WORTHING Raiders Rugby Club head coach Kieron Dawson is under no illusion of the magnitude of their clash with a resurgent Tynedale on Saturday.
The fourth-from-bottom visitors make the long trip to Roundstone Lane trailing Raiders by just four points and two places in the National 1 table.
Excluding the cut adrift bottom side Hull Ionians, it is tight at the bottom with just eight points separating six teams. Raiders will open up a nine-point cushion with a bonus-point victory, but that is likely to prove more difficult than first thought, as Tynedale have turned a corner in the past few weeks with three straight wins.
Dawson, who saw his side suffer a 28-20 defeat at Loughborough Students at the weekend, said: “It’s a very big game now, especially as they have turned things around and are in form.
“I think they have picked up a few players from Newcastle Academy and they are on the back of three wins.
“It’s a game we had targeted as a potential bonus-point win and a big game has become even more so as they have quickly been getting themselves out of trouble.
“We lost to them up at their place as well. In terms of form, they are one of the top teams at the moment, so it’s going to be a big game.
“If we got the win, it would open up a bit of a gap. A couple of other sides are struggling for form, so it would be a big win and I am sure a few of the other teams around us will be watching the game with interest.”
Dawson had targeted around 60 to 65 points for safety, but admits shock results will have an impact on that.
He added: “The problem is when we get deep into the season, like we are now, the teams from fourth down to eighth or ninth, with nothing to play for, have some very strange results.
“Teams like Wharfedale and even Loughborough are pretty much safe and won’t win it, so they have nothing to go for.
“It’s like Loughborough at the weekend, they showed no inhibition, threw the ball around with nothing to lose and that ran us ragged.”
Raiders have been boosted by the return of winger Jack Maslen, who came off the bench at Loughborough following a four-month lay-off, after suffering a kidney tear in their third game of the season. Ollie Richards is also back in action after a hip injury he picked up last month.
Charlie McGowan, however, looks set for another few weeks on the sidelines after twisting his knee against Fylde.
Ben Dudley faces a late fitness test after he came off against Loughborough with a groin problem, while Raiders will also await news of whether James Chisholm is available to them.
Raiders’ Kiba Richards has been named in the England Counties squad for their match with France Federale on January 31.
The game takes place in Nevers, with a 8pm start.