Rugby union: Longton hoping for some festive cheer to get campaign back on track
TONY Wheat is eyeing some pre-Christmas cheer at Longton, but warns his side not to expect gift-wrapped results from their rivals.
Longton are emerging from a testing start to their National League Three Midlands campaign which has seen them face the current top six in their opening two months.
A record of three wins and five defeats has left the Trentham Fields side in 10th place, but there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Longton's run up to the festive period sees them play sides around them in the table, an ideal chance to kick-start their season, according to director of rugby Wheat.
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"This is a crucial period for us and it's important we consolidate and move up the table," he said.
"We've only taken one point from our last three matches, but we've a tough run of fixtures.
"But you don't get anything for free in this league. Just because the games we've got coming up look winnable, we still need to do the business.
"We picked ourselves up last season after a similar start, and it is important we win the majority of our next seven to give ourselves a springboard."
Longton, who make the trip to Broadstreet on Saturday, suffered a third successive defeat last weekend when second-placed Ampthill returned to Bedfordshire as 51-17 winners.
But despite the score-line, Wheat insisted positives could be taken from the match – and highlighted some extenuating circumstances which hampered Longton's efforts.
"Because of injuries and unavailability, the back division was a bit of a patchwork, with players in positions they'd rarely ever feature in.
"Sam Moors was at fly-half, Chris Moors at full-back and Scott Eaves at scrum-half, all players who have not had a run of games in those areas.
"It wasn't a surprise we were exposed defensively at times when we had lads finding their feet.
"There were positives, especially with ball in hand.
"The pack held up well, and Zac Heath and Francis Nock had excellent games in the back row.
"The top two (Sutton Coldfield and Ampthill) are good sides, but apart from them I wouldn't say I've seen a team which is better than us, despite what the results say."
Longton's resources should be boosted for Saturday's trip, with Chris Buck returning to the squad after being unavailable last week.
Number eight Joel Booth is also likely to start, despite suffering a possible hernia, while Matt Baker, who required stitches in a nose injury last time out, is also included.
But centre Alfie Karekaho will miss the game following his early retirement during the Ampthill defeat.
It was initially feared he had fractured his collarbone, but the prognosis is better and it appears there is no break.
Broadstreet, who are seventh, saw their run of three successive victories come to an end last Friday when they went down 26-10 at home to Nuneaton in front of 1,100 spectators.
"We go back a long way with Broadstreet and managed to sneak a win there last year, but we were on a good run at the time," said Wheat.
"We've been defending well for long periods and then conceding silly tries, so that is something we need to eradicate.
"But I am still confident we can put a run of wins together."
SANDBACH, who are fifth in National League Three Midlands, visit sixth-placed Syston on Saturday.
They will be looking to return to winning ways after a 27-21 defeat by leaders Sutton Coldfield last weekend, despite turning in a positive display.