Club coach Shanahan enjoys Old Albanian return

Jake Lloyd - Photo by Felix
By Graham Cox
A convincing-enough win in the end from a game that had all the potential to be troublesome.
Despite their lowly position in the National League One table, Old Albanian had recorded a 35-35 draw with Ampthill, before racking up a half-century against Hull Ionians to take eight league points from their last two home games in a battle to move out of the relegation zone.
Additionally, Blackheath’s previous trip to Woollam Playing Fields hadn’t ended well for the visitors either, the Club going down 36-10, and for the first half-hour of this contest, in the wet and cold of a rotten afternoon in the Chilterns, the match followed the script of one side flailing in the conditions against team with much to play for.

Kieron Scutt (Harry Bate scoring) – Photo by Felix

Nevertheless, fortified by two players – Matt Miles and Harry Bate – who had been on the winning side in that match in March of last year, as well as the guidance of James Shanahan making his first return to Woollams after two successful stints at the Hertfordshire club, Blackheath steadied themselves to take control and score six tries to provide their head coach with an early gift ahead of his birthday next week.

For 30 minutes, however, the visitors made few, if any, inroads as their line-out was disrupted, and kicks failed to reach touch, while the hosts found a couple of beauties to give them useful ground.
A sixth-minute penalty from fly-half Tom Bednall would be Albanian’s only reward, as the Blackheath defence held firm, and once Harry Fry found Neale Patrick with a shortened throw, the tide turned.
Freddie Owen took the next throw, before Jack Walsh’s pass out wide on the left sent Alex Pickersgill across next to the corner flag, and as Blackheath put pressure on an Albanian line-out, forcing a five-metre scrum, Jake Lloyd weaved a line for a 10-3 interval lead.

Joe Tarrant – Photo by Felix

A break down the right flank, with Lloyd and Markus Burcham making the primary inroads, saw ball played across field for Joe Tarrant to glide over, and although Bednall interrupted with his second penalty, the Club went through the phases for Tom Stradwick to drive over for a 20-6 advantage in the 54th minute.

Fry and Miles had the line-out functioning smoothly now, Tom Baldwin’s take having the Club pack driving at speed for Bate to score against his former side, and as Blackheath continued to put pace on the game in the closing stages Geoff Griffiths popped up on the right wing to score from Burcham’s pass for arguably the best try of the match.
Blackheath travel to the north-east and the Northern Echo Arena on Saturday for their meeting with Darlington Mowden Park (kick-off at 2pm), before returning to Well Hall on February 17 for the visit of Esher.

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