Rob Lawrence has set Chichester a target of winning at least half their final ten games to make sure they stay in rugby’s National League
It’s been a tough campaign so far for the Oaklands Park troops and they sit third from bottom in National three London south east.
A run of injuries – many of them quite serious – has not helped and there have been a number of games that have ended in narrow losses.
But head coach Lawrence knows the only way to stave off any threat of relegation back to the London and south-east leagues is to keep working hard and grind out some victories.
Their big push for a strong end to the season starts at home to high-flying Hertford this Saturday and continues with a rearranged trip to Sutton and Epsom a week later.
Lawrence said: “We started the season with a number of injuries then picked up two or three more once we got started and that hurt us for probably eight or nine games.
“But all sides get injuries and you have to get on with it.
“First game in, we were excellent but lost 18-17 to Westcombe Park and that could easily have gone the other way and set us off on a positive start.
“We had some good results and spirited performances in that early part of the season but equally some teams took advantage of us being depleted.
“We had a very good away win at Guildford with a first-class team performance.
“We’d been putting together bits and pieces but not the full package but the Guildford game was as close as we got to the complete display.”
A record of five wins and 11 defeats so far gives the Blues plenty of points to secure to move away from the bottom three before the crunch final few games.
Lawrence said: “We have to grab the bull by the horns and take control of the season, especially at home.
“Hertford will give us a huge test but it’s a chance for us to respond to the lesson they gave us at their place.
“I’m confident we can get the wins we need over the remainder of the season. I’ve had belief in the squad from the first day I came back to Chichester many moons ago.
“We have strength in depth with some very good young players coming through and showing they can play at National League level.
“It’s worth remembering that in this league, we’re up against teams spending something like £250,000 a year, while others in the league are at our sort of budget level.
“If we can win five of our last ten games it will give us a really good chance. But I think we should be aiming to win more – I’d like to see us winning seven or eight.
“Our highest finish at this level of rugby is seventh and if we were to have a good run we could still equal or even beat that.”
Lawrence praised youngsters including Sean Shepherd, Rhys Thompson, Bean Deavall and Ed Grinstead, who had all shown their worth this season.
Slightly-older players like Henry Anscombe and Alex Grace were having fine seasons, he said, while those like Chris Johnson and Richard Adams –now senior figures in the squad – were leading by example.
Newer additions like utility back Jak Evans winger Matt Woodhouse and Taff Davies were making a big impression. This year’s new skipper Jack Bentall is making the role his own.
But Lawrence stressed the club’s progession was not just about first-XV results.
“It’s a long-term project we’re building here,” he said.
“It’s about giving the city and the community a club it can be proud of and one that can compete at this level for many years to come.
“We are seeing young lads come through the age levels knowing if they are good enough they will get a chance here to play National League rugby. It’s a work in progress but it’s a very exciting time.”
* Chichester’s National three London south east clash at Sutton and Epsom was called off at the last minute because of worries over freezing conditions. The match will now be played on Saturday week, February 4.
This week brings a big challenge at home to fourth-placed Hertford at Oaklands Park (2pm). All support welcome.
Bognor are also due back in action this weekend in London three south west. They host Old Cranleighans.
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