Although the significance of the game against Blaydon was played down by both teams, both knew that bragging rights and a victory was important. For any team at the bottom of the division, league points are crucial. Macclesfield Blues started brightly and put the visitors under considerable pressure for the first 30 minutes, but they failed to capitalise on their dominance. The reverse was true in the second half. Blaydon took control of the game, aided by some sloppy defending and a red card, but the difference was they took their opportunities.
It may have been a disappointing afternoon for the Blues supporters at Priory Park, but in the opinion of Head Coach, Giles Heagerty, it was the right result based on the performance. The Blues had their chances to put the game to bed early on, but they failed to deliver. This weekend the Blues can’t afford to make the same mistake. Ampthill are firing on all cylinders and currently lie joint-second in National League 1. If the Blues fail to turn up for this game, in Giles’ opinion, they could be facing a hiding. Here’s what Giles had to say.
The view from Blaydon is that the Blues dominated first half possession but weren’t able to take the chances they created, but Blaydon were able to convert their opportunities when they became increasingly dominant in the second half. Would you agree with that analysis?
“Yes I think by and large that’s a pretty accurate analysis of what happened. Blaydon couldn’t get out of their half for the first 26 minutes of the match, but unfortunately we failed to capitalise on that dominance for a number of reasons. I haven’t yet got the stats for the match so can’t say definitively how many entries we made into Blaydon’s 22, but to be only 4 points to the good at half time just wasn’t good enough given how much possession we’d had. We made some poor decisions and made some poor handling errors, and that cost us in the end.”
“Coming out with only a 4-point lead in the second half meant that Blaydon knew all they needed was a single score to take the lead. That must have given them confidence. Once the red card was shown we were knocked for six, and that was that really. The bottom line is we should’ve made more of our first half dominance and put the game to bed there and then.”
When you lose such a crucial game are there any lessons the team can learn?
“I’m not sure whether this is a lesson or not, but we just weren’t good enough on the day. That’s just a reality. We needed to win, but we came up short. As a group, did we make the game bigger than it needed to be? I don’t know. Maybe we did: maybe we didn’t. The players knew it was an important game, and that there was an expectation on them to go out and perform; but they just didn’t.”
Normally the best remedy for disappointments, is to put them behind you, get back on the horse and to go again. Does that philosophy still hold true when you’re facing a team like Ampthill, who are flying high in the league and sweeping opponents aside?
“I suppose it all depends on your views. Some people might see that as a challenge too far: others will no doubt see it as an inspiration or an extra motivation to perform. I know this is a generalisation, but historically rugby teams raise their game when they’re facing the top sides. We’ve done it ourselves. Just look at the performances we’ve put in this season against the likes of Hartpury, Moseley, Ampthill and Coventry at home to see that this does happen. Granted all of those games ended in defeats, but the performances we put in were pretty good.”
“In terms of the game on Saturday, we just have to realise that we’re going to have a tough day at the office. If you don’t turn up, you get what you deserve. We didn’t turn up last weekend and lost a game we could’ve won. If we don’t turn up this weekend, we could be on the end of a hiding. So we’ve got to be in the right place mentally. Ampthill are a very good side as their league position testifies. They’ve got some class in their squad and some extremely talented players. We have to make sure we are ready for that.”
When the teams last played at Priory Park you ran them close. Does that give you confidence?
“As I said before generally when we’ve played the top teams we’ve performed reasonable well – the game against Ampthill at home being the perfect example of that. I know we eventually lost the game narrowly, but we still got our intensity and mentality right on the day. We just need to do the same thing again. We didn’t get our intensity right against Blaydon and it cost us dearly.”