St Ives Town boss Ricky Marheineke tells rivals AFC Rushden & Diamonds they should definitely win play-off final showdown

St Ives Town manager Ricky Marheineke. Picture: HELEN DRAKE

St Ives Town manager Ricky Marheineke. Picture: HELEN DRAKE - Credit: Archant

St Ives Town manager Ricky Marheineke insists all the pressure is on opponents AFC Rushden & Diamonds as the two clubs prepare to meet in a promotion showdown on Bank Holiday Monday.

Saints host Diamonds at ProEdge Westwood Road in the Southern League Division One (Central) play-off final (3pm).

And, even though his team finished one place and one point above their visitors in the regular season, Marheineke is adamant it is Andy Peaks’ men who will kick-off as favourites.

But that doesn’t mean he is writing off the chances of his own side as they bid to cap a memorable season with a rise into the Premier Division.

“Diamonds should definitely beat us,” said Marheineke. “I think they probably have double the budget I do and they are the favourites.

“Their manager might have said he is happy with their finishing position, but I don’t think he genuinely means that deep down.

“A team with their budget should have got a lot closer to the title. At one point they looked like walking away with it before falling away and ending up in the final play-off spot.

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“Their fans will also turn out in force and make lots of noise. I think I’m right in saying they took around 300 supporters to Royston for the semi-final last Tuesday and they will probably bring even more to our place.

“We have fantastic fans ourselves and we’re comfortably the second-best supported team in the league after Diamonds.

“It is up to us to give our supporters something to shout about and make the most of our home advantage.

“Even though the stakes are higher, and the reward is huge, we’re treating it exactly the same as every other game this season.

“We’ve prepared well and we’ll have a chance of winning if we can perform well.”

Marheineke believes it is difficult to predict the type of game in prospect tomorrow, but he reckons a frantic start is assured.

He added: “I expected a cagey affair in our semi-final at Egham between the two teams with the best defensive records in the league, but it turned into a free-flowing game full of some excellent attacking play.

“It was almost uncharacteristic from both teams given the way they had been successful through the season.

“That makes it hard to predict how the final will go, but I think it will probably be 100mph early on.

“The big question will be whether or not one team can then get a stranglehold on the game and dictate how it is played.

“We’ve only got a couple of lads who have been involved in the play-offs before, and that might well be a good thing. We can play without fear.”

One of those men is captain Luke Knight, who along with defensive colossus Steven Gentle, helped Biggleswade to play-off glory at this level two seasons ago.

Knight is only rated as 50:50 for tomorrow by Marheineke after missing their final match of the regular season and the play-off semi-final triumph at Egham due to a hamstring problem.

Full-back Scott Sinclair returns from a two-game suspension but midfielder Jared Cunniff completes his three-game ban.

There could be a surprise inclusion in the Saints squad with Godmanchester Rovers ace Micky Hyem eligible. He signed a dual registration deal several weeks ago.

Diamonds are without dangerman Claudiu Hoban due to suspension. He was sent off in their 2-1 victory at Royston in the semi-finals last Tuesday.

St Ives have laid on additional car parking to cope with the anticipated big crowd tomorrow.

Free parking is available at the St Ivo School in High Leys (100 spaces) while there is also £1 parking at Meadow Lane.

Weather permitting, there may also be further parking available at Paragon Park, just off Paragon Road.