Play-off push is now a 'possibility' for AFC Rushden & Diamonds

Andy Peaks' team have been in fine form of late and have closed in on the top five as a result

Wednesday, 5th January 2022, 2:36 pm
The AFC Rushden & Diamonds players celebrate their opening game in the 4-0 win over St Ives Town on New Year's Day. Picture courtesy of Hawkins Images

Andy Peaks feels a push for a play-off place is now a “possibility” for AFC Rushden & Diamonds after they kicked off the new year in impressive fashion.

Diamonds had been in fine form towards the end of 2021 and they showed no signs of letting up as they made it three wins in a row and eight victories from their last 10 matches with a 4-0 success over St Ives Town at Hayden Road on New Year’s Day.

In-form Nathan Tshikuna scored twice while Ty Deacon and Jesse Akubuine also got in on the act to secure a comfortable win.

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Diamonds sit in sixth place in the Southern League Premier Central and are now just five points behind Alvechurch, who currently hold the final play-off position, with two games in hand.

But Peaks feels a top-five finish is now becoming the target for his team this season.

“I looked at the teams in the league, knowing some would have bigger budgets than others and I said, like I always do, that the first target was to make sure we survive,” the Diamonds manager said.

“People questioned us after the first few games and I still stood in my corner and said that we had a group of players who would get better and better.

“I am not saying we have enough points to be safe yet but we are getting there.

“And once you have that, you look at trying to be in and around the play-offs.

“Is that a possibility for us now? Yes, of course. We are going to have to work really hard to achieve it.

“The next game is at Banbury and they are the best team I have seen. But what a great game for us to go into.

“There’s no pressure on us in games like that and we will work really hard between now and then and we go there with a plan to try and get something from a team that are looking like champions at the moment.”

It is, however, a frustrating wait for that next game.

Diamonds have no match this weekend but, as Peaks observed, they will return to action at Banbury United a week on Saturday.

The Puritans are enjoying a fine campaign and are well clear at the top of the table, having been beaten just once in the league so far.

Peaks admits his team would like to be playing again this weekend but, on the positive side, he is hopeful the extra week will give the likes of Alex Collard, Ravi Shamsi and Connor Furlong the time they need to return to the fold after they all missed the win over St Ives.

“It is a bit frustrating, when you’re on a run like we are you want the next game as soon as possible,” he added.

“It was my concern before the game on New Year’s Day because we had a break before it and I was wondering whether we would have the legs to see the game through.

“We are looking at trying to get a friendly for this Saturday because we could do with playing but, if not, we will have plenty of training and be as equipped as we can be to go to Banbury.

“On the positive side, by the time we get to that game, I’d like to think the three boys who missed New Year’s Day will be ready. And if they are then it will give me a very good selection headache.”