Basingstoke RFC boss sure his side will avoid relegation dogfight

Basingstoke Gazette: Adam Davies is expected to return for 'Stoke this weekend. Buy this photo » Adam Davies is expected to return for 'Stoke this weekend.

BASINGSTOKE RFC director of rugby James Croker remains confident that his side will not get dragged into a relegation scrap.

The Down Grange club are just three points above the drop zone after losing 31-17 away at Barnes on Saturday – while their next three games are against sides currently in the top four.

If things do not go to plan, ’Stoke could find themselves in the bottom three going into the Christmas break, but Croker is not worrying yet.

“I don’t think we are a bottom-three side and I expect us to be safely in mid-table come the end of the season,” he said. “We will win games in the second half of the season and grow as a side.

“We have run Civil Service close and beaten Hertford and Guernsey. We have not suddenly become a bad side.”

Croker was disappointed with the manner of his side’s defeat at Barnes, pointing to inexperience as one of the major problems.

“Last weekend our decision makers were inexperienced and the pack was very young,” he added. “We have brought in good players but they are inexperienced, particularly when it comes to how much they have played under me.

“It was frustrating because I did not recognise the patterns in the last 20 minutes. The guys were just chasing the game and not doing what we wanted them to do.

“We have talented players but they do not know how to play with each other. They just need to learn how to play together.”

Basingstoke’s tough run of fixtures begins with a visit from fourth-placed Tonbridge Juddians on Saturday (kick-off 3pm).

It looks a difficult game on paper but the Kent side have been struggling of late, losing three in a row before beating struggling Thurrock last weekend.

“Win, lose or draw over the next couple of weeks, I just want to see an improvement in performance,” Croker said. “Tonbridge are on a bad run and could be there for the taking – but if we play like we did against Barnes then we will not win the game.”

Croker is hoping to welcome back several of his more experienced players, with scrum-half Guy Wilkinson, fly-half Adam Davies, prop Steve Osborne and flanker Ryan Davis all in the frame. However, he will be without Andy Hore, while Karl Buttle remains sidelined through injury.

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