Spalding RFC’s day of reckoning has arrived as their bid for Midlands One East survival comes down to 80 minutes at Ilkeston on Saturday (3pm).
Town go into Saturday’s clash against their title-chasing hosts one point clear of Market Bosworth, who occupy the third and final relegation spot, while second-from-bottom Peterborough are also within striking distance.
It’s a case of déjà vu for Spalding, who beat Ilkeston on the final day of last season to defy the odds and stay up. A repeat of that victory would guarantee their Midlands One East status, while there is a scenario where Town could lose and still beat the drop.
Peterborough are perhaps the biggest threat, as they play host to rock-bottom Loughborough – who Town thrashed 49-19 last Saturday.
Bosworth face a tough home game with Towcestrians, but Spalding coach Niall Thomson wants his side to focus on themselves.
He said: “Saturday is massive. Ask any of the lads, this is the league they want to play in.
“There are plenty of scenarios, but we’ve been in this position before. We’re a side that thrives in high-pressure environments and if you look at our form since Christmas, we’ve been like a top six team.
“I said a few months ago that we’d need five wins to stay up. Since then, we’ve won four – and if we can manage one more we’ll be there.
“We’ve got to go there and start with a bang. I think one point would be enough for us, but we have to go for the win.
“I think Peterborough are our biggest threat. I expect them to win well against Loughborough.”
If Town are to get a positive result at Ilkeston, they’ll have to do it without key duo Harry Sharman and Dave Hankinson. Talented teen Rhys Thomson (hamstring) is also a doubt, but veteran player/coach Ben Hausermann will again feature after putting in an incredible man-of-the-match display last Saturday.
“Ben’s an inspiration,” added Thomson. “To be the best player on the pitch at 40 years of age is incredible.
“He was a galvanising focal point and we’ll need more of that on Saturday.”
If Town win, they’re sure to survive. Should they lose and not collect any bonus points (awarded for scoring at least four tries and losing by seven points or less), a Bosworth victory or a bonus-point success for Peterborough would relegate them.
Should the trio be level on points, league placings are then determined by wins and head-to-head records.
Spalding (8) have won more games Bosworth (6) and Peterborough (7) and have beaten both rivals at home, but lost to the duo away.