The season is already entering the final third, this being week 18 of the Tribute Western Counties West League fixtures. February is a barren month with only two fixtures. It has reserve weeks for postponed fixtures, but this year the winter has been mild and relatively dry. There are no outstanding matches for The Hakes to catch up on. In fact, Burnham v Truro is the only game in the league that is re-scheduled (Feb. 25th).
St Ives entertains St Austell this Saturday; 44 miles away, they are our second closest opponents. We have not played them at The Recreation Ground since January 2012. St Ives was dropping into the Cornwall & Devon league, while St Austell hit the heights of fourth in the South West One (West) the following year. But we all have become increasingly aware of the instability of one’s place in the leagues. St Austell relegated, St Ives promoted and here we are again.
St Austell’s current form is a little superior to ours, albeit with wins against opposition they would expect to beat. St Ives knows this is a game ‘up for grabs’, a chance to earn a double. Sidmouth will hope to take the points at bottom placed Crediton tomorrow, something The Hakes failed to do back in December. However, a bonus win could take us alongside Torquay Athletic, who have a difficult assignment at Cullompton. While such speculation is the stuff of anyone interested in statistics, The Hakes recent form has led to plenty of disappointment. Today we are mid table, looking for a win.
On paper this side looks a pretty solid outfit. The front row of Jenkins, Taylor and Bishop take the field together for the first time since 5th November, after starting together seven times in the first nine matches this season.
The second row of Tom Chandler and Harry Parton is the twelfth partnership in eighteen games. The former will be much happier here than in the front row.
The back row of Mackay, Stevens and Lawrance are a combination selected for the ninth time, which should add stability and structure in the loose.
Grant Thirlby continues at half back with recent recruit Dan Rutter, who made nine appearances in Redruth colours last year. This is his home debut. His kicking game will need to show accuracy and sound decision making.
Steve Kenward has provided an excellent platform all season at centre. No one in the side is more whole hearted, or disappointed at so many close encounters of the wrong kind. His old team mate, Joe Parma, joins him. His inclusion at full back last week made him the fortieth player used by The Hakes this season.
Jacob Ninnes will make his eight consecutive appearance, whilst the talented and willing Lewis Thomas takes the other wing. The full back position is held for Jordan Gott, who stands alone in featuring in every match this season. Well done to him.
The bench will certainly make use of new prop Joe Burton as a rolling sub. Coach Paul Thirlby has named himself and Aaron Rowe as backs replacements. The latter is rewarded for travelling to Exeter and Sidmouth in the most recent away fixtures.
The stage is set. There is also a roast lunch with apple pie if you wish to arrive early. Saskia will no doubt prove her quality as a first class caterer once again.
The kick-off is at 2:30pm. The full squad is:
Ben Taylor (Capt.)