Bury St Edmunds target strong start at leaders Esher to keep club record finish in view
Jacob Ford has outlined how his Bury St Edmunds side must get off to a strong start in Surrey tomorrow if they want to take their challenge for a new club record finish to the wire.
After last Saturday’s 61-0 whitewash win over National League 2 South basement dwellers Westcliff they are facing up to a very different task at league leaders Esher tomorrow (3pm).
“I was pretty happy with the performance but I am still a little bit cautious that we play a team bottom of the table at home last week and then this week the top team away so it’s a completely different challenge,” said coach and director of rugby Ford.
Bury did show in December 4’s reverse fixture – 40-36 defeat – that they can match the division’s current top dogs. But they can’t afford to give away 30 unaswered points like they did in the first half, having led 10-5, to leave them chasing the game, ultimately coming up just short that day.
“I think both the Esher and Clifton games at home were close and ones I felt if we tightened up in a few areas we would have probably come out the other side of that,” he said.
“It is exciting, the challenge this weekend, it will be a good indication to see how far we’ve come as a team.
“We’ve got a bit of a point to prove in the first 20 minutes because we didn’t show the best versions of ourselves against Clifton or Esher in that period, so starting well is going to be a massive focus for us.”
Esher go into the game off the back of a 57-12 win at Guernsey last weekend and hold a slender four-point advantage over Redruth at the top of the table while third-placed Clifton are very much still in the mix with the gap six points.
And Ford is hoping the pressure cooker situation their opponents find themselves in can play into their hands.
"They have got a lot to play for, all the pressure is on them and sometimes that can balance in our favour," he said.
"Look, we're going to go there and throw the kitchen sink at it and be as competitive as we can be in all aspects of the game. And hopefully if we get things right in certain areas of the game then we will get some points on the board and see where that takes us."
Saturday’s result against Westcliff, which saw tries from Fin McCartney, Cam Greenhall (2), Ollie Watson, Mike Stanway, Levi Roper, George Grigg-Pettitt and Will Affleck (2), left Bury seventh in the table with four games to play.
A sixth-placed finish would equal their best ever in the fourth tier while fifth would make club history. Henley above them are three points away while Leicester Lions are seven points clear in fifth.
Ford said: “I think we are in the mix. That five, six and seven are all pretty close – Henley Leicester and us – so obviously we want to finish on the top of that little pile there. But you’ve got to win all your remaining games so we’re just going to take each week as it comes and try and get a result from it.”
Kicker Charlie Reed, as well as Samir Kharbouch and Camilo Parilli-Ocampo, are all back in the squad having been rediscovering form with the seconds. But captain Matt Bursey (ankle) will not be risked this weekend.
Saturday's win over Westcliff - which saw Bury bounce back from a 47-34 defeat at Clifton – saw 18-year-old scrum-half Harry Hall, who is part of Ford's Ipswich School team, come off the bench for an eye-catching debut. And their fans can expect to see more of him in the side next season.
"He is a fantastic young talent who just missed out on a Saints (Northampton) contract," said Ford.
"He came off the bench and was excellent so hopefully he will be involved with us next year and he is definitely one for the future."