With Bury St Edmunds’ Gavin Hogg admitting they are not where they had forecast to be heading into the winter break, he is looking to his side to deliver an early Christmas present tomorrow.
The 10th-placed Wolfpack, who are just six points from the three relegation places, will be bidding to turn the league table and form book on its head when joint leaders Bishops Stortford roll up at the GK IPA Haberden for the last game of 2016 (3pm).
With the club’s free entry Christmas party to follow the match and three home sides in action at Southgate Green, Bury’s pro-am side are hoping to play the party-poopers role to put a dent in their nearest neighbour’s title charge and in doing so help to really fire the festive celebrations into life.
“It is a massive, massive test for us,” admitted Bury’s director of rugby, whose side’s 31-15 defeat at Canterbury on Saturday was their third straight loss.
“In the second game of the season we went down there and were really disappointed with how we let them put all the pressure on us (in a 36-7 defeat) and we were a bit over-awed by them. So I guess we have a point to prove to ourselves that we can live with these sides and, hopefully, in front of a big crowd, we can put in a good performance.”
He said they will be drawing on their past experiences of toppling big sides with ‘the Haberden holler’ behind them ahead of kick-off, and hope to turn it into a pre-Christmas cracker for the vocal home fans.
“We have had success in games like these in the past, like the Cambridge fixtures towards the end of last season (43-38 win against the leaders) where we were going into it as clear underdogs,” Hogg said.
“Bishop’s Stortford are one of the more expansive sides in the league who try and move the ball about, like ourselves, so it should be a pretty good spectacle.”
Bury go into the match missing four key backline players in scrum-half Pierre Pérès (rib), full-back Chris Lord (shoulder) and wingers Chris Snelling (hamstring) and Jacob Bodkin (ankle).
But with Harry Anderson-Brown, Michael Mellett and Shaq Meyers set to come in for the trio who started at Canterbury, Hogg is confident his side can cope with the absences.
“Those guys are players who have played a great deal of games and I have a great deal of confidence in them doing a good job.”