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Derby play-off looms large for Crofters

By Burton Mail  |  Posted: March 17, 2014

MATCH WINNERS . . . Lawrence Betty is one of several Burton players capable of racking up quick points in Midlands One West

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DIRECTOR of rugby Steve Smith reckons victory in their next four Midlands One West fixtures should be enough for Burton to seal the runners-up spot and a likely promotion play-off against Derby.

The Crofters had their lead over third-placed Hereford cut to just one point after the two rivals locked horns on Saturday.

Hereford triumphed 24-18 in a fiercely contested game.

It could have been worse for Burton, but Darryl Banton slotted over a penalty with the final kick of the game to rescue a losing bonus point for the visitors.

Smith said: “Obviously we wanted to win it. Coming away with a couple of tries towards the end and the penalty means it’s not the end of the world.

“Clearly it’s a bit of a setback though.

“A win would have put us nine points clear with a game in hand.

The director of rugby believes Burton missed the experience of unavailable duo Dave Archer and Harry Titley.

“Maybe inexperience in some areas might have told in the end,” said Smith. “But the tries Hereford scored were largely against the run of play.

“We were in control for long periods. There was not a lot on the game.

“We had a plenty of pressure and could easily have won the game.”

The two sides have similar run-ins. Both face sixth-placed Silhillians and fifth-placed Stoke.

Third-placed Walsall have an outside chance of gate-crashing the play-off party, but Smith believes it will come down to a straight fight between the Crofters and Hereford.

He said: “We both have tricky run-ins and we’ll just have to take each game as it comes.

“We’ve a big game against Old Laurentians at the weekend.

“Stoke are a always a good side at home – and away for that matter.

“That’s always a big game, a bit of a local derby.

“Some of the players have faced Stoke sides for 10 or more years now. There’s a grudging respect there you might say.”

The Crofters will need their big game players to step up to the mark in the run-in.

And Smith reckons that Burton have match-winners across the squad, with the likes of Archer, Tom Harris, Matt Tivey, Lawrence Betty and Sam Benjamin all capable of turning a game in an instant.

He said: “There are not many teams capable of competing with us over a full 80 minutes in this league.

“We’ve several players capable of scoring quick tries.

“That’s the difference between us and some of the sides lower down the league.”

Burton conclude their campaign on April 19 at Barkers Butts – one week after Hereford have played their last game.

Smith hopes the Crofters have already sealed their play-off spot by then.

He said: “At that point we’ll know if we need to win or draw, or even if a loss would still be enough to finish second.

“Hopefully it will be a dead rubber. If we win the next four games then hopefully that will be the case.

The side which finishes second in Midlands One West will take on the runners-up in Midlands One East in a play-off game to decide which team will earn promotion to National League Three Midlands.

Derby trail runaway leaders Peterborough Lions by 20 points, but enjoy a 12-point lead over third-placed Bugbrooke, and are almost guaranteed to finish second.

Smith, who watched Derby beat Ilkeston last week, says that Burton will not fear their local rivals.

He said: “I would certainly fancy our chances. Bottom line is we want to win every game.”

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