BURTON RFC skipper Josh Cartwright is hoping the return of the influential Dave Archer can help his side bounce back from a disappointing defeat.
A last-minute penalty saw the Crofters narrowly beaten 34-32 at home by Silhillians – only their second defeat of the season.
They travel to fifth-placed Stoke tomorrow, kick-off 2.15pm, with kicking specialist Archer back from a hamstring injury that has kept him out since the end of October.
Before then, he had scored 79 points in seven games.
“He’s looking ready to go and he’s a key player for us,” said Cartwright.
“He can create something from nothing, which not many of our players can do.
“As well as his attacking prowess, he’s also one of the best tacklers in the team and he’s also one of the more experienced players.”
On last weekend’s defeat, Cartwright said: “It was a really disappointing performance, and it is massively important to bounce back.
“Some of the play from the pack was really well structured, but we didn’t take the momentum when we had it, and we ended up playing how they wanted us to play.
“We need to come back with one of the performances we’ve shown earlier in the season, and the boys are champing at the bit to put it right.
“At the end of last week’s game, the boys just wanted to get back on the horse straight away.”
Cartwright is not expecting an easy game up the A50, with Stoke as yet undefeated on home soil.
“It will be a very physical game,” he said.
“They like to kick it to the corners and put pressure on.
“It isn’t an easy one but if there was ever a game to bounce back in, it’s this one.
“They’re an experienced team with a few young players, and it’s going to be a tough test.”
Saturday’s defeat means the gap to league leaders Lichfield is now 12 points, but Cartwright says Burton need look no further than their own recent history to see how such a team can be caught.
“There’s always a chance,” he said.
“We were riding high one year, up until Christmas, and then we collapsed and another team took the title.
“We’ve got to make sure we stay in second place and keep pushing for top spot.”
James Burrough and Damon Varney return to the squad after unavailability, while Archer, Ed Henry and Sam Benjamin are all back from injury.
Tom Cooper steps up after impressing for the A team last weekend.
CROFTERS: Murphy, Burroughs, Tivey, Cartwright, Gazzard, E Henry, Cook, Varney, Banton, Peach, Gilmour, Cooper, Archer, Benjamin, Titley.