And on to Old Elthamians….
A game that many Cov supporters are just a little more anxious over than usual. OEs are currently 7th in the league and have won 5 and drawn 1 of their 10 games so far this season.
A decent enough record, especially for a team enjoying its first season in National One, but not enough to explain that nagging feeling of unease over this fixture that has been growing for the last couple of weeks.
Much of it might be down purely to the fear of the unknown – we’ve not played them before and don’t really know quite what to expect. However, with Cov having hosted one of the other promoted sides earlier in the season at the BPA, Bishop’s Stortford, and seen how close they came to creating what would have been the shock result of the season so far, it would be wrong to treat Old Elthamians with anything other than respect.
And any team that can go down to Plymouth and take a share of the spoils in a 17 all thriller deserves just that.
But also we mustn’t overly-respect them either, making sure we dictate the game, rather than allowing them to.
We haven’t as yet played any of the teams above Cambridge in 9th place away from home, so we have that challenge to come on Saturday as well…a dress-rehearsal perhaps for the game away to Darlington in December.
Part of the problem for me is that I still haven’t got over the trips down to London around this time last season when, against Esher, Blackheath and Rosslyn Park, we contrived to produce probably our three worst performances under Rowland Winter. Back in September of this season we ended the London/South East jinx with the demolition of Esher, but I missed that game so I’m still a little cautious about any trip south of Cambridge.
And there’s the Dom factor as well. He’s clearly going to be a threat and given that he’s the league’s leading try scorer at the moment, he’s obviously in decent form. He’s a natural finisher and if given the chance, he’ll do us damage. It wouldn’t be the first time either that ex- Coventry wingers have come back to haunt us, especial from down south. Spencer Sutherland’s 4 tries against us for Esher still haunts me every now and again. Sam Baker has also scored against us in the past, too.
I’m sure the reasons why Dom moved on from Cov were many and varied and whilst he might have made a good squad player, would he have been first choice ahead of Matoto and Trimble?
Maybe, maybe not; I’m not convinced given their form of late, but I imagine Dom will be out to prove a point or five on Saturday and Cov might have to be a bit sharper defensively than they were against Caldy at the weekend if they are going to shut him out.
Former Cov player Joe Carlisle is also at Old Elthamians – Joe came to The BPA on loan from Worcester in October 20o9 and was only with us for 3 months, playing just 7 games. He looked a really talented player back then and probably his most memorable moment wearing a Cov shirt was when we played Bristol (we were in what was then National Division One – the Championship as was) – we were on the wrong end of a drubbing, but he scored a fantastic individual try (his only one for Cov).
Sadly for Cov supporters, the game was televised on Sky which wasn’t the greatest advert for the club back then.
Good one for him, mind.
I think he broke his leg in January of 2010 and that was the last we saw of him. He never really reached the heights that his performances with us suggested he might and has found his way to Old Elthamians via Wasps, Treviso and London Welsh, where he would have presumably played alongside Heath Stevens.
For the last away game, against Cambridge, around 300-350 Cov supporters made the trip, including 2 coaches organised by the Supporters’ Club.
Not so this time round, with just the one coach booked for Saturday. As I understand it, there are still spaces available, so if you’re interested in coming along and don’t mind the early start, made up for by the earlier than usual return, then drop the Supporters’ Club an email – firstname.lastname@example.org.
A word of warning though, facilities at Old Elthamians are somewhat spartan for supporters, whether they are home or away.
There ‘s no seating available for a start, so anyone who might have difficulty standing for the duration of the game might struggle and there appears to be little in the way of shelter from the elements. There’s no tannoy or clock either. Kevin F, an OE supporter has posted both on the Messageboard and on this blog to that effect, so it’s not as if we didn’t know and thanks must go to Kevin for giving us that information well in advance so everyone can make an informed decision as to whether they’re up to traveliing.
The only recent clip I could find of an OE home game which might give any sort of indication as to what’s what’s in store for supporters was this brief one from their win against Loughborough (Students) earlier in the season.
I imagine it will be something similar to Ampthill on the day (at least that’s the picture I have in my head, although hopefully the clubhouse will be a little nearer and the folk down there a little friendlier than on our last visit to Dillingham Park). My only concern is that we do have one or two more ‘senior’ supporters who travel on the coach and it might be an ordeal for them to stand for the full duration…
From what Kevin’s said and what I’ve read elsewhere, Old Elthamians have opted to use their monies to develop their team, rather than their facilities and have been totally honest and upfront about so doing.
When finances are limited, then I imagine that there have to be some tough choices made and if it means having to sacrifice a stand of sorts in order to give yourself a decent chance of promotion, then so be it. At some stage though, in order to build on support and therefore increase revenue, a club in OE’s position is going to have to further develop its facilities.
According to rolling-maul.com, plans have been submitted for improvements to the ground/facilities but as yet nothing has been forthcoming.
What you don’t have, I suppose you don’t miss and most supporters fit enough to stand in the winter rain and cold might well forego the luxury of a roof over their heads in order to see their team rise through the ranks. Given the paucity of the facilities as described by Kevin, a crowd of approaching 500 seems a lot which suggests to me some really loyal support.
The forecast for Saturday down in Eltham isn’t too bad, with the temperature a decent 10ºC and with a 40% chance of rain, which could mean we might get away without a soaking.
So no place to hide then…from the rain that is.
The good news is that there’s a kiosk offering food and drink close to the pitch – the bad news for me is that I’m back on my bi-annual diet as from today, so unless OE offers a range of healthy salads and some low-calories drinks, I’m stymied.
One of the things that might well work in Old Elthamians favour is that many of the Coventry team, especially those who joined us just before the pre-season, will have little or no recent experience of playing on grounds devoid of stands or any great atmosphere. The likes of Narraway, Makaafi, Nilsen and Kessell might find it somewhat strange and I just wonder how hard it will for the team to find the same degree of motivation on Saturday as they do playing in front of 1,500 plus at the BPA?
Old Ethamians’ average home gate this season is a little over 470, which puts them 12th in the table of best attended teams in National One. Cov might push that up towards the 600 mark, in which case the travelling support will need to be in fine voice to give the Cov players that little extra lift.
This current squad is full of pros though, even some of the younger players already have a lot of games under their belts. They should be able to deal with the occasion better than most, so hopefully Cov will once again be quick off the mark and put OE on the back foot from the start.
Quite whether I’ll be able to deal with the nerves in the run up to Saturday is another matter entirely.