Newmarket Rugby Club return to action on Saturday with first team manager Raymond Richardson aiming to turn the table on its head as his basement-boys host table-topping rivals Ely, writes Sam Murley.
The Scaltback-based outfit halted a four-game losing run with a morale boosting 22-5 victory over second-bottom Mersea Island ahead of the winter break as they sealed only their second victory of a difficult Greene King IPA Eastern Counties Division One campaign.
Their return to action could not be more difficult, however, as they prepare to welcome their league-leading neighbours. But despite acknowledging the magnitude of the task ahead, Richardson has not given up hope of causing a shock on Saturday (2pm).
“We’re are facing the team top of the table and have a number of key players missing so we know it is going to be extremely tough,” he said.
“However, we take a huge amount of confidence from that Mersea Island result, it was something that was desperately needed.
“We have got a very young team and it can be really difficult when they are losing a lot.
“For them it was great to get that victory going into the break and would have done them the world of good.
“Having that break is a bit of a catch-22 situation because you want to take momentum forward as soon as you can, but it has given players carrying knocks the chance to get a much needed rest.
“It will be a very tough encounter, but we will put up a good fight and do all we can to give a good account of ourselves.
“They came here last year and we got a draw in what was one of the hardest games we’ve had over the last few years.
“You never know what might happen, there is always a chance we can turn the table on its head.
“They are top of the league, but we have pushed some of the top teams hard this season so you never know.”
Richardson’s preparations have been dealt a blow with key players Matt Kemp and Daniele Terenzi both set to miss out, but Ray Bradshaw, Steve McClean and captain Simon Guenigault could all return.
“The biggest frustration is that I don’t have the same players available that I had for that Mersea victory,” added the manager.
“We had a great victory before the Christmas break but it is gutting that we are not able to field the same side as that day.
“That is the major issue we have had this season. We have had no consistency with selection but hopefully after Saturday we will be stronger for the second half of the season.”