‘Underdogs’ Old Albanian confident ahead of visit of former Woollams’ favourites

Former Old Albanian head coach James Shanahan brings his new Blackheath side to Woollams on Saturday

Former Old Albanian head coach James Shanahan brings his new Blackheath side to Woollams on Saturday. Picture: DANNY LOO - Credit: Archant

Old Albanian head coach Gavin Hogg wants his squad to take the confidence of a four-try bonus point at second-placed Darlington Mowden Park into what promises to be an emotional game at home.

Former supremo James Shanahan brings his fifth-placed Blackheath to Woollams on Saturday but after battling to a point in the north east, his successor hopes they can channel that belief into this game.

Hogg said: “There are a few ex-players who went to Blackheath as well and looking at the fixture down there in October, we probably didn’t do ourselves justice.

“We didn’t go out and express ourselves and it’s probably going to be a similar team to what we had at Darlington so hopefully those guys can take confidence from how we finished there.

“It’s another game where we’ll be underdogs and have nothing to lose.

“We’re back on our home patch with hopefully a big crowd and if the guys can raise it by another couple of percent it gives us an opportunity of causing an upset.”

The defeat at the Northern Echo Arena on Saturday saw Albanian forced to make a number of changes throughout the 15 as Saracens fielded a number of dual-registered players in their Anglo-Welsh Cup match with Ospreys.

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But Hogg says any criticism of the link with the Aviva Premiership giants is not only unwarranted but generally wrong.

He said: “From the outside in, we get a lot of criticism. I know we’ve got the link with Saracens and those looking in from the outside think when those guys are available and come in they are not part of the side.

“But one thing we have this year is a close-knit group and even when the Saracens guys do come in, they’ve been with us since August and we’ve got a real core of club guys and those coming in have really bought into what we want to do.

“Without making excuses the biggest problem we’ve had is injuries and the number of changes we’ve had to make.

“It’s been difficult for us to get momentum but we’ve shown at different times this season what a good side we can be.

“That certainly helps build the confidence moving forward and hopefully we can scrap for a few points to help us stay in this league moving forward.”