Although Macclesfield Blues came away from Plymouth without a point, they can take some credit from their performance never the less. For significant periods in the game the Blues were dominant territorially and had the hosts on the back foot, particularly when Plymouth lost players to the bin. Sadly the Blues weren’t able to capitalise on the scant few opportunities that came their way, but lessons will have been learned.
Next up Macclesfield Blues travel down to South London to face fourth placed Blackheath. If that challenge wasn’t tough enough, the Blues then face table-topping and unbeaten Hartpury College at Priory Park. How do teams cope in the face of challenges like that? Well, you simply ignore the league position of the team you’re playing, and concentrate on winning the match. That’s the opinion of Head Coach, Giles Heagerty. He believes that even if Leicester Tigers came to play at Priory Park, the Blues would still go out aiming to win. Here’s what Giles had to say.
Plymouth was always going to be a difficult game, but were you frustrated that the Blues could not take advantage given your second half dominance and numerical advantage?
“I think there was definitely a degree of frustration there certainly, but these things happen. You just have to accept that Plymouth were a very well-organised side and were pretty streetwise on the day. Yes, they did get some yellow cards in the first half, and we weren’t able to convert a couple of chances that came our way, but you have to remember that two years ago Plymouth were playing in the Championship, so they know how to deal with pressurised situations. Their experience definitely showed on Saturday.”
What cost you the game: unforced errors or was it something more fundamental than that?
“No, I’d put it down to unforced errors unfortunately. We turned the ball over a little too easily at times in an attempt to force the play. I know they did it for the right reasons, but unfortunately their skills didn’t come up to scratch. It’s a little bit disappointing, but at the same time you have to give the players credit for sticking in there and trying to get the job done.”
Was forcing the play a measure of naivety, or an understandable reaction to the situation in which the Blues currently find themselves?
“I think it was more of a reaction to the situation we find ourselves in in general, and also the particular position we found ourselves in on Saturday. As I said previously, Plymouth are a very good, well-organised side, so they don’t give the opposition many opportunities. When we did get them I think we were maybe guilty of snatching at them.”
The challenges appear to be escalating at the moment: not only are the Blues lying near the bottom of the table, they also have to play Blackheath and Hartpury College next. Can things get any tougher?
“I think you would be justified in calling it a month from hell, but it is what it is and we just have to get on with it. Every other team at the lower end of the table will have to play the same games before the season is over, so these things tend to even out over the year.”
Can you see the Blues getting anything out of either of those two games or are the odds stacked against you?
“You have to go into every game believing you can get points, otherwise you’re defeated before you take to the field. However, you also have to be realistic. Blackheath are a good side. They’ve had some very good results this season, but they’ve also had some very tight results. Whilst our own results haven’t necessarily gone the way we would’ve liked, we have started to show a greater degree of consistency in some of our performances, and that has been encouraging. If you look at the way we played against Moseley and in patches against Plymouth – two top sides in the league – we showed we are improving and that we are capable of competing at the highest level.
“We’ve got to stick at it and keep banging on the door. If you get fixated on league position you can easily lose your focus. So my message to the players is simply this: forget about the league position and concentrate on the games in hand. We’ll travel to Blackheath and try to win the game, and we’ll host Hartpury the following week and try to do the same. If you go into matches with that kind of philosophy it doesn’t really matter who you’re playing. Leicester Tigers could turn up to Priory Park and we’d still go out there with the intention of winning the game.”