Preview: Esher vs Old Albanian

Ollie Marchon puts in a big tackle

Ollie Marchon puts in a big tackle - Credit: Archant

Read Brian Quinn’s preview of this weekend’s National League One clash

It matters that Old Albanian maintain their presence in National League One. It matters to the team, the coaches, the management and all the supporters, writes Brian Quinn.

But mostly it matters to the local area, an area which cannot boast another rugby squad of this seniority outside the Championship; an area which extends from southwest London, west to Gloucestershire, north east to Coventry and Loughborough and east to the North Sea, thousands of square miles.

Within that region, the club acts as a magnet to all requiring top class sport and an example to all those aspiring to play it. There comes a responsibility with this which is undeniable and unavoidable. It involves giving as much as can be given and recovering from mistakes which cannot now be immediately righted.

Billy Johnson’s men are to enter the cauldron which is the final quartet of games in what has been a testing year for all concerned. There is no doubt that the required personnel are in harness and one can point to many instances in the past seven months where this has been admirably demonstrated. This final month may see their efforts vindicated and safety achieved.

The task has not been made any easier by the recent deduction of five league points for fielding ineligible players earlier in the year. This administrative error has cut a 10 point safety margin in half. However, importantly, there is still a safety margin and four opportunities to increase it starting at Molesley Road against Esher on Saturday.

Esher have had a chequered season by their own standards, lying one spot above OAs in the rankings but 13 points clear. They have plenty of Championship experience to drive them on and will be keen to increase their tally at the weekend.

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Cinderford will be snarling at OA’s heels and will view the recent domestic misfortune as an unexpected godsend. It is for them to take advantage and for OAs once more to firmly close the door.

The squad is in excellent shape and all reports indicate no injury problems. Brett MacNamee and Chris May return to the fold and Johnson himself is raring to go after his exploits as England’s Counties Captain.

It is an honour for all to be involved in one of the top 40 clubs in the country. Now it must be proved on the field.