It is a critical point in the season for everyone connected with Lichfield RFC and no-one is feeling the pressure more than head-coach Dan Hemingway.
Hemingway, who took over at Lichfield in the summer following a short playing career spent at Leicester Tigers, Nottingham and Leeds Carnegie, is hoping to steer the Staffordshire side away from danger following a tough start to the league that currently sees Lichfield only three points off relegation.
However, a win on Friday against relegation rivals Bournville for Hemingway’s men will see the Midlands outfit move as high as seventh with only 13 points separating 13th and seventh in the league standing.
Lichfield are currently on a dismal run of five consecutive defeats in the league and are winless since the turn of the new year, but Hemingway isn’t getting too concerned just yet and believes the competitiveness of the league is something he is relishing.
“It’s a tough league”, said Hemingway.
“That bottom half of the league is really congested. Bournville have thrived in the relegation zone, they’ve had two good results and now they are up to seventh.
“That’s down to where the league is now. If we win on Friday then we are up to seventh. If we lose and results go against us then we could end up in the drop zone.”
The reverse fixture in October between the two Midlands Premier sides resulted in a comprehensive defeat for Lichfield following a 49-27 hammering at the hands of the Birmingham based side.
However, a win on Friday for Hemingway will see his team leapfrog the 2017 North Midlands cup winners in at seventh and the 29-year-old former blind-side flanker believes victory could set the side on their way to survival come May.
He said: “The league is really tight and I think against that bottom half there isn’t that much between the sides, Syston have fallen a little adrift but they are a tough side at their place.
“Doncaster have obviously suffered with that 10-point deduction.
“The league has almost split itself now into two micro leagues and we know full well that we can beat anyone on our day so we’ve got to get it right Friday.
“They’ll be physical, they’ll focus around the set-piece. But, Friday night at home it’s a game we are confident we want to go after and one we know we can really apply ourselves to and we’ve just got to get that mentality right and make sure we get the result.
In his debut season managing in the fifth tier of English rugby Hemingway has guided Lichfield to six league victories whilst suffering 12 defeats. The club are currently without a win since December 8 and the newbie boss will be hoping to end the rut at Cooke Fields in a day’s time.
The former Leicester Tigers youth prospect fully understands the importance of Friday’s crucial fixture with Lichfield awaiting promotion chasers Bridgnorth and Broadstreet in their following two matches and Hemingway knows the team need to start putting points on the board.
“The way the fixture list works for us we play the top half of the league and then we play the bottom four sides all in one block so we feel like we’ve got ourselves in a nice position come Christmas”, he said.
“We only had six wins after the first round of fixtures knowing we’ve maybe left a couple out there. But, we felt fairly comfortable with where we were and we’ve brought in a good haul of bonus points which is where we really see our strength and since Christmas we found ourselves in a bit of a rut where we are struggling.
“We are playing well in areas but making silly errors that are costing us games, but ultimately, we are conceding too many points and we’ve got to get that bit right.
“We’ve played all the top teams, so after Bourneville we play Bridgnorth and Broadstreet and then we play the bottom four all in a row so that becomes a really important block for us and Friday is obviously an important game.
“We back what we are about, we’re comfortable, the boys are maybe a little bit calmer than I am but they’ve got the experience going through this for around three to four years whereas this is quite a new experience for me, but we thoroughly believe we’ll be ok.”