Stags aiming for a successful Derby day

Huntingdon players Connor Withers and Jack Skidmore attempt to stop a Bugbrooke opponent during thei

Huntingdon players Connor Withers and Jack Skidmore attempt to stop a Bugbrooke opponent during their narrow defeat last Saturday. Picture: HELEN DRAKE - Credit: Archant

Huntingdon head coach Damien Whales has challenged his players to regain the winning thread in one of their toughest tests of the Midlands Division One East season.

Stags travel to second-placed promotion candidates Derby tomorrow (Saturday) eager to bounce back from successive defeats.

Huntingdon made a roaring start to the new campaign by winning their opening three matches before going down to Bedford Athletic and Bugbrooke on the last two Saturdays.

Whales said: “Two defeats certainly isn’t a disaster but it does mean we have lost a bit of the momentum gained by such a good start.

“The opening half of a season is always tough for us as we tend to have a lot of away games, but that turns around after Christmas when we will probably have around 75 per-cent of our fixtures at home.

“We’ve also been decimated by injuries which certainly hasn’t helped. It has left us in the position of fielding the people available rather than the team we would like to be putting out.

“We won’t be the only team affected by injuries though so we have to keep working hard and look to get back to winning games.

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“It doesn’t get much tougher at this level than going to Derby, but we need to ensure we turn up with our ‘A’ game.

“We ran them really close a couple of seasons ago, but we went up there with a weakened side last season and were well beaten.

“We need to make up for that with a good performance.”

Stags slipped up on home turf for the first time when being pipped 29-27 by Bugbrooke in a dramatic finish last Saturday.

They were undone by a penalty only seconds after it looked like they had snatched victory by hitting the front for the first time courtesy of a converted 79th minute try from Tom Morgan.

Huntingdon had been behind for the vast majority of the contest after an early Bugbrooke try. Four first-half penalties from Dan Malem kept them in touch as they turned around 19-12 down and his trusty boot soon had them even closer.

The teams then exchanged tries with Wayne Bradley responding to a Bugbrooke score only for Malem’s conversion attempt to hit a post.

It left Stags with a six-point deficit entering the closing stages, but that became a one-point advantage when Morgan delivered a terrific try and Malem did the conversion honours.

But the celebrations were soon cut short as they conceded a penalty and Bugbrooke made them pay with the final kick of the game.

St Ives arein home action in Midlands Division Three East (South) this Saturday as they host Oundle.

St Neots have seen their scheduled clash at home to Old Newtonians at the same level called off due to their opponents being unable to raise a side.