'No pressure' as AFC Rushden & Diamonds head to the runaway leaders

Diamonds have been flying of late but face the toughest of tests this weekend

By Jon Dunham
Friday, 14th January 2022, 7:30 am
AFC Rushden & Diamonds manager Andy Peaks
AFC Rushden & Diamonds manager Andy Peaks

Andy Peaks insists there’s “no pressure” on his AFC Rushden & Diamonds players as they prepare for a trip to runaway leaders Banbury United.

The Puritans will begin the weekend a huge 16 points clear at the top of the Southern League Premier Central after an incredible season so far, in which they have lost just once in the league.

Diamonds, meanwhile, have won eight of their last 10 matches to move into contention for the play-off places, although they were without a game last weekend having seen off St Ives Town 4-0 in convincing fashion on New Year’s Day.

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Manager Peaks is more than happy with where his team are sitting at this stage and he is now looking forward to his team testing themselves against a Banbury side who look all set to clinch the sole automatic promotion place.

“At this time of year, the league table doesn’t lie and the fact Banbury are 16 points clear at the top and have only lost once speaks volumes about them,” Peaks said.

“We know a bit about them and there are players there who have been with us before so we know some strengths and weaknesses. But, clearly, they have more strengths than weaknesses because of where they are.

“We have been on a great run ourselves but we know it’s going to be a really tough test for us.

“We have worked our way into a good position and that is testament to the whole squad.

“We had a tough start and even before this good run we dropped points at home to the likes of Biggleswade and Barwell when I thought we deserved more than we got.

“If you add some of those points on then we’d be right in the mix but there’s still loads to play for.

“We are where I want us to be. We are in and around it and I hope that in a few weeks time that is still the case as we head into the final stretch.

“Not having a game at the weekend didn’t help us but we can’t make any excuses. We trained last week, we’ll train this week and I think this is a good game for us to have.

“There’s no pressure on us whatsoever going away to the team who look like they are going to win the whole thing.

“We go there with loads of confidence and I am looking forward to it.”

Peaks, meanwhile, is hopeful of having a full-strength squad to choose from at the weekend.

Alex Collard, Connor Furlong and Ravi Shamsi all missed the win over St Ives due to illness and injury.

But Peaks added: “At the moment, I am hoping to have pretty much everyone available.

“There were a couple of knocks in training last week so I have got to have a look at them.

“What I do know is that, barring a Covid disaster, we will have a good 16 ready to go there and give it our best shot.”