Pre-season has tested us, admits Diamonds boss Burgess

Andy Burgess admits pre-season has “certainly tested us” as AFC Rushden & Diamonds gear up for the new Southern League Premier Central season this weekend.

Wednesday, 3rd August 2022, 3:07 pm
Nathan Hicks in action for AFC Rushden & Diamonds during their 3-0 friendly win at Daventry Town this summer. Picture courtesy of Daventry Town FC
Nathan Hicks in action for AFC Rushden & Diamonds during their 3-0 friendly win at Daventry Town this summer. Picture courtesy of Daventry Town FC

Burgess is preparing for his first full season in charge at Hayden Road and it all gets under way with a home clash against Needham Market on Saturday.

After such a fine campaign last time out, which saw Diamonds just miss out on a play-off place on the final day of the season, it’s proved to be a tricky summer with a number of players heading for the exit.

Key players such as goalkeeper Dean Snedker and defender Patrick Casey have been retained but Diamonds will have a new look to them when they step out at the weekend.

“We didn’t plan for as many people to leave the club as they did but they did so we had to deal with it and we are still dealing with it,” Burgess said.

“We aren’t finished and we know we need to be that little bit stronger.

“It’s certainly tested us, we have had to draw on a lot of contacts and we have spoken to an unbelievable amount of players, some of whom have been right and some who haven’t.

“I am pleased with what we have got. Yes, we are young and we understand that.

“I have been pleased with the players we have held on to, the likes of Dean Snedker, Paddy Casey, Ryan Hughes, Jesse Akubuine and Connor Furlong.

"They are good players who will benefit from working with me last season. They will know what to expect from me and will share all that with the group.

“I guess there is something of an unknown about us but I have seen enough in pre-season to suggest we should be competitive and have a positive season.”

Pre-season results have been mixed for Diamonds.

They suffered early defeats against the likes of Stamford and Loughborough Students but a 3-0 win at Daventry Town and a 1-1 draw against higher-ranked

Brackley Town suggested Burgess’ squad is beginning to gel.

Their friendly schedule was completed last Friday night when an impressive Luton Town academy side ran out 6-0 winners at Hayden Road.

But now it’s down to the real business and a home clash against a Needham side who finished comfortably in mid-table last time out.

“You never really know what to expect in terms of the opposition and how the other teams in your league will look,” Burgess added.

“Everyone goes in on an even keel so expectations are high for everyone.

“It feels in one sense that pre-season has gone on for five years and in the other it feels like it has gone in a heartbeat.

“It’s the real thing now and we have to be looking forward to it.

“We have a big week in terms of preparation and it’s exciting times.”

Diamonds’ opening-day home clash is then followed by a first away game of the season at Basford United next Saturday (August 13).

And they will be back at Hayden Road again three days later when they take on Hitchin Town on Tuesday, August 16.