Dramatic conclusion is fitting for high-quality division

Rushden & Higham and Stewarts & Lloyds do battle tomorrow to win promotion from Midlands Three East (South)
Rushden & Higham and Stewarts & Lloyds do battle tomorrow to win promotion from Midlands Three East (South)

The drama of a last-day showdown is testament to the quality of the sides in Midlands Three East (South).

That is the view of Rushden & Higham player-coach Stuart Riding who takes his side into what is effectively a promotion play-off game with county rivals Stewarts & Lloyds tomorrow.

Four teams have pushed hard to get themselves out of the section this season with Stamford running out winners and Rugby St Andrews fading towards the end and finishing fourth.

It leaves the two Northamptonshire clubs to go head-to-head in their bid to claim the runners-up spot and elevation to Midlands Two.

It has been an incredible battle with both sides showing remarkable form.

S&L have not lost in their last seven games since they succumbed to Stamford while Rushden have gone 11 unbeaten in the league since they last tasted defeat – at S&L.

“That it has come down to this shows how strong this league is,” Riding said.

”I was looking at last year’s table and BBOBs won the league and lost three games.

“It’s possible we could lose three games and not even get promotion.

“Stamford have gone on and won the league and fair play to them.

“But there is a lot of strength in the top four and I think all those sides could compete at the level above.”

The showdown between the two rivals for the final promotion place has been long anticipated.

It could easily have caused distraction and prompted a few wobbles in the matches building up to it.

Not that such thoughts have been an issue for S&L according to their manager Gary Mitchell.

“There has been no problem,” he explained.

“We’ve had a quite professional approach.

“We’ve followed the expression coaches use – ‘next job’. If it doesn’t quite go to plan just move on and worry about the next job.

“That has been the ethos of the club.

“We always knew if it all went to form and panned out as it should it would come down to this.

“Now it has come around everyone is excited about it.

“We’re taking a couple of coaches over so we should have around 100 supporters there.

“It’s a big occasion and we’re looking forward to it.

“After the game last Saturday, our forwards wanted to play again on Sunday!

“They just wanted to get their boots back on so it’s fair to say they are geared up for it.”