The Old Boys suffered a massive blow to their title hopes in their last outing two weeks ago as they were sent crashing to a comprehensive 36-6 defeat in the top of the table showdown at closest rivals Ampthill - their heaviest loss of the season.
It was a damaging defeat which knocked Elthamians off the top of the table for the first time since January 26th and left them five points off the top with just five games remaining.
It means OEs' fate is now out of their hands. They must win their final five fixtures and hope Ampthill drop points in the remaining weeks of what has been the most keenly contested National One campaign for nearly a decade.
“We have to keep doing things the way we have all year,” OEs head coach said. “Hopefully Ampthill will slip up and they have a couple of very tough games coming up. But there is no point feeling sorry for ourselves or worrying about what they do. The last thing we want is for them to lose a game and us put in a sloppy performance and not be ready to take advantage.
“There’s nothing we can do about the Ampthill defeat now, but we haven’t suddenly become a bad team. We have to focus on all the positives over the last two months and try and enjoy the last six weeks of a long hard season. If we don’t enjoy training or playing there’s no way we will get the win.”
After a rare weekend off, the Old Boys return to league action at College Meadow tomorrow when they entertain a Cambridge side who caused them plenty of problems at Volac Park at the end of November.
It took a late try from Alex Brown (pictured) to snatch a 20-17 win, and Howard admits Elthamians are expecting another fierce challenge this time round, especially with the 12th placed Blood and Sand equally in need of a victory to pull themselves away from the scrum of clubs at the foot of National One.
“Again I sound like a broken record but you can’t take any team lightly in this league, particularly one as difficult to break down as Cambridge are,” Howard said. “But we have very much been focusing on our performance rather than theirs this week. We just need to get back to looking after the ball and using our attacking threats all over the pitch.”
Elthamians need a considerable improvement on their performance against Ampthill which Howard admits he didn’t see coming. “Yes it was a surprise,” he said. “I genuinely thought we had an excellent chance going into the game. We had trained well in the week and were on the back of a good run of games. But as we’ve seen throughout the season, sometimes teams have a bad day or even bad half at the office and unfortunately that happened to us against Ampthill.
“They were ruthless in our 22 and when we were in theirs we weren’t. We dropped the ball twice over their line, and made errors at crucial times which they capitalised on. Their try in the first five minutes came from two of our errors and the one just before half time came from us dropping the ball.
“Games are about small moments, rather than the big things and lots of small things went wrong for us. The score at half time should have been 13-12 to us rather than 19-6 to them; it’s a totally different game then and we would have had the momentum.”
Howard added: “To win these top-of-the-table, pressure games individuals need to step up and have big games. Unfortunately this didn’t happen for us. Now we need to draw a line under the Ampthill game and finish the season strongly. ”
Old Elthamians v Cambridge kicks off at 2.30pm tomorrow at College Meadow.
Updated 17:11 - 23 Mar 2019 by Jon Edwards