Sedgley Park centre Matt Riley says his side still haven’t clicked and played for a full 80 minutes of rugby yet this season.
Dean Schofield’s men are on course to challenge for a promotion place in National Two North this season as they look to finally take the next step into the third tier of English rugby.
Seven wins and two draws from their first 11 matches of the season does leave Sedge in a decent position as we approach the half-way point of the campaign, but Riley insists he and his team-mates haven’t produced their best rugby yet this term.
“We've suffered 2 defeats and 2 draws and in hindsight we had chances to win all 11,” said Riley.
Sedge’s defeats have come against Sheffield Tigers and Leicester Lions this season while they had to settle for draws against Tynedale and South Leicester.
Riley says these results are not down to the lack of quality in the squad, but a need to stay focused for a full 80 minutes to ensure they secure the victory.
“We're 11 games in and I still don't believe we've clicked and played for a full 80 minutes yet,” he said.
“We've got a lot of strength in depth this season so we'll keep working hard each week and see where we are come April. It's a long old season.
“Our aim is to win every game, simple as that. As cliche as it sounds we take each game as it comes!
“We look at what has gone well for us and what we can improve on from the previous game, we then look at our opposition and their strengths and weaknesses and put a plan in place to win.”
Sedgley Park currently sit five points off the promotion places following their most recent win over Harrogate in Round 11. One of the stories to come out of that victory was Riley achieving 1000 points for the Manchester-based club over career that spans a decade at Park Lane.
“If you'd have said to me 11 seasons ago I'd go on to play 280 league games and counting I'd have laughed at you,” added Riley, who originally joined the club on loan from Sale Sharks in 2006/7.
“It [the record] will probably be something I can look back on when I'm a little older. But for now I'm only interested in trying my best each week to help the team win. If we win on a Saturday I'm happy, but if we lose I'm not a happy man - My missus can vouch for this!”
Sedge travel to Sale FC this weekend with a chance to move level on points with the second placed side in this division.
The men from Heywood Road are having a fine season having won nine of their 11 games and also they have also picked up five straight victories at home so far. With this in mind, Riley is fully aware of the task his side face as they continue to push for a top two spot.
He added: “Sale are doing really well this season. They narrowly avoided relegation last season, but they recruited well and have been really consistent so we need to show them respect.
“Knowing some of the Sale lads, Saturday's game will be tough and physical. There will be some sore bodies come Sunday morning! Hopefully we can enjoy a few pints together after the game in the Little Bee pub.”
Elsewhere in National Two North, the other two sides in the top four also meet this weekend as league leaders Caldy travel to Leicester Lions while promotion candidates Chester and Stourbridge both have tough home games to negotiate.
Down at the bottom, Wharfedale welcome Scunthorpe to Skipton with both sides desperate for a win, Otley go in search of their first away victory when they travel to Sheffield Tigers while Hinckley aim to make it five in a row when they visit the Luctonians.
Leicester Lions v Caldy
Leicester Lions will be looking to close the gap between themselves and Caldy when they welcome the table toppers to Westleigh Park on Saturday.
Caldy currently hold a two point lead at the summit of National Two North and they are also eight points clear of their hosts heading into this weekend.
The Wirral outfit are unbeaten in their last 10 games in a run that includes nine victories, but this clash with Leicester will arguably be their toughest test of the season since their opening day defeat away at Sedgley Park. Simon Verbickas’ men came through their test against another promotion candidate, Stourbridge, six days ago and they’ll be hoping they produce another A-Grade performance tomorrow.
In terms of Leicester Lions, they currently occupy fourth place in the table having won eight of their 11 matches this campaign. Andy Key’s side are once again having another strong season and head into this fixture with Caldy having won three of their last five matches.
However, the Lions did see a 20 point lead slip away from them last week against Chester so they will be itching for a response this weekend at Westleigh Park where they have suffered just one defeat all term.
Harrogate v Chester
Harrogate head into this fixture with Chester looking to continue their recent positive performances as they aim to move off the foot of the National Two North table.
‘Gate are currently five points from safety after accumulating just two wins from their first 11 matches, but there have been shoots of recovery on show over the last two weeks.
An inspired performance by David Doherty saw them clinch a vital win over Wharfedale in Round 10 before they put in a valiant display away at Sedgley Park last weekend. That will certainly have boosted the morale at Rudding Lane as the Yorkshire go in search of back to back home victories this Saturday.
As for Chester, they know all about how to turn a season around. After a dismal start to the campaign which saw the men from Hare Lane pick up one win from their first four matches, they are now on a run of six victories from their last seven games.
It has seen the Cheshire side move up to fifth in the table and their latest triumph over Leicester Lions means they are now just six points behind the top two places. Other than Caldy, they are the in-form side in the division at the moment and they will fancy their chances of extending their fantastic run this weekend.
Stourbridge v Preston Grasshoppers
Stourbridge are back at home this weekend and they will need to try and find some positive consistency in results if they are to get their promotion ambitions back on track.
Recent defeats to Leicester Lions, Sale FC, Sedgley Park and Caldy has damaged their push for a top two spot and Neil Mitchell’s men are now sixth in the table and nine points off second placed Sale. Stour’s recent record reads three wins and four defeats from their last seven matches, which clearly isn’t good enough if you are a side aiming for promotion.
All four of those losses have come on the road, but it is Stourbridge’s home form which has been exceptional. They have won all six of their matches at Stourton Park and with that in mind, they will be confident of gaining win number seven in their penultimate home game of the season.
In terms of their opposition this weekend, Preston Grasshoppers, they be travelling to the Midlands in a buoyant mood after securing a much needed win last weekend. The Hoppers beat Sheffield Tigers 32-21 to leave them a point adrift of safety after 11 matches.
Garth Dew’s side have won three games this term, but just one of them has come away from home. That victory was against Wharfedale on the opening day of the season and since then, Preston have lost five matches on the bounce on their travels. They will be eager to stop the rot on the road this weekend, but will need to be at their very best to do so.
South Leicester v Tynedale
South Leicester suffered their first defeat in four matches last weekend when they were beaten 10-6 by Hinckley, but they do still remain in seventh place in the current league standings.
It really has been a mixed season for South who have picked up four wins and two draws from their first 11 matches, but all they will care about is securing their status in National Two North for another year.
The men from Welford Road are 13 points clear of the relegation zone as things stand, but they must turn around their recent form to make sure they stay well away from danger. South head into this fixture with Tynedale having won just two of their last seven games, but they are unbeaten in their last four at home.
As for Tynedale, they too are having a mixed bag of a campaign thus far. The north-east outfit are currently 10th in the table and have won four games so far this term.
Tyne travel down to the Midlands this weekend, six points behind South Leicester but will be aiming for back to back wins on the road following their maiden away victory against Scunthorpe six days ago. Scott Lawson’s men have won two of their last five games, but a win this Saturday could take them into the top-half of the table.
Luctonians v Hinckley
Other than 15th placed Wharfedale, the Luctonians currently have the worst form in National Two North as they prepare to welcome Hinckley to Mortimer Park this Saturday.
After such a promising start to the season which saw Alex Davidson’s men win four of their first six matches, the Herefordshire side head into Round 12 having won just one of their last five games which is completely out of character for the Luctonians based on their performances over the last year.
As a result of such contrasting fortunes so far this term, the Lucts sit eighth in the table. They have won three times at home so far this season and the Luctonians will be hoping for a fourth triumph in front of their own supports in order to end a tough few weeks for the side.
There are no such problems for Hinckley though. After promotion via the National Three North play-off in May, the Midlands side began the season with just one win from their first seven matches. Unsurprisingly, that led to the Leicestershire outfit sitting in the relegation zone, but that is now no longer the case.
The men from Leicester Road head to Mortimer Park this weekend having won their last four matches which has propelled them up the table and into 11th positon. Victories over Otley, Scunthorpe, Tyndeale and South Leicester leaves Hinckley five points clear of the bottom three and with them oozing confidence, they will feel that a fifth win on the bounce is a realistic target this Saturday.
Sheffield Tigers v Otley
Sheffield Tigers are back at Dore Moor this weekend looking to arrest a run of three straight defeats when they host Otley. The newly-promoted side had been in a purple patch of form which included a win over Sedgley Park, but the last three weeks as brought them slightly back down to earth.
The Tigers, who won the National Three North title last year, currently occupy 12th place in the table and they are only two points clear of the drop. They have achieved four wins so far, with two coming at Dore Moor. Sheffield will be hoping that home advantage can help them to victory this weekend as they aim to halt their current slide.
It really has been a season of two halves for Otley thus far. The men from Cross Green sit ninth in the table as things stand having won five of their 11 games this season. It has been very inconsistent for the Yorkshire side and worryingly ahead of their short trip to Sheffield, they have lost all six of their away matches this season.
It is in fact the worst away record in the division and Otley haven’t won on the road since March which is a run which that spans nine matches. They have been unstoppable at home this term, but now they must translate those performances in their away matches if they are to move themselves into the top half of National Two North.
Wharfedale v Scunthorpe
Wharfedale welcome Scunthorpe to The Avenue this Saturday looking to kick-start their season. Dale have had an injury crisis since their relegation from National One in May and they have really struggled to adapt to life in National Two North.
The Skipton-based club lie 15th in the table as things stand and are level on points with bottom of the league Harrogate. They are five points from safety and they do have the possibility of going level on points with Scunthorpe this weekend if they claim their third victory of the season. Both of Wharfedale’s wins have come at home this season and following a valiant display against Sale in front of their own supporters last weekend, they will be keen to go one better this Saturday and secure a much needed victory.
Newly-promoted Scunthorpe have had a tough few weeks. After three wins from four matches in October, it looked as though The Greens were starting to enjoy life in National Two North following their championship winning season in National Three Midlands, but that positivity has been dampened since then.
Three straight defeats against Hinckley, Sale FC and Tynedale mean the men from Heslam Park are now just a point clear of safety in 13th place. This fixture against Wharfedale may be exactly what Scunthorpe need this weekend as they know a win would push them further away from trouble once again. The Greens have won once on the road this term and that came against Harrogate in Round Eight so they’ll be hoping for a similar result from another all Yorkshire clash.