The Big Match: Old Albanian v Blackheath

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by Nick Sullivan

A fascinating weekend in prospect as Blackheath look to stop the rot and – perhaps – to impress next season’s coach-in-waiting as they travel a little north of London to Woollams Fields, the home of Old Albanian (8th).

The two teams sit side-by-side in National One at 7th and 8th place going into this weekend and a fixture that tends to be high scoring – reflecting the attacking style favoured by Albanian. Of course, there is added spice that Blackheath’s opponents are managed by James Shanahan. Shanners will already be familiar with some the Club players, having coached the England Counties side that defeated Scotland 45 – 28 at Moseley last weekend. The home side included Leo Fielding, Tom Baldwin and Marcus Burcham amongst its ranks.

So, jump in the car or get on the train to make the short hop to Hertfordshire and support the boys as they look to get their season back on track.

Past Meetings and Recent Results

This is the eighth time the two clubs have clashed at level three, with Albanian’s attacking and free-flowing style making for some entertaining fixtures.

Blackheath have won five of the encounters (3 home, 2 away) to OAs two, the one defeat at Rectory Field being the closest game between the two, a narrow 27 – 32 reversal in January 2013. The men in red and black won the other three home encounters 27 – 10, 33 – 8 and an unusually low –scoring (for this fixture) 13 – 7 win in early November last year.

As for the clashes in Hertfordshire, Blackheath have two wins to OA’s one – although the OA’s victory happens to be the biggest winning margin between the sides, a whopping 53 – 16 win in December 2013.

Blackheath head to Hertfordshire looking to improve their current form, with two losses and a draw in their last three games to their opponents’ recent history of two wins and a loss. Most recently, a fortnight ago, OA’s got the better of bottom placed Macclesfield in Cheshire, returning home with a 19 (3 tries) – 50 (8 tries) bonus point win. A complete about face from the week before when they had been put to the sword 7 (1) – 33 (5) at home by Moseley. The earliest of their last three was a trip to Loughborough on 4 February where they just got the better of their hosts in a high scoring 39 (5) – 46 (8) victory.

Match Day Details

Kick off at Woollams Fields is 2pm. Ensuring fair play is Phil Davies, ably assisted by Christopher Bartlett and Matthew Shepherd.

Our hosts are expecting a busy weekend and have given a heads up that their bars may be busy, so allow a little extra time to get your round in. Unless – Heaven forbid – you want to dodge buying your round in which case you have a prepared excuse.

As for the weather, it all looks pretty changeable this weekend. If we’re lucky, any overnight rain will die away leaving a cloudy day with temperatures up around 8/9 degrees and a fairly gentle 09/10 mph southerly breeze.

If you are not travelling to Hertfordshire this weekend, don’t forget the always excellent Graham Cox on BBC Radio Kent (96.7 FM, 104.2 FM, 774 AM, DAB & On-line) who provides live score updates and reports, post-match interviews, plus a full round-up National League results for all Kent clubs after 5.00 pm.

Team News

Blackheath First XV V Old Albanian AWAY 4 March 2017

15. Leo FIELDING
14. Sam ISAACS
13. Markus BURCHAM (Capt)
12. Mark COOKE
11. Jake LLOYD
10. Simon WHATLING
9. Tom CHAPMAN
1. Aston CROALL
2. Adam KWASNICKI
3. Kieron SCUTT
4. Tom STRADWICK
5. Devin MONTGOMERY
6. Freddie OWEN
7. Chris WALKER
8. Jesse LISTON

16. Mike PERKS
17. George BAKER
18. Gregor GILLANDERS
19. Alex PICKERSGILL
20. Jamie DAVIES

Around the Grounds

Elsewhere, match of the day looks like Rosslyn Park’s (5th) home tie against top of the pile Hartpury College (1st). If the visitors take the points, they will also mathematically win the league if Plymouth Albion (2nd) fail to get at least 3 points from their home clash against Hull Ionians (15th).

The Ampthill (3rd) machine takes on visiting Fylde (11th) at Dillingham Park and Moseley (4th) travel to Leicestershire to face Loughborough Students (10th) on campus. Coventry (6th) probably start as favourites as they visit the Crow Trees’ home of Blaydon (14th) whilst, down the road, Darlington Mowden Park (9th) entertain Macclesfield (16th).

Finally, in what could be an exciting and close to call game, Cambridge (12th) host Esher (13th).

Heathens

No Zoo League action for the Heathens this weekend, although the boys will be back in action next time out with a home clash against local rivals Old Elthamians.

Good luck Blackheath and Come On Youuuu Cluuuuuub!

Graham Cox

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