Campbell focusing on Christmas run-in

Despite being one of the form sides in the division, Hinckley are fully aware of their main aim for this season
©Steve Wells

Head coach Chris Campbell says the next month in National Two North will tell Hinckley ‘exactly where they are’ in this division.

The newly-promoted side clinched victory over the Luctonians last weekend which extended their winning run to five matches.

“The next month will tell us where we are. If you look at our fixtures, we had a really tough start,” said Campbell.

“In recent weeks we have played a lot more sides that are around us in the table and we’ve done well against them.  But after Sheffield on Saturday, we play three of the top end teams in Stourbridge, Leicester Lions and Sale so come Christmas that will give us an indication of actually where this progress is.”

Campbell has been particularly satisfied with how his side have responded from a difficult start to the season where they won just one of their first seven games. However, they have now turned a corner and currently they lie 10th in the table and 10 points clear of the relegation zone.

“During that losing run at the start of the season, there was a lot of frustration that we couldn’t convert the pressure that we were creating, into points,” Campbell continued.

“The players just needed something to happen just to give us that belief that we can compete at this level and we got that against Otley.

“To score four tries against a well-established side in this league was important for us because it showed that we had the ability to win games with bonus points.

“Confidence is such as difficult thing to develop while you are playing. You get it through doing things well and it just cycles and spirals on. During our difficult run, we weren’t doing much wrong and now we need to stay focused.”

Next on the agenda for Hinckley is the visit of Sheffield Tigers; a side that were promoted alongside them last season. The Tigers currently occupy 12th in the table and despite them having only won one of their last five games, Campbell is not looking too far ahead in terms of this game and the rest of the season.

“I haven’t seen too much of them [Sheffield Tigers] yet, but what I have seen from afar is that they look to be a side that are going through similar challenges to what we are going through, added Campbell.

“They may have been slightly less consistent in results than us, but they have good quality too. However, the limited time we get needs to be focused on what we do well and if we execute that, then we have good chance of winning this weekend.

“Looking further ahead, we need to be sensible with our targets. For us, it was all about making sure we stay at this level and even though we are playing well and getting results, that still remains our aim.”

Elsewhere in National Two North this week, it's top against bottom as Caldy host Harroagte whilst Sale's promotion credentials will be put to the test away at Chester.

Also, Sedgley Park and Wharfedale will be keen to get a win under their belt for opposite reasons, Otley go for six home wins in a row while Leicester Lions go to Preston Grasshoppers, Tynedale host the Luctonians and South Leicester are on the road against Scunthorpe.

Caldy v Harrogate

Caldy will be looking to end November on top of National Two North by extending their unbeaten run to 11 matches when they welcome bottom of the table Harrogate to Paton Fields on Saturday.

The Wirral outfit currently hold a three point lead at the summit of this division and have not suffered a defeat since the opening day of the season when they were beaten by Sedgley Park. Caldy have won all four of their home matches this campaign and they will be hot favourites to add to that tally this weekend.

In terms of Harrogate, they may occupy last place in this league, but they have shown signs of a potential revival in recent weeks. An inspired performance from David Doherty secured Harrogate their second win of the season in Round 10 and since then, ‘Gate put up a valiant performance against Sedgley Park before securing victory against Chester six days ago.

Their upturn in performances leaves them just two points from safety, but they head to Cheshire having lost all five of their away matches this season. It is top against bottom this weekend, but Harrogate will be hoping to upset the applecart as they go in search of their third win in four matches.

Chester v Sale FC

Chester head into this fixture with Sale FC looking to bounce back from their defeat against Harrogate in order to keep themselves in the promotion hunt.

Their loss to ‘Gate meant that Chester currently lie fifth in the table and nine points off the top two places as things stand. Following a run of five straight wins, the men from Hare Lane have now only won one of their last three matches as they prepare to welcome Sale FC on Saturday. However, if they were to beat second placed Sale tomorrow, it would certainly put them back in the promotion race.

As for Sale, they passed a serious test of their promotion credentials last week. Liam McGovern held his nerve to kick the Manchester-based club to victory against Sedgley Park six days ago meaning Sale widened the gap between themselves and the rest of the chasing pack.

The men from Heywood Road now have an eight point cushion and head to Hare Lane this weekend on the back of four straight victories. The only negative to mention about Sale is that their away form has been patchy. Three wins from five matches isn’t superb, but if they were to secure another victory on the road tomorrow, then a shot at promotion to National One will be firmly in their hands.

Sedgley Park v Wharfedale

Sedgley Park are back at home this weekend and they be looking to respond from a damaging defeat against Sale FC last Saturday.

That loss at Heywood Road now leaves Dean Schofield’s men eight points adrift of the promotion places as Sedge’s recent inconsistent form continued. The Tigers have actually only won three of their last eight matches, but they are still well and truly in the promotion race.

Their home form has played a large part in that. At Park Lane this season, Sedge remain unbeaten and have won five of their six matches in front of their own supporters. They will certainly be strong favourites to add to that this weekend when they host Wharfedale in their penultimate home game of the season.

Wharfedale may have something to say about Sedge potentially being ‘strong favourites.’ Dale will be travelling to Manchester in a buoyant mood after securing a morale boosting win over Scunthorpe last weekend which leaves them 15th in the table.

James Doherty’s side have now won three games this term and sit two points from safety thanks to their victory six days ago. However, all three of those triumphs have come at The Avenue and Wharfedale have lost all five of their matches on their travels. They will be keen to put a stop to that this weekend, but will need to be at their very best to do so.

Otley v Stourbridge

Otley are certainly a side this is currently going through a purple patch of form. The Yorkshire outfit prepare to host Stourbridge at Cross Green having won three of their last four games which is their best run of results so far this season.

Otley sit eighth in the table as things stand, but I think even they will tell you that their home form has been a huge factor in their current league standing. The Yorkshire side have won all five of their matches on home soil this campaign and up until last Saturday, they had lost all six of their games away from Cross Green. They have enjoyed home advantage thus far and Otley will be hoping that continues when they take on promotion candidates Stourbridge tomorrow.

Stourbridge are back in the hunt for a top two place thanks to their victory over Preston Grasshoppers, but also because of the defeats suffered by Chester and Leicester Lions. Neil Mitchell’s men are now nine points off the top two, but their inconsistency in results needs to stop if they have any chance of manoeuvring their way into a promotion place. Stour’s recent form reads four wins and four defeats which has really halted their progress up the division, despite them still lying fourth in the table.

The worrying thing for Stour is that all four of those victories have come at home and just like Otley, their away form has been questionable. They travel to Yorkshire this weekend having won just one of their five games on the road - with that sole victory coming in Round Two against the Luctonians - so they will be eager to start putting that right, beginning with this weekend against Otley.

Preston Grasshoppers v Leicester Lions

Following an excellent win over Sheffield Tigers, Preston Grasshoppers immediately suffered another defeat last week when they were beaten by Stourbridge which leaves them sitting in 14th place as things stand. The Hoppers currently occupy one of the relegation spots, but their recent performances have not warranted their league position as they have suffered narrow defeats on more than one occasion this term.

However, they know that they must start converting their dominance in matches into points if they are to move clear of danger. Preston are two points adrift of safety and welcome Leicester Lions to Lightfoot Green having won just two of their five matches on home soil in this campaign. Their last win did come two weeks ago, so the Hoppers have the chance to make it back to back victories in front of their own supporters.

As for Leicester Lions, they are currently going through their worst spell of the season to date. Two consecutive losses as seen the Midlands side drop to sixth in the table and following their defeat to Caldy last weekend, they are now 10 points off the top two.

The Lions make the journey to Lancashire this weekend having won three of their five away matches so far with their last victory on the road coming at the end of October when they beat Wharfedale. Andy Key will be hoping his side can end this month in the same fashion as Leicester Lions look to get their promotion bid back on track.

Scunthorpe v South Leicester

Scunthorpe have had a rocky time lately. After three wins in four matches during October, the Greens were certainly holding their own in National Two North, but since the turn of the month, the newly-promoted side have really struggled.

As they prepare to welcome South Leicester to Heslam Park in Round 13, Scunthorpe have lost their last four matches with their most recent win coming against Harrogate at the end of last month. The positive point which Scunthorpe can carry into this weekend is that three of their four victories this term have come at home, so they will be hoping their strong displays in front of their own supporters continues tomorrow.

In terms of South Leicester, they do remain seventh in the table despite just two wins in their last eight matches. The men from Welford Road travel to Yorkshire this weekend on the back of two straight defeats and their recent form will be something they’ll be keen to put right as soon as possible.

South have actually only won four times this season, with two of those victories coming away from home, but the Midlands side may fancy their chances of securing win number three on the road this weekend against a Scunthorpe side seemingly in freefall.

Tynedale v Luctonians

A side certainly not in freefall are Tynedale. After a very mixed start to the season, Tyne look as though they are flickering into life as we head towards the Christmas break following three wins from their last five matches.

Before that, Scott Lawson’s men had won just two of their previous seven matches so their recent form certainly does indicate Tyne’s upward progress. They welcome the Luctonians to Corbridge on the back of two straight away wins and their attention now turns to their home form where they have won three of their five matches this term. With confidence flowing in the north-east, they may feel that a third consecutive win is a realistic target this weekend.

Tyne could well be eyeing up that possibility as their opposition, the Luctonians, are really struggling for form at present. The Herefordshire side did win four of their first six matches and it looked as though they had continued the momentum generated from last season, but that simply hasn’t been the case in recent weeks.

The Lucts take the long trip north this weekend having won just one of their last six games which has seen them fall to 11th in the table. Coach Ryan Watkins spoke this week about the long injury list the side currently have, but was quick to say that wasn’t an excuse for his side’s recent slump in form. He and the rest of the side will be hoping they can stop the rot this weekend as they look reignite their season.

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