BIG MATCH PREVIEW -
by Joe Heaton
If, during the off season and before the recent
raft of injuries, with expectations rising high, any supporter had suggested
that Moseley would be playing Nottingham from the bottom but one position in
the Table, having conceded no less than 107 points in the first two matches,
they would have been considered unduly pessimistic.
Yet that is the reality and it does not get any easier against Nottingham this afternoon.
It could be argued, however, that it was unfortunate that Moseley had been condemned to play the first three matches against clubs (Exeter, Cornish Pirates and Nottingham) likely to finish in the top third of the new table, but there it is.
While in the games against Exeter and the Pirates the backs have shown that they can score points (49), the team as a whole has shown a worrying ability to lose a game within the first half an hour, before the players have pulled their act together.
If they are going to have any chance against Nottingham, they have to play at their very best from the outset. They also have to tighten up their defence and stop unnecessarily surrendering possession.
Team selection will be crucial. One change – Dan Oselton for the injured Adam Caves – is inevitable, but how many of the new players (e.g. Chevvy Pennycook, back row; Johnny May, centre), who have not yet had a start, Ian Smith will introduce injuries permitting, remains to be seen.
The Nottingham club, which now operates out of Lady Bay, whilst still playing 1st XV matches on Notts County’s ground, was founded in 1877, four years after Moseley, by a Rugby School boy during his holidays.
Over the last one hundred and thirty four years, without ever reaching the heights of the game, Nottingham has earned itself the well deserved reputation of being a solid, dependable and hospitable club, which is a pleasure to visit but difficult to beat.
In the modern era the club has made a notable contribution to successive England XVs, Dusty Hare, Gary Rees, Rob Andrew, Brian Moore and Chris Oti spring to mind. The club’s most notable player, however, was Simon Hodgkinson, who between 1981-98 made 318 appearances and scored 2,778 points.
Nottingham has been one of the National League’s most consistent performers. In the last three seasons the club finished seventh, a well deserved third and fifth. Last season the men in green beat Moseley at Billesley Common 36-27 and won again at home, 44-17.
The Nottingham side is coached by Glenn Delaney, Director of Rugby, whose players have had the good fortune to play their first two matches in the Championship at home, winning one and losing one. In the first match they lost to Cornish Pirates. 13-24 but last Saturday they beat London Welsh, 23-16.
This is a crunch match for Moseley.
Doncaster, who we play next Saturday (26th) are unlikely to remain at the foot of the table for long, bearing mind that the Knights were fourth in National League One last season.
The possibility of Moseley being stranded at the bottom of the Championship after four games does not bear thinking about.
New: Comment from Head Coach Ian Smith ………..
Ian Smith’s new column will feature in all the Moseley Matters editions leading up to a home game.
“We go into this Saturday’s fixture against Nottingham with an opportunity to get our first victory on the board. I am looking to our players to rise to the occasion and I am looking to our supporters to really get behind the side. When in full voice it is amazing just how big a lift it gives the team, so let’s have plenty of noise please!
It will particularly help the younger members of the squad as they adjust to the challenges of what we always knew would be a hard season. Meanwhile our more experienced professionals need to front up and lead by example.
Yes, our plans have been disrupted by the number of early season injuries, but we really cannot use that as an excuse for the scale of the reverses against Exeter and Cornish Pirates. For sure each club has hefty financial muscle and bigger playing budgets, but Nottingham, like us, are no millionaire playboys.
I still fully believe in the players at my disposal, but we must address the basics today if we are to prevail. I want to see a return to solid line-outs and the sort of tackling which makes a statement. We have discussed all the issues this week, there is plenty of confidence around the place, the players know they have ability, and I hope everyone is clear what is expected of them.
Moseley v Nottingham clashes go back generations and hopefully will continue for many generations to come. I can recall from my own playing days some enjoyable scraps – matches have always been competitive.
We welcome them to Billesley Common as old friends. They have had their pre-season challenges this year what with all the changes at football club Notts County at whose ground they play. But it does not appear to have affected them on the pitch as last weekend’s 23-16 victory over London Welsh shows.
Nottingham will arrive buoyed by that result, and we have to be up for it from the outset. Our boys must get amongst them from the kick off. We are playing at home, we are in front of our own people, we need to gel as a team … and we need to go out and put on a display.
We need a performance and that means individuals must take responsibility. Our pitch is in prime condition for running rugby and there should be every opportunity to run in some exciting tries.
Indeed, with two equally matched teams, the neutral might expect something of a cliff-hanger. If that does prove to be the case we need to make sure we come out the right side of the score line.
A consolation from the long trek to Cornwall was gaining a bonus point. This Saturday though we need to take the next step and have plenty to cheer about come the final whistle”.
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