Old Albanian show that patience is a virtue

Old Albanian proved well up for the battle against Fylde on Saturday (picture by egbaldwin photograp

Old Albanian proved well up for the battle against Fylde on Saturday (picture by egbaldwin photography) - Credit: Archant

OLD ALBANIAN must have thought the injury nightmare they experienced at the Athletic Ground had come back to haunt them when Lloyd Bickle departed the field after scarcely 10 seconds of action last Saturday.

Bickle suffered a cut to the forehead when following up the kick-off and took no further part in the contest. The word is he will be fit for the next game.

In the meantime his colleagues entertained the large crowd at Woollams in this first game of 2013 to the best display of defence seen for some months.

The visitors from the start attacked ferociously and were repelled at every turn. Their bigger forwards could find no way through up front and when the ball was given to the backs they were wrapped up by a drift defence which applied itself with power and precision wherever necessary.

Gradually Fylde, who had the better of possession in the opening stages, were forced back into their own half with no points to show for their tremendous efforts.

Albanian’s case was not helped when Ollie Cooper-Millar was sent to the bin after 13 minutes for what was deemed a dangerous tackle.

He returned 10 minutes later with the game still scoreless and play still in his opponents’ half.

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On the half-hour Chris May picked up a loose ball in midfield and tore through a defensive gap. When challenged he slipped the ball to James Shanahan who had no trouble reaching the line. Richard Gregg converted.

This led to Fylde’s best passage of play so far when, with less than five minutes to the interval, play was switched smartly and swiftly from left to right in the Albanian 22 and Olly Viney had a clear gap wide out on the right which he accepted with alacrity. The conversion attempt went wide leaving the half time score 7-5 to the hosts.

Terry Adams, Chris Lombaard and winger May had had a dramatic effect on the first half with telling attacking thrusts when the opportunity arose and crushing defence when necessary.

Four minutes after the break May charged down the right flank without a finger laid on him and Gregg added the extras.

The game was made safe in controversial style three minutes later when after an apparent knock-on Andy Daish was awarded a try which, with Gregg’s conversion, put clear daylight between the sides.

Adams’ enthusiasm ran away with him when he was yellow-carded for a professional foul with 12 minutes gone in the half. Towards the end of his side-line sojourn Ollie Brennan took advantage of the defensive gap and crossed wide out on the left. Ryan De La Harpe could not manage the improving kick.

Play now moved into midfield whilst Fylde tried manfully to narrow the gap but it was Gregg’s penalty on 34 minutes which stretched the A’s advantage to 14 points once more and it was Adams, suitably chagrined, who capped an outstanding performance with a try of his own with the last move of the game close to the right touchline. Gregg once more obliged with the extra points.

This important win has a number of ramifications. It cements A’s place in the top third of the league and demonstrates how much the side has learned about patience.

The visitors applied themselves to attack from the outset and were forced back in detail for almost the entire game. The lineout was as good as has been seen and the tight scrum, under pressure at times, was never a cause for worry.

The entire pack can field proud of their defensive efforts. The midfield defence was outstanding throughout.

This week the side travel to Blackheath who taught Albanians a salutary lesson early in the season. Kick-off will be at 3pm.

OAs: Gregg, Speirs, Adams, Lombaard, May; Shanahan, Liebenberg; Briggs, McNamee, Cade, Bickle, Johnson, Cooper-Millar, Fahrenheim, Daish. Reps: Crumpton, Schillaci, Chambers, Hamilton, Collins.