Macclesfield Blues eventually got to play their postponed fixture at Hull Ionians last weekend. Sadly, the result was not what Macclesfield supporters had hoped for. The Blues but in a very spirited performance, but made two or three unforced errors and that ultimately cost them the game. However, with 35 points to play for, all hope is not yet lost. Head Coach, Giles Heagerty, still believes that even though Macclesfield Blues are sitting 18 points adrift at the bottom of National League 1, they have the ability and players to turn the season around. All they need is consistency and a slice of luck or two, starting at Darlington on Saturday. Here’s what Giles had to say.
Lots of effort, but little reward: is that the story of Macclesfield Blues’ season so far?
“Yes I think it probably is unfortunately. We done a lot of very good things, but at times we’ve also been our own worst enemy. In the interests of transparency as always, I should say that I was away with the England Counties at the weekend, so I didn’t see the game live. However, I’ve watched the game since and spoken to the coaching staff, so I’m fully aware of what happened.”
Has the relentless physicality of National 1 rugby started to take its toll on the players?
“I don’t know about that. A couple of people have asked me a similar question, and I’ve said consistently that rugby is a physical sport at every level. If you look at our injury rate this season we’ve been relatively lucky so far, touch wood: especially if you compare it to what happened two years ago and even two years before that when things were bordering on the catastrophic. During that season we weren’t even sure whether we were going to be able to field 15 guys on match days.”
“We haven’t been in that position this season fortunately. Granted the squad is a little thin at the moment, with Josh Fearns off to Australia and a couple of lads unavailable because of work commitments. Regardless of that I wouldn’t say that physicality has taken its toll on the squad generally. Naturally it does in games, but certainly not in the broader sense of the word.”
So, if physicality isn’t the difference, what separates the top sides in National League 1 from the bottom 4 or 5 sides in the division?
“The simple answer is about a quarter of a million quid. That money buys you better players it’s as simple as that. We’ve got some very talented players and we’ve managed to achieve some very good things, but unfortunately there are some guys who are not just up to it in this league. I don’t mean physically, but mentally: they struggle to cope with the speed of the game and don’t necessarily have the skills and experience to deal with match-day decisions and executing skills under pressure. Sure, you can try and replicate those conditions as much as you can in practice, but ultimately you’re either there or you’re not. Regrettably, we’ve probably not been.”
With 35 points still to play for but sitting 18 points off the pace, is it too late to mount a comeback?
“It’s never too late in my opinion. Yes, it’s a big ask, but we’ve not thrown in the towel by any stretch of the imagination. We’ve got games to play against teams who are sitting comfortably in the top half of the league with nothing to play for bar pride. So you never know what’s going to happen in games like that. All you can do is carry on going until you either stay up or you go down.”
Last time the blues played Darlington at Priory Park they won comfortably: do you think the team can replicate that performance away from home?
“That was one of the few games this season where we showed our true ability to mix it in National 1. I said to you at the time that Darlington were a well-established side in the League and that we had to be on our mettle when we played them. Obviously we were. One of the challenges we’ve faced this season has been to try and replicate performances like that: sadly, we haven’t been able to do that consistently. What we have to try to do this weekend is find that spark again.”
“It doesn’t really matter what Darlington say or do, what we have to concentrate on is us and our performance. The scoreline last weekend might have suggested that the game was a very one-sided affair, but it was still one of our best performances of the season. We did a lot of things right, but unfortunately we made 2 or 3 errors that cost us. This weekend is all about cutting out those errors and going out to do what we do best.”