SHOULD Coventry need any extra incentive going into Saturday’s game against Old Albanian, they only need to think back to their visit to St Albans in September which brought a narrow and very hard-earned 21-19 away win and was the first of just two occasions this season when Cov have failed to register a try bonus point.
It will be just the tenth meeting between the two clubs, Cov currently leading 6-3 in wins. Last season Cov registered a double with the 73-8 win in April now in the record book as their biggest-ever away league win. Old Albanian have, however, won once at Butts Park, on the occasion of their first visit in season 2012/13.
The origins of Old Albanian date back to around 1924 when a group of St Albans School pupils got together and decided they wanted to play the game of rugby together.
Facility-wise, from their original Beech Bottom ground and continuing the link with the school, OA moved to the spacious surroundings of The Woollam Playing Fields, not known as such at the beginning but re-named in honour of a benefactor to the school dating back to the 19th century.
The Old Albanian club went open around 1970. In common with quite a number of others, the club has risen through the ranks following the introduction of league rugby back in 1987/88. To emphasise that point, Old Albanian were originally placed in London Division Two and rose steadily until four seasons ago they reached level two. A setback was the relegation back to National Two South at the end of 2014/15. It was, however, a temporary blip and after just one season away they returned to National One via the play-offs at the beginning of last season.
Their first season back saw OA finish a creditable ninth. This time round, however, they are finding the situation pretty tough with just three wins to date leaving them in 15th place. By far their best result was the 33-31 home win in October over Darlington Mowden Park, the other two wins being against Hull Ionians, away, and Esher at home. The last action on December 23 saw OA halt a seven-match losing sequence by drawing at home at Ampthill and District.
It is widely known that there is a very close link with Saracens Academy via dual registration and loan, with some four players from that route appearing in the Ampthill game.
New to the club this season is current head coach Gavin Hogg, who joined from Bury St Edmunds in the close season. This season has seen the squad change fairly significantly, one of the departures being Ben Palmer who re-joined Cov. Another former Coventry member, James Pritchard also departed.
Top points scorer to date is centre Dan Watt.