Stags chief ‘looking up’ as they return to action

Billy Bates will be back for Huntingdon this Saturday.

Billy Bates will be back for Huntingdon this Saturday. - Credit: Archant

Huntingdon head coach Damien Whales insists he is looking up the Midlands Division One East table as the season resumes this Saturday.

Fifth-placed Stags enjoyed a terrific first half of the campaign when establishing themselves in the top-six despite a high number of away fixtures and a handful of serious injury setbacks.

They also begin their 2016 schedule by hitting the road with a trip to Nottinghamshire side Paviors (2.15pm).

They were comfortable victors in the reverse fixture earlier in the season and another success will only boost their hopes of snatching a top-three finish with a host of home games to come.

Seven of their final 11 outings will be on their own turf with all four of the teams currently above them in the table still having to visit the Racecourse.

Whales said: “We’ve done terrifically well to get ourselves into fifth position given the number of away games we’ve played and the amount of serious injuries we’ve picked up.

“But we are very much looking up from here and hopefully we can push on further in the remainder of the season.

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“We have a substantial number of home games ahead and we have to ensure we turn them into wins.

“We are classed as a tough away fixture by teams who come to the Racecourse.”

Billy Bates has shaken off a rib problem to return this Saturday after missing Stags’ final game of 2015 while Tad Chapman is set to take part in full training following a considerably longer absence after suffering a broken leg on the opening day of the season.

Steven Chantler and Nick Vallance won’t play again this term though due to their long-term knee injuries which require surgery.

Player/assistant coach Duncan Low, who recently became a father, is the second Stags man to take a break from the game this season.

His former Peterborough Lions team-mate Reggie Reid has also called time on his playing days due to family commitments. Even though almost half of the current campaign still remains, Whales already has one eye on the future.

Club chiefs are already working on recruitment for 2016/17. It is a process which could involve everything from bringing through some promising young Colts talents to aiming to attract players internationally.

Whales added: “There are some very tidy players who are almost old enough for senior rugby and it would be great to be able to bring them through. We will also look to recruit in this district as we always do, but the net will also be cast further afield as well.”

St Ives and St Neots resume their survival battles in Midlands Division Three East (South) this Saturday with away tests in the same town.

Second-bottom St Ives go to Northampton Casuals while St Neots, who climbed out of the relegation zone by winning two of their final three games before Christmas, are at Northampton BBOB.