We’re playin’ those mind games together
Pushin’ the barriers, plantin’ seeds
Playin’ the mind guerrilla
Chantin’ the mantra…
We all been playin’ those mind games forever
Some kinda druid dude liftin’ the veil
Doin’ the mind guerrilla
Some call it magic, the search for the grail
John Lennon and the Plastic U. F. Ono Band – Mind Games
Read the Northern Echo this week and you’d be forgiven for thinking the race for the National One title is all but over.
Far from building today’s fixture into a possible turning point in the race for the title, Scott Wilson, the Echo’s Chief Sports’ Writer, appears to have already written off Darlington Mowden Park’s chances of Championship rugby next season, preferring instead to take the line that the game is more of an opportunity for the club to test itself against the champions-elect, a fixture that will provide the home side with:
a chance to inflict a rare reverse on a visiting side that will surely be playing in the Championship next season
Last weekend’s 34-19 defeat at Plymouth effectively ended Mowden’s hopes of pipping Coventry to the title, even if Saturday’s game was to go their way, but there is still plenty to play for in front of what is set to be Mowden’s biggest crowd of the campaign
There is indeed still plenty to play for and no Coventry supporter that I’m aware of is as convinced that the title is Cov’s as much as Mowden supporters appear to be convinced it’s not theirs.
Wilson goes on to suggest that even finishing in second place is far from guaranteed following last week’s defeat to Plymouth:
Mowden still have to play Coventry on their own ground, and while they currently boast a six-point advantage over third-placed Ampthill, they face a considerable challenge to retain a top-two position in their remaining nine matches
This is either a pretty ingenious attempt at some Mourinho-esque style mind games, with the club and the local press in collusion to give the impression that DMP have already as good as thrown in the towel, or it’s what most followers outside of Coventry seem to be thinking and what Cov supporters won’t yet say out loud – namely it’s already in the bag for the visitors.
I’d love it to be the former, with their Director of Rugby, Danny Brown, attempting to psyche out Rowland Winter and develop a sense of complacency in the Coventry camp similar to the one that apparently contributed to Cov’s only defeat this season, at the hand’s of Blackheath last month. That would certainly add even more interest to what is an already intriguing match up between the two sides.
But no – it’s no more than perhaps a reality check – that, as things stand, the title is Cov’s to lose and that the real test for DMP is whether they can hold off the challenges of Plymouth and Ampthill for the runners-up spot.
And besides, I’m not sure that the Northern Echo is compulsory reading in the Coventry changing room just now, so if there is a bit of reverse psychology going on there, then it’s somewhat wasted.
In the aforementioned article, Ollie Hodgson (DMP’s club captain) provides us with a more realistic indication of what the game means to his players:
This game is a good test to see where we are. Getting beat like we did last week might make the boys even hungrier, although we’d have been pretty hungry anyway to test ourselves against the team at the top of the league, who have only lost once all year
Still no mention though of the possible implications of beating Coventry today – potentially clawing back 5 points, the psychological advantage a win might bring, Cov having a tough away game again next week etc etc. But at least he stresses that his players are up for the encounter – read Scott Wilson’s earlier comments in isolation and even that might appear otherwise.
That said, Hodgson is prepared to state openly that for DMP, the remaining games this season are more about consolidation and securing that second place in the league in readiness for a sustained push for promotion next year, than they are about potentially dethroning Coventry:
At the end of the season, hopefully we’re still second and up there at the top and we can keep the majority of the squad together and keep that buzz around the place. Then, we can move on to next year…
I’m not altogether sure that’s the best way of building up the atmosphere for today’s game, the biggest for both clubs so far this season. If I was an infrequent visitor to the Northern Echo Arena, someone who is perhaps considering watching Mowden today, then I’d want to hear how important this game is to the club and how they are still in with an outside chance of promotion.
It’s certainly not the sort of approach that is going to convince the undecideds to flock to the Northern Echo Arena today to watch the game in what is likely to be a bitterly cold conditions, at least it doesn’t come across that way to me.
Nowhere in the article does it even suggest that the home side is even remotely interested in any kind of race for the title. I rather expect that the players don’t quite see it that way and given the fat lady has yet to even hail a cab to take her to the opera house, let alone begin to go through the scales, there is always a chance.
Cov has still got to win at least four games and that at least leaves some hope.
Sport is littered with title favourites who have fallen at the final hurdle.
Were the situation to be reversed, I couldn’t imagine the likes of Rowland Winter or Phil Boulton being quite so fatalistic.
As if further to reinforce the fact that Mowden is resigned to playing National One rugby next season, Wilson suggests that:
At the start of the season, the target was a place in the top four, but having done so well this term, they will head into the summer planning for a full-blown promotion push next August. With that in mind, it is imperative that the squad does not break up at the end of the current campaign
adding that it’s a fairly small squad that has benefitted from the presence of a number of Falcons Academy players this season who;
(come in) from time to time, they do help
I’m not sure of the exact number of Newcastle players involved in today’s game (at least 3 from the senior academy) but Ollie Hodgson is at pains to also point out that:
when they’re not here, we’ve still got a quality squad who set themselves high standards and can do an excellent job themselves
And if Cov produce one of those stirring performances that we’ve seen on occasions this season, then Mowden will need to be at their strongest; anything less and their home record is likely to remain intact.
Despite all the comments suggesting this is but a one-horse race now, there will be huge pressure on Darlington to win today. They know that this is the proverbial 10 pointer and if they are to challenge Cov further over the remaining weeks for promotion, then they’ll need to win today and probably secure the bonus point as well.
I don’t completely buy into this public admission by Mowden that they have effectively given up the challenge. They’ll be pumped up for today’s game and will be determined to ensure that 100% home record still remains intact at 3.45 this afternoon and in so doing lessen that gap to a more getable 11 points.
For Coventry to win today, they’re going to have to produce a performance somewhat better than those we’ve seen of late on our travels. But Cov always respond well to the toughest of challenges and I don’t think today will be any different, which is why I’ve gone for a 17-36 win and the bonus point as well.
In fairness though, I’m just above the relegation zone as far as the Prediction League on the Messageboard is concerned…
I’m sure they’ll be a fair few Coventry supporters either at home or in local hostelries with one eye on the Ireland v Wales game and the other on their phones, scanning for updates from the Northern Echo Arena.
Both DMP and Coventry provide feeds via Twitter. Mowden’s feed is @MowdenPark, Coventry’s is @CoventryRugby – both offer regular updates of scores and key moments.
However, if it’s a commentary of sorts that you’re after, then by all means follow my Twitter feed, although in fairness it is somewhat manic at times, with fingers and thumbs mostly working together flat out to provide a little more detail to the game, one that gets somewhat personalised and emotive at times.
And one that is plagued by the odd halibut or two…
My feed is @CowshedTim
So, if you are looking for no more than score updates and the odd comment, then certainly both clubs will provide you with what you’re looking for.
However, if you find yourself surfing the net trying to find out anything you can about the game, mine might be a different option.
The tweets, when combined, make a crude ‘commentary’ of sorts, but be warned though, you might get well over a 130 plus tweets during the course of the game, weather/signal permitting – so if that is too much, mute me and use the two clubs’ official feeds.
Whilst I don’t for a minute imagine either club would recommend mine, having all three running will give you a pretty good account of what is happening – far better than you’ll get from anywhere else on social media.
Please bear in mind, I am a bit one-eyed when I tweet, covering more than just the scores as they occur and I do try and get across the mood of the game as well as any scores as they happen. Do let me know if you are following my tweets, if there aren’t many than I’ll reduce the number, although it’s something that I do enjoy doing!
Apologies in advance for some of the typos that appear. For some though, deciphering my tweets adds to the occasion.
If you aren’t familiar with Twitter or don’t have an account, then on the homepage of this blog (www.coventryrfc.me) all the tweets will appear in real-time at the foot of the page. Click on them to increase their size.
Just as a footnote – Darlington Mowden Park seem to enjoy plenty of coverage in the Northern Echo.
Well done the Echo, echo, echo, echo…..
Up the Cov…
Doin’ the mind guerrilla
Some call it magic, the search for the grail
By mid-afternoon today we might be a step closer to ending the search for the elusive grail….
Mind Games was released 45 years ago…
Never really latched onto John Lennon – somehow a multi-millionaire asking us to imagine we had no possessions didn’t really work for me ( I wish that was original!).
Probably just alienated myself from most who have read this far…