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'Stoke look to turn Down Grange into a fortress
JAMES Croker is hoping that his Basingstoke RFC side can turn Down Grange into a fortress as they look to put the pressure on the London One South pacesetters.
Saturday’s game against Dover (kick-off 3pm) marks the start of a run of home fixtures – and Croker wants his side to use this as a springboard towards the top of the table.
“I think four out of our next five games are at home now,” he said. “We have got to take advantage of that, use our home form as something to build on and go from there.”
Basingstoke moved up to fourth in London One South with a 38-13 victory at Havant on Saturday but they remain nine points behind joint leaders East Grinstead and Chichester.
Both sides have taken maximum points from their opening six games to establish themselves as firm favourites for the promotion and play-off places.
“I expect the top two to be on maximum points until they meet each other next month – and then we will see how whoever loses that game reacts to defeat,” Croker said. “We just need to concentrate on our own results and see where we are when we come up against them again.
“Until there have been a few more games it is hard to work out the form guide. It’s a strange league with some odd results.”
Saturday’s opponents Dover have made a good start to the season and won four games in a row before being beaten 45-14 by surprise package Wimbledon last week.
Croker said: “Dover have made a decent start but they lost quite heavily to Wimbledon last week so are going to want to come back with a win. It’s going to be a good one.
“They are a really gritty, tough team, working hard to spoil. If we can get our phases of play going, that will upset them because they are used to messing things up.”
Croker has set his side the target of picking up bonus point wins in every game up until Christmas. Aside from the top two, Dover will perhaps provide ’Stoke with their biggest test yet – but Croker says his side have the scoring power to notch another five points.
“The bonus point is always hard to come by because scoring four tries normally means amassing 30 points, which is not easy – but we have attackers with scoring potential,” he said. “It is our defensive organisation that we are suffering with at the moment but if we can win our own ball then we have the players to score points.”
One of those players, winger Gareth Kelly, is an injury doubt for this weekend’s game, while centre Matt Guilfoyle remains on the sidelines with a troublesome groin problem.