by Glyn Barlow
Firstly a Happy New Year to supporters of Birmingham Moseley and Hull Ionians, as we look forward to the first fixture of 2017.
With one of the longest festive breaks the players will have enjoyed in quite a few seasons the first question to be answered will be who has used the downtime to sharpen fitness and skills and who has been sneaking that extra helping of Christmas pudding.
Following the disappointments of the pre-break narrow loss at Coventry we should expect the Birmingham Moseley squad to come out fired up to reclaim the second place in the league, which slipped away from them for the first time since the second week of National One fixtures.
It was in the third fixture of the season that Birmingham Moseley travelled to Hull to record a very hard fought 22-24 bonus point win via a 78th minute Ed Sheldon try, having been behind since the third minute of play.
Since that impressive display at home by Hull Ionians they have struggled to find form winning only four fixtures against Macclesfield 19-29, Esher 32-29, Rosslyn Park 16-14 and Loughborough Students 18-16, the September fixture in Macclesfield being their last win on the road. The team currently sit in 14th place and will be very much targeting a change in fortunes to start to climb away from the relegation area.
Indeed December might be an indication of resurgence with the aforementioned wins over Rosslyn Park and Loughborough Students bookending a close away defeat at Old Albanian 15-13, so Ionians should take to the field with renewed confidence.
For Birmingham Moseley there will be the added incentive of maintaining their unbeaten home record coupled with a feeling that they could, and should, have delivered more at Coventry, falling to a 79th minute penalty which snatched away what would have been a worthy draw between two very evenly matched teams.
Frustratingly Birmingham Moseley fell foul again to a slow start falling behind by 13 points before they started to find their way. This lack of precision early on coupled with some lacklustre tactical kicking meant that the team were all too often playing catch up and allowing Coventry to have too much room to operate in.
If we are allowed a few wishes for the New Year it would be for the team to start to look to exploit territory more effectively by using their kicking game to put pressure on opponents, not just clearing the ball up field. That coupled with exploiting the attacking potentials out wide should see the team make a strong challenge for another home success against Hull Ionians and provide the perfect opening to 2017.
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