McRoberts keen to avoid new year doom and gloom

Mark Pollard is one of a number of key players who are due to return for Gosport & Fareham Picture: Ian Hargreaves
Mark Pollard is one of a number of key players who are due to return for Gosport & Fareham Picture: Ian Hargreaves
Dylan Raubenheimer. Picture: Ian Hargreaves

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Gosport & Fareham coach Neil McRoberts regards the visit of Twickenham to Gosport Park as a ‘pivotal’ game in the hosts’ season.

A win over London one south’s basement club is likely to lift the home side out of the bottom three and boost their chances of survival.

McRoberts doesn’t like the term ‘must-win game’ but accepts the result of this contest could determine the nature of the rest of the season.

The Blue & Golds are determined to avoid a repeat of their relegation battle in the second half of last term.

‘It is important that we pick up some momentum in the run up to Christmas,’ said McRoberts.

‘The games at the back end of November and early December set the tone for how you enter the new year.

‘We certainly don’t want to start the new year in a doom-and-gloom situation.

‘It was our improvement in January and February last season that made our survival bid viable.

‘This is a great opportunity for us and the right fixture at the right time for us against a team around us in the league.

‘Having said that, Twickenham are one of those teams where you are never sure what you are going to find yourselves up against.

‘With their student contingent they are capable of fielding a very strong side.

‘We will need to be mindful of that and focus on getting our game right.’

McRoberts is boosted by the return of a number of influential and experienced players.

In the forwards, Chris Thompson, Mark Pollard and Ben Roberts are all expected to reappear.

Thompson and Roberts missed the defeat at Medway last time out through navy rugby duties, while Pollard has recovered from the stitches in his face from the Dover game.

The home side also have a number of their first-choice three-quarters back in action.

Full-Back Jack Brawn and centre Kieran McRoberts have recovered from injury, winger Rory Penfold is back from navy under-23 duties, with fellow winger Dave Cleary free from family commitments.

‘We are able to field our strongest pack of forwards and having our returnees back will make a big difference,’ added McRoberts.

‘The experience and influence of number eight Chris Thompson cannot be over estimated.

‘Whenever he is in the side we always seem to start well and he is a big player for us.

‘In fact, in him, Ben Lanigan, Tom Blackburn and Mark Pollard we have our four biggest ball carriers together again. That, hopefully, will help us put Twickenham on the back foot and tie in Twickenham’s midfield defence.

‘If we do that then it should present our powerful backs with plenty of scoring chances.’

Wayne Dugan returned from his broken hand at Medway last week and showed no ill-effects, which is another big positive for the home side.

Gosport & Fareham: Jack Brawn, Rory Penfold, Wayne Dugan, Kieran McRoberts, Dave Cleary, Alex Duncombe, Wes Dugan, Ben Lanigan, Danny Gamblin, Tom Blackburn, Mark Pollard, Ben Roberts, Tim Snowden, Sean Shephard, Chris Thompson. Replacements: Nathan Titchener, Max Page, Alex Cooksley