Cup battle for ‘heroes’
The Eastern Counties Greene King Division One West side experienced a torrid campaign in phase one of the 2017/18 league, failing to record any points as they lost all 14 fixtures.
It is understood they will be relegated to Division Two West at the end of the season, unless granted a reprieve.
But, following their ‘promising’ final league game, a 38-7 home loss to Shelford III on Saturday, head coach Steve Bowak is optimistic about his side’s chances in the cup.
He said it will be ‘tough’ as the Templars, who lead Division Two South by a 17-point margin, ‘are at or close to Division One standard’.
Despite this, he said Haverhill will go into the game in the strongest position they have been in this season — after an enthused response to his ‘call to arms’ following availability issues two weeks ago.
Bowak said he has 24 players at his disposal for the tie, a far cry from the makeshift team that lost 96-0 to Cottenham Renegades on January 6.
While the return of players is welcomed, he said he has some difficult selection decisions to make, torn between the first team players who have returned and those who have stepped up this season.
He said: “I genuinely think my players this year are all heroes.
“They’ve kept going, kept turning up and putting their hearts on the line week in and week out. And it would be a massive way to pay them back for their commitment to put them out in a cup quarter final.
“But I also have some really skilful players who have made themselves available.
“They could make a big difference — I’ve told everyone that only those that turned up for training this week will be considered.”
He added that the team also go into the match on the back of a competitive contest with Shelford III, a performance that puts the side in good stead for this weekend.
He said: “Shelford were a very good team and they were very dynamic, hard to play. I tried a new tactic which worked well and we just played one of our better games.
“It’s very promising going into a cup. I haven’t seen Halstead play this season but they’re obviously a good side and it’s going to be tough.”
If they win, they will face either Harwich and Dovercourt or Mersea Island in the semi-final on February 24.
The game also marks the end of phase one of the league. Phase two — a mini championship against those that finished in the same phase one league position (1st/2nd, 3rd/4th, 5th/6th, 7th/8th) in the other area divisions — begins on February 3.
Haverhill will visit Great Yarmouth-Broadland — who finished in eighth position in Division One North.