With 11 matches of their National League One campaign now completed, Plymouth Albion are more than a third of the way through the season.
Albion have achieved seven wins, two draws and two losses and are currently third in the league.
The Devon side had chances to win each match they drew with the final kick of the game and both losses also came about as a result of the last game plays.
Head coach Kieran Hallett says: “It’s frustrating that we are very small margins away from being unbeaten, but we haven’t dwelt on that. Our main focus is still to improve every week and so we’re firmly focused on the detailed things we can get better at.“
Hallett cited Albion’s 16-9 home win over Ampthill as one of the clear highlights so far. He says: “Defensively, the performance of the season has to be against Ampthill. Attack-wise, we didn’t have a lot of ball but that was more to do with them than us. They kept the ball really well and didn’t really trouble us with anything. I was happy with our try and we had another opportunity in the first half that we could have taken if we were a bit sharper in certain areas.
“In the second half the set piece struggled a bit and we lost our way in the line-outs which is probably why we didn’t get as much ball as we would have liked.”
On Dan Mugford’s game-changing kick just before half time, Hallett adds: “It was an outstanding conversion into the wind from the touchline. That gave us a real buzz going in 7-6 up at the break.”
This Saturday (November 25) Albion travel to league leaders Coventry. The Midlands side are unbeaten, scoring winning bonus points in all but two of their games. Hallett is up for the challenge: “Like anyone, they are there to be overcome. We’re massively excited about going up there and winning against a team that hasn’t been beaten yet. To be the first would be fantastic and I don’t see any reason why we can’t do that.”
Despite Coventry’s playing budget, said to be in excess of £1 million, Hallett is untroubled by the huge difference in finances between the two clubs: “There’s not really anything I can do about that, so I am not too bothered about it. At the end of the day, it’s 15 guys versus 15 guys. They haven’t lost a game so far this year so, potentially, that puts a bit more pressure on them than us.
“For us it’s a great opportunity to go up there and give it a real crack.”
The Albion head coach describes Coventry as strong on the counter-attack. “They score a lot of points in this area and that means we will have to be on the money. We were good against Ampthill who were quite similar in that regard. And Coventry’s set piece is really good so lineout-wise we will have to be sharp.”
Glad of last week’s break in National League One fixtures, Hallett admits his side may otherwise have struggled to recover after the physicality of their last game. He says: “If we had Ampthill and Coventry on back-to-back weekends I think we would have been in trouble. There were a lot of sore bodies so the break came at the ideal time. It gave us a chance to refresh and the boys had some time off.”
Hallett took the opportunity to provide an update regarding members of the squad with long-term injuries. He explained: “Dan Williams is progressing well. We should have him back in contact training some time in December with a view for him to be playing again in the New Year which will be a big bonus for us.
“Unfortunately Robin Wedlake is out for the season following his knee reconstruction, but he is doing well with rehab.
“With Herbie Stupple the initial diagnosis was pretty bad. Thankfully, things have improved but, with the nature of a slipped disc injury, it is not something we are going to take lightly. We won’t push him too hard. His rehab will be very much day-to-day until he is pain-free and we are not entirely sure when that will be.”
On a positive note, the long-term injuries have given some new faces opportunities to step up, and Hallett is quick to single out the contribution of forward John Kelly.
“John Kelly has been outstanding the last couple of weeks. He came in with us last year and showed good things in training but the biggest difference now is his consistency. His attention to detail and understanding what he needs to do at the right moment mean he is making really big strides.”
Plymouth Albion team to face Coventry RFC at Butts Park Arena on Saturday, November 25 (KO 3pm).
15 Jack Arnott, 14 Matt Crosscombe, 13 Dean Squire, 12 Harvey Skinner, 11 Setareki Raumakita, 10 Dan Mugford, 9 Joe Snow, 1 Will Norton, 2 Rupert Freestone, 3 Dan Pullinger, 4 John Kelly, 5 Sean Lonsdale, 6 Ed Holmes, 7 George Mills, 8 Eoghan Grace (Captain)
16 Luke Chapman, 17 Jamie Salter, 18 Dan Collier, 19 Cameron Setter, 20 Matthew Shepherd