Photo: Gerald Christian
CLECKHEATON RUFC face a crucial promotion showdown at home to Driffield this weekend, but preparations have not been helped in the slightest by the weather.
The club have had two weeks to get ready for the big clash between the teams in second and third place in the table, but the damage caused by the storms of recent weeks have left pitches unusable for most of that time.
With seven games left in the season, Cleck are in pole position to claim the runners-up spot and a play-off place, but have both Driffield and Moortown within just a few points.
Ahead of the big match at Moorend tomorrow (Saturday, kick-off 2.15pm), head coach Thiu Barnard admits the weather has been far from ideal.
“Preparations have been awful due to the weather,” he said. “We didn’t train the whole of last week because we couldn’t get on the pitches.
“But I think every club is in the same boat at the moment so we just have to deal with it.”
They could have gone into the game hot on the tails of leaders York having beaten them three weeks ago with a spectacular performance at Moorend, but tight defeats away at West Hartlepool and Durham City in between set them back.
“We’re struggling in some games at the moment, I think it’s just a mental thing where we switch off,” said Barnard.
“Then when we play at home against top-of-the-league we play at a different level. That’s the next challenge for us, trying to get that every time. Against York was some of the best rugby I’ve seen Cleck play.
“Durham away we should have won comfortably. We had enough chances. It’s just a mental block I think at the moment and it’s a big challenge for us, but we’ve got to learn from it and move on.
“If we’d won those two games we’d only be a point behind York. That’s how close we are to getting things right.
“Overall I’m really happy with where we are. If someone had told me in April we’d be second, and that the second team would be top of their league, I would have taken that obviously.”
Cleckheaton have won nine of their 10 home matches this season and Barnard hopes that Moorend will continue to be a fortress tomorrow and for the rest of the season.
He said: “We’re good at home, we tend to switch on so if we can just win our home games and pick up one or two wins on the road, we’ll be alright.”
The team will be playing in a one-off kit tomorrow for Sapper Support, a charity for veterans and emergency service workers suffering from PTSD and other mental health issues.