Something has to give in the battle of the basement boys

COMMITMENT HIGH: Tony Hope has said one thing that can't be criticised is the players motivation
COMMITMENT HIGH: Tony Hope has said one thing that can't be criticised is the players motivation

It is the biggest game of the first half of the season, and a chance to climb off the bottom of the table, according to head coach Tony Hope.

He was discussing Haverhill & District RFC’s upcoming fixture, an away game to Saffron Walden in the Eastern Counties Greene King Division One West on Saturday (3pm).

It will be a tough game for a side who have been outclassed in the division so far, following an off-season that saw a large proportion of its first team step aside.

But it is also their best chance to gain invaluable points, against a side who have made a similar start to the season.

Hope said: “It’s obviously a big game against Saffron Walden.

“They are in a similar position to us in the league and they’re struggling.

“But we’re not under any illusions that it’ll be easy, it’s going to be a tough one — and they’ll go into it wanting the win as well.

“I hope it’ll be a competitive game, it’s certainly one of the biggest we’ll play this season.

“And the biggest in the first half of the season, before the division splits.”

Saffron Walden lie one place above them in the league, with zero points but a better points difference, having scored 61 and conceded 285.

Haverhill, in contrast, have only scored 17 points while conceding 289 and, as a result, go into the match as the underdogs.

Hope said: “Look, we always knew this was going to be a very tough year.

“As I’ve said before, we lost a lot of our first team players and that’s a hard thing to bounce back from quickly.

“The commitment from the players we have, in training particularly, I just can’t fault it so what will be will be.

“But I’m really looking forward to the weekend.”

He said the side were working on the skills and play of the backs, who he identified as the team’s ‘Achilles Heel’.

“It’s our backs where we are probably the weakest,” he said.

“They are nearly all from the second team and so they are having to learn to play at this level, and it’s a big step up.

“I’m not criticising them, I can’t fault them for their efforts, and I feel we are developing. We just don’t have the strength in depth like the big clubs do.”

He added that, despite the club’s league position, relegation was not something he was too concerned about.

“I don’t think anyone will get relegated to be honest,” Hope said. “With the way they’ve rejigged the divisions, I don’t think teams will be keen to move up at the moment.

“But it’s our job to just keep going and trying, we want to play in the highest league we can and want to stay here.

“But we’re also aware that if we do go down — and there’s a long way to go yet — then we do, no point worrying.”