'Stoke look to pull away from the relegation zone

Basingstoke Gazette: Andy Flower will return at fly-half for the trip to Westcombe Park. Andy Flower will return at fly-half for the trip to Westcombe Park.

BASINGSTOKE RFC will hope to make full use of their game in hand and widen the gap between themselves and the relegation zone even more this weekend.

A thumping 64-12 win over visiting Barking opened up a nine point difference between ’Stoke and relegation rivals Barnes, who do not play this week.

So there is plenty of confidence in the camp ahead of the trip to Orpington to face Westcombe Park, who Basingstoke beat 40-8 earlier in the season.

On that occasion, ’Stoke cruised to 23-0 lead before half-time as Jobi Kochanowski and Sam Morton scored tries and Adam Davies scored the other 13 points with his boot.

After the break, further tries from Matt Guilfoyle, Jamie Fish and Morton completed a comprehensive victory for the hosts.

Basingstoke RFC director of rugby James Croker is looking forward to the game and said: “I feel we are capable of winning at Westcombe and getting five points, which would see us jump over them in the league.

“I am going to back the guys who did so well against Barking and everyone is very confident.

“We still have a few things to work on as I felt we did not get enough offence from our defence, but after the Hertford loss, where we defended poorly, we got a great response.”

’Stoke will be forced to make one change with Adam Davies unavailable and he will be replaced at number 10 by Andy Flower.

Croker said: “Andy is a terrific lad and is Mr Consistent. He is also in a rich vein of form.”

Front row forward Steve Osborne will face a late fitness test and it will then be decided if he makes the starting XV.

After this weekend, ’Stoke travel to Tring and Barnes entertain relegation rivals Thurrock, before the sides meet at Down Grange on March 29.

Croker said: “We are looking for seven points out of our games against Westcombe and Tring, which would put us in a good position ahead of the Barnes game.”

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