HUDDERSFIELD Rugby Union Club’s hard-working first team skipper Nick Sharpe is calling for the club’s supporters to rally round as his side embark on a crucial run of fixtures leading up to Christmas.
Although Huddersfield are now back at the foot of the National II North table following their most recent League defeat at Stockport, there are signs of the green shoots of recovery.
“I’ll admit the first 10 games of the season were very disappointing, but I think in the last month we have shown we are now moving in the right direction,” reflected Sharpe.
“If you include last week’s Cup win over Bradford & Bingley, we have taken two wins and a draw from the last four games, and we are still in the first half of the season.
“The challenge now is to get some more League points on the board on the lead-up to Christmas to ensure we are not cut away from the other strugglers in the table, and then make a fresh start in the New Year.
“We all know that losing Chris Johnson was a blow, but we have not turned into a bad team over one summer, and we have both the players and the coaching staff with the character to turn things round.
“We’ve never had a big squad, but up until this season it’s never really been a problem as we’ve rarely had so many players out with lengthy injuries. But this season that has really cost us.
“Ben Morrell, Lee Paxman, Gavin Rhodes, James Davies and Gareth Lewis have all been out for some time, and losing so many big-time players made a major impact on such a small squad.
“We have now got Lee and Gareth back, but unfortunately, we lost winger Ben Mitchell at the weekend with a bad shoulder injury, and he looks like being out for at least a month. However, we are hoping to have Ben Morrell back after Christmas, after his leg injury and shoulder operation, which will be another huge bonus for us.
“Another challenge is to get the confidence back into the lads, and to do that we need everyone at the club to be positive, especially the supporters who can play a big role with encouragement from the sidelines.
“When we grabbed our first win against Hull the other week, a lot of people had given up on us when we were 21-0 down after only 25 minutes and gone back inside.
“But it’s amazing the difference that win made to the players during the week that followed. People went to work happy, and came to training with a smile on their face.
“Unfortunately, the next game at Stockport was a big setback.
“Like last week against Bradford & Bingley we were by far the best team for most of the game and should have won. But we just couldn’t get that vital extra score to put the game to bed, and in the end they not only won, but even scored a late converted try to deprive us of even a bonus point.
“That result really took the wind out of our sails. But then we have come through quite a few games where we’ve played okay for much of it, and then come away with nothing.”
Statistics don’t always tell the full tale of a match, and when you consider Huddersfield scored four tries and 27 points against Otley (and one stage in the second half only trailed by a point), another 27 in the loss to Darlington Mowden Park, four more tries at Leicester Lions, did all the hard work against Westoe before going down by two points, and should have easily beaten Dudley Kingswinford instead of having to settle for a draw, plus the disappointing Stockport reversal, then things could have looked so much different now.
“If anyone knows how to steer a team through a relegation campaign then it’s our coaches Dan Hyde and Scott Benton, who have both been there and done it successfully before, and most of the lads know that we are still capable of turning it round. But we do need people to support us,” added Sharpe.
“We’ve got Bromsgrove today, whom we’ve yet to beat after losing to them twice last season on their first year in the division, but they are struggling a bit more this year and there is a bit of a score to be settled.
“And that’s followed by a trip to Luctonians, and I believe we can definitely get a result there too.
“Off the field, Kirklees have taken over the Fitness First concern, so I think we are also starting to look a bit more sound financially, which hopefully will slacken the constraints on our coach Hyde, and will help us move forward in the New Year.”