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Hicks expects spice as 'Stoke prepare to host Havant
EXPERIENCED flanker Steve Hicks says there will be a bit of extra spice when Basingstoke host old rivals Havant this weekend.
The south Hampshire club have been ’Stoke’s main county rivals for a number of years, with the two sides meeting in six Hampshire Cup finals between 2001 and 2009.
Havant had the upper hand at one stage, beating Basingstoke to lift the cup three times in the space of four years as they enjoyed a prolonged spell in the National Leagues.
These cup final battles remain fresh in the memory, especially for ’Stoke’s older players, like Hicks.
“There is a lot of history there and we have played a few Hampshire Cup finals,” the 29-year-old said. “I think playing Havant means more than the other Hampshire derbies. I certainly really like to beat Havant.”
That is a sentiment surely shared by Hicks’ counterparts at Havant – and they would dearly love to deal a blow to Basingstoke’s promotion hopes by winning on Saturday.
’Stoke gave their chances of claiming second place and a place in a promotion play-off a massive boost by beating main rivals Chichester at Down Grange earlier this month.
However, they need to take maximum points from as many games as possible in order to overtake the Sussex side – and Hicks is fully aware that any slip could prove very costly.
“The pressure is still on,” he said. “Even if we win but fail to get bonus points then we are likely to drop a point on Chichester, so we cannot afford to be complacent.
“Hopefully getting that big win over Chichester will push us on. It was a massive win, just because they had beaten us three times in the past.
“They have always been close games and we felt we had been the better team on all three occasions, so it was nice to get the result. I think we always knew that we could beat one of the top teams but it had been a long time coming.”
Basingstoke are in the midst of a run of games against teams that, on paper, they should beat. They have to win every week to make sure that they set themselves up for vital games against Wimbledon and East Grinstead in April.
“We have got to make sure we put ourselves in a good position going into those crucial final games of the season,” Hicks added. “We would rather play East Grinstead, Chichester and Wimbledon every week because it is difficult playing games that you are expected to win all of the time.”
However, even if Basingstoke were to fail in their promotion bid, Hicks says it could possibly benefit them in the long-term.
“In my opinion, it would not be the end of the world if we do not get promotion,” he said. “The coaches’ and supporters’ view might be different but I don’t think another season in this league would do us any harm because we are a young side.
“Promotion is definitely doable this year though. We just have to wait and see what happens.”