Rugby Union: Struggling Stoke go back to basics to arrest slide
NEW player-coach Tom Hughes insists no-one is panicking as injury-ravaged Stoke look to bounce back from three straight defeats.
The Barlaston side had seven first-teamers missing in a 23-15 reverse at Hereford, while centre Hughes (hamstring) and full-back Steve Talbot (quad) played through the pain barrier.
It has made for an unlikely run of results for a team which blew away all comers last season on their way to winning the Midlands Two West (North) championship.
To atone, Hughes admits they may have to make slight adjustments to the expansive style he has been trying to introduce and put more emphasis back on the pack.
And the former Sale FC coach hopes to get back on the winning trail when Stoke host Northwich this weekend.
He said: "We have been a little naive at times and we've still got a bit to work on, but there is no drama. No-one is worried.
"We've had some terrible luck with injuries and availability, missing key men like Chris Rowley, Simon Price, Glen Joss, James Cordall, James Shaw and Andy Challenor.
"We've played against some good teams, too, and Peter Wilshaw, who has been sensational for the past fortnight, is now on holiday.
"I've never known anything like it, but there is no doubt we will get better.
"I've put in a few new ideas, but for the moment we've simplified it to go more with a traditional Stoke style."
Northwich lost 32-17 at home to Stratford last time out and sit 12th in the early table, two places behind Stoke.
LINLEY AND KIDSGROVE host TRENTHAM in the first derby of the South Lancs/Cheshire Three season.
They were forced to postpone their game at Prenton last week due to a lack of props, but their problem has been temporarily resolved.
Matt Oxford moves to full-back as his side go looking for their first win of the season.
Trentham annihilated bottom side Knutsford 61-3 last weekend to go third.
CONGLETON were also celebrating victory on Saturday, scoring 27 points without reply against Helsby.
They could make it two on the bounce when they travel to Holmes Chapel, who are also yet to get off the mark.
IN South Lancs/Cheshire One, CREWE and NANTWICH go to New Brighton on the back of a 48-14 thumping of Ashton-on-Mersey.