Diamonds aiming to seal the title on derby day

Matt Gearing celebrates his goal during AFC Rushden & Diamonds' 3-1 win over Long Buckby on Monday, which secured promotion from the UCL Premier Division. Picture by Mal Swinden
Matt Gearing celebrates his goal during AFC Rushden & Diamonds' 3-1 win over Long Buckby on Monday, which secured promotion from the UCL Premier Division. Picture by Mal Swinden

AFC Rushden & Diamonds could be crowned ChromaSport & Trophies United Counties League Premier Division champions at the Dog & Duck tomorrow (Saturday).

Diamonds go into the match with ground neighbours Wellingborough Town needing four points from their last four games to win the title.

But if results go their way this weekend, beating the Doughboys would be enough.

Andy Peaks’ side made sure of promotion with their 3-1 win over Long Buckby in front of 696 supporters on Easter Monday.

The result means Holbeach, the only other club who’ve applied for promotion from the Premier Division, can no longer catch them.

Peaks, whose side have bagged 105 goals this season, said: “I’m pleased for everyone connected with the club.

“We don’t have a rich benefactor ploughing money into the club like we did in the Football League days.

“We are run by supporters and for them to see us get promoted is a great reward for all the hard work they’ve put in.

“The objective at the start of the season was to win promotion and now I want us to go on and win the league.”

Peaks says he plans to stand by the players who’ve taken Diamonds into the Evo-Stik Southern League.

He said: “I think we’re quite well equipped for the next level.

“We maybe need to bring in one or two players, but there won’t be massive changes. I think this squad has earned the right to see how they get on at the next level.

“But I want us to win the league before we start looking ahead to next season.”

Diamonds have doubts over Elliott Lamb-Johnson, Joe Merrill, Richard Bunting and Russ Dunkley for the derby with Wellingborough.

For Doughboys joint-bosses Joe Smyth and Steve Herring, the match will be their last in local football.

Jamie Wright, formerly an assistant at the Dog & Duck, will take over this summer after Smyth and Herring decided to stand down.

Smyth said: “We had ambitions that were totally different to others at the club.

“We were given a mid-table budget but it was cut in half and we didn’t want to be struggling next season.

“We wanted to push on next season.

“We feel it’s time to call it a day and do different 
things. We will go to watch games and maybe play some bad golf. Trust me, I can play bad golf!”

The Doughboys have yet to beat Diamonds and Smyth says he hopes to “put a spanner in the works” on Saturday.

He said: “Diamonds have been magnificent this season and I wish them all the best, but if we can put a spanner in the works, we will.

“We want to walk away with our heads held high.

“We’ve put a side together that’s predominantly made up of Wellingborough lads and we feel we’ve done a fairly good job.

“We’ve made the club safe in the Premier Division and achieved the points target we set when we came here.”

Admission to the match on Saturday is ‘pay what you want’.

The fixture has been rescheduled after the Boxing Day match between the sides was abandoned following a floodlight failure and buckets will be passed around the Dog & Duck asking for contributions from fans.

Desborough Town boss Ian Walker hopes he can keep his team together this summer.

Ar Tarn are unbeaten in their last four UCL Premier Division games and finish their campaign with home clashes against AFC Kempston Rovers a week on Saturday and Newport Pagnell Town three days later.

Walker said: “We are setting out to keep this unbeaten run going until the end of the season, then we will go about our business in the summer.

“I want to keep as many of the lads as we can. We have a young squad who’ve consolidated the team in mid table and I want to push on and see how far we can take the club.”

Jake Bettles is among the young players who have starred for this season and hit a hat-trick in the 5-1 demolition of Wisbech last weekend before Desborough drew 1-1 with Harborough Town on Easter Monday.

“We took four points over the weekend and we are happy with that,” Walker added.

“We beat a Wisbech side who are up there and drew with Harborough who are much improved.”