s 8-1 demolition of rock-bottom North Greenford United.
But their advantage is a slender one with St Ives Town and Chalfont St Peter just a point behind while the likes of Egham Town and Royston Town are right in the hunt.
However, Peaks believes Kings Langley, who sit just outside the play-offs places and Aylesbury, who have games in hand are also right in the race.
Diamonds head to seventh-placed Aylesbury, who finished runners-up last season, tomorrow (Saturday).
The hosts have been beaten just once at home in the league this season and Peaks is expecting another close encounter after a Tom Lorraine goal proved to be enough to give Diamonds the points in the reverse fixture back in September.
“I think it is going to be really close right up until the end, it is a good race to be in,” the Diamonds boss said.
“There are still eight teams who will fancy their chances of winning the whole thing.
“Aylesbury are one of those and this is a tough game because they have a very good home record.
“It was a close game with them earlier in the season, which could have gone either way. I expect it to be similar this weekend.”
Peaks, meanwhile, believes his team “set the standard” with their performance last Saturday.
Diamonds were irresistible, albeit against a struggling side, as Andy Hall’s hat-trick and further goals from Shawn Richards, Tom Lorraine, debutant Jon Stevenson, Liam Dolman and Lewis Leslie completed a resounding success.
Peaks added: “They have set the standard but I am not naive enough to think that sort of result will happen week in, week out.
“There were lots of positives to take out of the performance and if we can play like that then teams will struggle to live with us.
“It showed what we want to be producing and, more importantly, what we are capable of.”
Diamonds will be without the suspended Connor Kennedy with Luke Hipwell set to return to the squad.
Recent signing Nabil Shariff remains ruled out due to a chest infection while Tom Liversedge is set for a number of weeks on the sidelines as he will undergo an operation to have a cyst removed from his knee.