FOOTBALL: Pat dismisses Diamonds ahead of crunch clash

DEFIANT: Pat Rayment (left).
DEFIANT: Pat Rayment (left).
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Pat Rayment has told Spalding United’s title rivals AFC Rushden and Diamonds that their win at the Sir Halley Stewart Playing Field means nothing ahead of Saturday’s clash.

The table-topping Tulips make the trip to the Dog and Duck on Saturday to face second-placed Diamonds in a potentially season-defining fixture (3pm).

Rushden are the only side to have beaten Spalding in the league this season, having picked up a 2-1 triumph in the reverse back in December.

The Tulips had key defender Nathan Stainfield controversially sent off early on in that tussle – and boss Rayment is adamant that his side would have won easily but for a ‘poor refereeing decision’.

He said: “I don’t count that result as a defeat. They didn’t deserve it, we should have won – even with ten men.

“If we keep 11 men on the pitch and have a neutral referee I’m covinced we’ll win.

“It’s all very well them winnig against us, but they’ve not been anywhere near consistent enough to be a title rival.

“For some reason, expectations are through the roof at that football club and their fans are very unrealistic in their demands.

“The likes of Huntingdon and Deeping are better placed than them to challenge us and they’ll be out of it if they don’t beat us on Saturday.”

Spalding go into the hotly-anticipated clash in somewhat indifferent form, having lost 3-2 to Boston Town in the UCL Knockout Cup on Tuesday night.

They were also dumped out of the Lincs FA Senior Trophy by Stamford a week earlier, meaning they now have just the league to focus on now.

But there is some positive news, with star striker Andrew Tidswell expected to return to the squad this weekend after a month out.

Despite winning the UCL’s golden boot with Holbeach United last season and having notched 38 times for the Tulips this term, Tidswell was told by a specialist on Tuesday that he’s only been playing at 60 per cent of his potential throughout his career.

That’s because of a nagging pelvic problem that is now being treated – and Rayment is considering throwing him straight back in to the side.

Spalding are also boosted by the return of on-loan striker Jordan Thomas (hamstring) and versatile defender Jon Fairweather (toe) after both shrugged off injuries.