12:34pm Friday 25th April 2014
By Andrew Simpson
SAM Naylor will tell his Northwich teammates to repeat their previous performances since the turn of the year in this weekend’s promotion play-off against Bolton.
Blacks have won a dozen successive league matches in 2014, rising from eighth place in South Lancs/Cheshire Division to finish as runners-up to New Brighton.
Extending that sequence on Saturday will be rewarded with a return to North One West a year after being relegated.
“I want the lads to approach this game like they have the others,” said Naylor, the team's player coach.
“If we play to the standards we’ve set in the past couple of months, then we’ll be hard to beat.
“We’ve gathered momentum bit by bit with every win; it’s a great run of form.”
He told the Guardian a 22-0 home win against the eventual champions before Christmas had been a catalyst for the Moss Farm men’s improved form.
They have won every match since.
Naylor said: “We realised then what this group is capable of.
“The result flattered them, not us, and we could have put more points on them.
“Over the past few seasons, Northwich have had a reputation of starting the season slowly. This time it was no different as we lost our first three league games.
“We’ve always been stronger in the second half of a campaign for some reason.”
As part of a plan to win their biggest game of the season, Northwich will look back on a defeat.
Saturday’s game is four years on from a defeat to Sandal in a similar contest, though the prize then for victory was national league rugby.
Naylor said: “We can learn a lot from that game.
“There’s quite a few of us still playing who were in the team that day, when we left it too late to show what we could really do after they’d put points on the board in the first half.
“Every one of us who walked off the pitch that day won’t have forgotten what it felt like to lose after putting so much into getting there.
“It’s something we’ll tell the other players about before we play Bolton this weekend.”
Bolton are targeting back-to-back promotions after moving up from step eight last season.
Like Northwich, their form is ominous after avoiding defeat in a league game on their own pitch since October 2012 – a sequence of 21 matches.
“We’ve had them watched, so have an idea of what to expect.
“While that’s useful, the main thing to worry about is our own mindset and playing to our strengths. If we do, then we’re capable of beating them.”
Northwich have injury doubts over Rick Smith (hamstring) and James Underhill (thumb), who will both be given until the latest possible moment to prove their fitness.
Kick off at Avenue Street is 3pm.
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