Rugby union: Battling spirit tipped to spark Longton revival
A DEPLETED and struggling Longton will battle their way back to form thanks to hardened old pros like Craig Wilson, according to director of rugby Tony Wheat.
An injury crisis has seen the Trentham Fields side lose five successive league games for the first time since the 2008/09 season.
Key men Scott Rawlings (wrist), Joel Booth (hip), Scott Eaves (hand) and Alfie Karekaho (collar bone) all remain in the treatment room ahead of this week's trip to Bournville.
And John Tavaceke, Ben Grocott, Tim Wareham and Chris Tennuci are also unavailable as Longton look to crawl out of the bottom three of the National League Three Midlands table.
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But Wheat does not see too much reason to panic, as long as his side continue to show the spirit displayed in a last-gasp loss to Hinckley last time out.
Their never-say-die attitude will be epitomised by player-coach Wilson and Matt Davies, who are likely to play through the pain barrier on Saturday.
Inspirational centre Hendry Vaka is also expected to line up for Longton as they search for their first win since September.
Wheat, below, said: "We are improving in some areas only to be hit in others, but a free weekend has probably helped most of the aches and pains in the squad.
"Craig is better than he was, but he's still a bit beaten up. But he will just battle through and play, and we hope Matt will be okay for Saturday, too.
"We've got home games coming up which will really count, but first there is Bournville away, which we know will be tough against a big pack of forwards. But it is a winnable game.
"We need to play with the same attitude and approach we did against Hinckley. It was disappointing to lose in the last moment, but we could not fault the commitment.
"Sitting in the bottom three is unacceptable, but if we keep showing that desire then we can turn it around."
Centre Rawlings will enter the fray for the first time this season towards the end of the month, and is expected to make a big difference.
Wheat added: "In many ways our whole game plan is based around the go-forward ball which Scott provides.
"An 18-stone centre with his pace is very difficult to have taken away.
"Hopefully he will be back in a couple of weeks and then, because he is so big and strong, he will deliver the goods whether he is at the peak of his fitness or not.
"We have conceded as many tries so far this season as we had by the three-quarter stage last year and that is partly down to missing Scott's presence, vocal and physical. We will be happy to have him back."
Sixth-placed Bournville will feature player-coach Jason Allen, who won a bronze medal at the Grand Masters World Judo Championships in Miami last weekend. The 44-year-old Commonwealth and British Masters champion beat Thierry Cardoso on France in a third-place play-off in the M4-100kg division.
SANDBACH are on the road for a top-half clash against Broadstreet.
The Bradwall Road side suffered a rare blip last time out when they were blown away by young Ampthill full-back Elliott Clement-Hill in a 43-14 defeat.
However, they have made a fine start in National League Three Midlands after winning promotion last term and currently sit fifth in the league table