MIKE SCHMID is confident that Esher can avoid the drop and retain their Championship status for another season.
Esher finished their regular league season with a resounding 34-13 win over Moseley on Saturday, bringing them up to 9th in the league, top of the relegation playoff pool. The win over fellow relegation battlers gives Schmid’s side 7 points to take into the playoffs, ahead of Plymouth with 6, Moseley with 5 and Birmingham with 4. Schmid said “I was exceptionally pleased with our attitude and performance at the weekend. It was a crucial game, not only as it gave us the extra point for the playoffs, but it’s also huge psychologically. Moseley are the only team we’ve beaten twice this season, and we have to play them twice more in the playoffs so any advantage over them is beneficial.”
Esher start the playoffs on the 12th March with a trip to bottom side Birmingham & Solihull, taking a 3 point lead into the game. Schmid knows there is a lot to play for, with the bottom side relegated to National Division One, and is calling for his side to head into these games with all guns blazing. He said: “There’s a lot on the line, so we need to make sure we’re in a good position from game one. A win up there would give us a two game advantage over Birmingham.”
Esher have turned their season around after a slump in results saw them drop to 11th in the league. Vital wins over Rotherham, Cornish Pirates and Moseley in the in the last month have seen the Surrey side claw their way back up the table, finishing just short of the safety of 8th place.
“We stepped up into a full time division without full time players. It takes a while to get up to speed learn how to play at that level” said Schmid. “Continuity in the side has made the difference. We had some injuries to key players earlier on, but we’ve been more settled in the last six weeks. Looking at the form guide for the last 6 weeks we’re 4th in the league. The boys are confident we can beat the three teams in our pool.”
Schmid believes that if Esher take the same attitude and commitment they’ve shown over the last few weeks into the last six games, he is confident of Esher’s survival. “It’s important that we remember what makes us play well and understand that we control our own destiny.”
This week Esher take on Nottingham at Molesey Road in the British & Irish Cup. Previous Cup fixtures have given Schmid the opportunity to rotate his squad, but he insists that he won’t be fielding a second rate side against the Green & Whites. “We will rest some players but it will be a strong team, and we should have some of the loan players available again this week. We need to keep fresh both mentally and physically as there’s no 1st team game the following weekend.”
The club are mounting a huge drive to increase local support ahead of these crucial fixtures. All adult tickets for the Nottingham fixture this weekend are just £10, and they are running a 3 for 2 promotion on tickets for the playoff fixtures.
Schmid believes that the home support could give Esher the edge as the playoffs approach; “It makes such a difference to the boys when the support is there. The noise from the supporters has been building up over the last few weeks and you can really see the team react to it.”