Rivals will offer no surprises ahead of rare derby-day league meeting

Action from Market Harborough's win over Wellingborough

Action from Market Harborough's win over Wellingborough

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Despite the fact Wellingborough and Rushden & Higham have not met in league action for some time both sides insist there will be little to surprise them this weekend.

The clubs meet tomorrow in Midlands Two East (South), the first time in years they have encountered each other in competitive rugby.

Action from Market Harborough's win over Wellingborough

Action from Market Harborough's win over Wellingborough

But, despite this, they know exactly what to expect.

“It is a tough game for us. You only have to look at the league table to realise that,” says Rushden player-coach Stuart Riding, who will miss the game because he is serving a suspension.

“We know their strengths and weaknesses and they will know ours.

“Although at the moment that is probably just weaknesses in our case!

Action from Market Harborough's win over Wellingborough

Action from Market Harborough's win over Wellingborough

“I talk to Pete (Vickers, Wellingborough’s fly-half) regularly. We are good friends and are always in touch.

“There will be no surprises in terms of what they will offer us.

“We know they are a well-organised side and have some good players.

“It is up to us to turn up and be counted and make sure we show a lot of spirit.”

Action from Market Harborough's win over Wellingborough

Action from Market Harborough's win over Wellingborough

Wellingborough coach George Shipman added: “I don’t think it will require too many motivational speeches to get everyone up for this.

“We’ve almost got a full complement of players to pick from and we’ll be prepared for them. We’re ready and raring to go.”

There is much more than personal pride on the line as well.

Both sides have suffered disappointing defeats in recent weeks as they try to move their campaigns in the right direction at opposite ends of the table.

Action from Market Harborough's win over Wellingborough

Action from Market Harborough's win over Wellingborough

Riding explained: “We had a couple of good results – we beat BBOBs comfortably and then did Scouts away – and felt like we were turning the corner.

“But then we’ve not really turned up for a couple of the games since.”

“The Oadby defeat was the annoying one because if we had won that we’d have pulled into the lower mid-table but a defeat put us right in the relegation dogfight.

“Only silly people will write us off, though.

“Some may consider us an easy target but that won’t be the case.”

For Shipman the challenge is to raise his promotion hopefuls from the disappointment of a loss to Market Harborough last weekend.

However, despite dropping points there he still feels the club are in good shape.

He said: “We were disappointed at the loss to Market Harborough last week. It was a game I thought we would win all the way to the end.

“We had tries disallowed and missed five kicks so it was a bad one to let slip away.

“But we still got two bonus points from it and now we need to move on.

“We are in a good place – certainly compared to this time last year when he had just found out our points deduction.

“We said we wanted to be a top-three side and that is where we are at the moment.

“And we’ve got the top five or six teams having to come to us in the new year which will be an advantage.

“Our second and third teams are top of their league, the Colts are doing well and that is aside from all the success the ladies section is having.

“It’s definitely a good place to be at the moment.”

In the section below, Stewarts & Lloyds’ title ambitions will face their sternest test this weekend when they travel to Midlands Three East (South) leaders Biggleswade.

A good win over Stockwood Park last time out moved them back into second spot, but the Corby club will know they must at least match that standard on Saturday.

“It will go a long way to deciding who wins the league,” team manager Gary Mitchell stated.

“Against Stockwood Park it was probably the best we have played all season.

“Now we need to go to Biggleswade and do a job. That’s the plan.”

S&L are hosting their past-players’ lunch on December 14.

The event will coincide with the official opening of the club’s refurbished facilties and will also give them a chance to thank the sponsors for their support.

Anyone wanting to attend should contact the club for a ticket.

In Midlands One East, Kettering travel to Market Rasen & Louth while in Midlands Four East (South) the two local sides go into their games with differing ambitions after last week.

Oundle travel to Bourne hoping to build on their thrashing of former league leaders Bedford Swifts while Corby entertain Old Newtonians wanting a good result to banish memories of the game at Long Buckby last Saturday that saw the home side rack up over 100 points.