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by John Butler

COVENTRY’S next assignment is the potentially tricky visit down to Hertfordshire on Saturday where Bishop’s Stortford await as hosts at their Silver Leys ground.

Having been formed some 97 years ago in 1920, Stortford moved to their present ground some eight years later in 1928.

Five senior sides are regularly run, together with colts and a large mini and junior section. In common with Cov, Stortford’s 2nd XV is playing in this season’s Zoo Sports Shield.

In terms of league progression, Coventry’s hosts wasted no time in gaining their first promotion at the end of the first league season in 1987. Subsequently, they enjoyed what they describe as measured progress before  four seasons at level 4 during which they never fell below third place in National League Two South.

Promotion to National One was secured at the end of last season, an away victory at Exmouth seeing them crowned champions.

In charge of playing affairs at Silver Leys is head coach Andy Long, twice capped at hooker by England.

Coventry will travel down for a first-ever league visit to the ground fully aware of the dangers seventh-placed Bishop’s Stortford pose. Plenty of evidence of that comes from their October visit to Butts Park when Cov finally just eased home, 30-27.

Overall, in their first season in the division Stortford have enjoyed some good wins, six of the ten achieved being at home. The last of those, and the side’s last win, was on December 23 when Old Elthamians were beaten.

Last weekend, in the words of their own match report, Bishop’s Stortford, despite strong and determined defence, were well beaten in their local derby at Ampthill, 23-12. At home, three matches have been lost to Plymouth Albion, Ampthill and Rosslyn Park.

Looking back at the Ampthill defeat, twelve players who played some part at the Butts Park were in the squad. Of those, top points scorer on 155, fly-half George Cullen was replaced around half-time, presumably with a knock. In addition, back row forward and player-coach Dan Leo received a red card for a dangerous tackle. Will either, or both, of those key players be available to face Cov?

Top try scorers for Stortford are winger Chris Smith with 9, hooker Will  Roberts (7) and wing/centre Nick Hankin (6).

After the excellent home win gained over Esher, the Coventry squad, in erasing at least some of the less happy memories from Blackheath, will equally be aware that any similar slip-ups will only give further hope to the rest of the division.

Lessons learned, hopefully, with Cov looking to add to what overall though is an impressive away record. Several club records, both team and personal, are within reach in this exciting season, but, without doubt, the key element must be to continue to secure wins and produce positive performances to go with them.

Once again, the hard-working Supporters’ Club is running coach transport to the match, which has a 2pm kick-off. With their efforts, and those travelling privately, will the Cov away support factor come up trumps once again to boost the home gate? Stortford’s highest attendance this season is recorded at 760, with an average of 578.

Meanwhile, the Development Academy is also due to travel to Bishop’s Stortford for an earlier kick-off time.