Knight: Havant victory is essential

Will Knight
Will Knight
Havant are aiming for a good start against London Cornish. Picture: Habibur Rahman

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Improving Havant can keep their National Three London & south east survival hopes alive by beating fellow strugglers Westcliff at Hooks Lane (2pm).

The home side remain bottom of the league with just seven points, but their first win of the campaign against Bracknell before Christmas rekindled hopes of pulling off a great escape.

Will Knight’s side followed that up with a highly-encouraging performance at London Irish Amateur, suggesting better times are on the way in the second half of the campaign.

Although they eventually lost that game 14-7, Havant led with just three minutes left and were unlucky to go down at the death.

Knight has insisted all along that if his side are to give themselves a chance, then they have to win the games against teams just above them – and Westcliff fall into that category.

‘This game is absolutely crucial and a win is essential to keep our hopes alive,’ said Knight.

‘We are in a mini-league of five clubs at the bottom and must aim to finish top of that pile if we are to stay up.

‘Whatever our fate at the end of the season, though, we want to reach there feeling that we are heading in the right direction as a team.

‘After our last two games we feel the pieces of the jigsaw are finally coming together.

‘We are starting to embed some of the elements of the game we want into our play.

‘Players are gaining confidence in each other, in the systems being played and trusting each other a bit more.

‘Progress is being made and it is important that continues against Westcliff.’

The game at London Irish showed just how much progress Knight and his coaching team are making with the players.

At the start of the season the same opponents inflicted a demoralising 88-0 defeat on Havant, but last week Knight’s side led for all but three minutes of the game.

Havant were left frustrated that they hadn’t come away with maximum points and Knight is convinced this weekend’s result will take care of itself if they can repeat that level of performance.

Knight also has the luxury of being able to name a virtually unchanged squad for a third game running, which he insists makes a big difference.

‘We have been able to get some stability,’ said Knight.

‘It helps the different units in the side bed down a bit better and some of the younger players are starting to settle into National League rugby.

‘The experience of Jaryd Robinson and Dickie Dukes on the wings has been important and James Read gives us a safe pair of hands at the back.

‘Our scrummage has also provided us with a solid platform to work with.

‘Westcliff will be another big challenge, though, because they have shown themselves capable of pulling off some extremely good results.’

Havant: Read, Robinson J, Gains, Bamford, Dukes, Knight, Morris, Marks, Austin, Cutting, Roberts, Parkin, Williams, Horn, Porter, Fenn, Goodger, Blackburn.