Rugby preview: Bletchley deternined to defend proud home record

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BLETCHLEY head coach Stuart Van Roooyen believes his side’s toughest test of the South West 1 East League season comes in their opening game of it – at home to Bracknell on Saturday.

The Berkshire side were relegated from national level last term, and are strong favourites to bounce back at the first attempt, while Bletchley are one of the teams tipped to go down.

Van Roooyen says taking anything off Bracknell would be a bonus, but no other team in the division frightens his side, who he believes have the ability to cause a few surprises this season, and avoid relegation.

“We hate losing at home more than anything,” he said. “So they will not be leaving here without knowing they have been in a good game.

“They’re a big side who desperately want to go straight back up, but some teams don’t cope very well with being favourites to win.

“It will be a good game and as long as our players have two arms and two legs then we’ll be fighting for every ball and every point on offer.”

Van Roooyen went on to say that, if things don’t go his side’s way at Manor Fields, then he would expect them to go close to picking up their first victory of the campaign seven days later away at Reading.

With the visit of Cheltenham next on the agenda a week later, Bletchley face an unenviable start to the season – but that doesn’t worry the head coach.

“We know that most sides will target us,” said Van Roooyen. “We know teams will look at playing us as their chance to pick up a win.

“But we have something not every team in the division does – experience. We have lots of guys who have played in this league for a while and know how to pick up results, so I think we’ll be OK.

“I honestly think we could finish in the top six and I’ve told the players as much. Three teams will go down so we need to pick up some early points and make sure that we don’t find ourselves down there.

“That’s where people expect us to be, but we don’t mind causing a few surprises. We’ve beaten big teams in the last couple of seasons when no one expected us to.”

Bletchley’s preparations for the big kick-off were dealt a blow when Jimmy King-Johnson suffered a break in his foot – continuing the team’s bad luck with injuries in that area in recent times.

However, with Bletchley producing a couple of good friendly performances against Luton and Buckingham in the last two weeks, Van Roooyen says he’s confident of his men giving Bracknell a good run for their money, and being a force in the South West 1 East League.

“We’re a very proud team who hate losing,” he said. “We’ll have big support behind us on Saturday, and although I think it will be our hardest game of the season, I wouldn’t put it past the guys getting a result.”

>> The Southern Counties North League season begins on September 8, with Milton Keynes making the short trip to local rivals Olney for their first game.

Before then City host Wellingborough in their final friendly fixture at Emerson Valley this Saturday.