Harrogate head into their ‘do or die’ promotion play-off this Saturday at Sutton Coldfield full of confidence, according to head coach Mike Aspinall.
‘Gate secured their National Two decider place after a hard-fought 38-22 win at Billingham on Saturday.
And Aspinall called on his charges to defy the mental pressures again after battling through their arduous end of season.
“We have been working for this for 12 months,” he said. “It will be about going there and managing the occasion.
“We are confident that if we go and execute out game plan and we do our jobs, we will get the right side of the result.”
Sutton Coldfield ended their season second in National Three Midlands, losing just twice in 26 games.
The match (3pm ko) is at the Birmingham-based side as they have lost two fewer games than ‘Gate.
Aspinall admits the notes book is lacking ahead of the contest but insists ‘Gate are focusing on their own efforts.
He said: “We have certain reports of their strengths but our focus will be on ourselves.
“In play-off finals, it’s about doing your job as well as possible. That is something we have tried to push.
“Their record is very impressive. But we don’t know how good the Midlands League is compared to the Northern.
“We are not afraid of going anywhere.
“We haven’t been beaten convincingly all season. It is about who goes down there and manages the pressure the best.”
Backs Pete Wackett and Noel Minikin missed the Billingham contest, Wackett a doubt for this weekend. James Audsley-Beckw ill miss out through a dislocated jaw.
Aspinall remained coy over his side’s tactics for Sutton Coldfield but has entrusted his backs to bring glory back to Claro Road.
The coach has signed a contract to remain head of coaching next year and his expanded role will see him support the rest of the club’s coaching set up.
Harrogate are also registering a senior third team and Aspinall praised the direction in which plans are heading.
He said: “We are happy the momentum we have as a club. Since we have got planning permission there’s a lot more excitement around.
“Long term, it is about building a club that is of that level, we want to be National One. We want a club, not just a first team.”
Harrogate’s backs had the edge throughout their tight contest with Billingham and secured the bonus point victory.
But Billingham stole the early lead when Anthony Hyndman raced over with a quickly taken tap penalty, the referee over-ruled his touch judges and dismissed the conversion.
James Audsley-Beck pulled ‘Gate into the lead after a dazzling 30 metre run for a try converted by fly-half Callum Irvine. Forward Dan Metcalfe then added a second converted try before his fellow pack-member Steve Maycock surged over to extend their advantage, the try again converted by Irvine.
Metcalfe was then binned and the hosts took advantage through another tap and go by Hyndman, converted by Pete Evans.
Thetryfest continued as Kyle Dench and Phil Wickham both scored before Billingham’s Elliot Husband and Joe Evans responded.
‘Gate number eight Tim Heaton sealed victory with the game’s final move but the win failed to usurp Chester who slayed Rossendale 51-20 to claim the title.
Aspinall said: “It was a tough week, to discard the Sandal game and get ourselves up for what was a hard game.
“Billingham tested us all over the park. We came through the better side and relatively unscathed. It was a case of job done.”
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