Blacks enter unfamiliar territory

Northwich have failed to win five successive league matches for the first time since 2012 when they endured a disastrous campaign in Midlands One West.

There is nothing else to compare between that team and this one, save for that statistic.

However this is a delicate moment for a side that ranked third in North One West at the end of each of the past two seasons.

It is also one that repeatedly has demonstrated an ability to recover from a setback with Martin Poste at the helm.

They have slipped to 11th place in the table after yesterday’s defeat, although it may assist not to look at the standings while they figure out how to return to winning ways.

When absences weigh heavy

A sticking plaster is stretching.

The game ended with uncontested scrums after props Joe Maddocks and Adam Bennett both succumbed to injury, while centre James Underhill gritted his teeth until the end after an awkward fall early in the second-half.

Captain Matthew Poste and forward Chris James watched from the side-lines, neither of them yet fit enough to return.

Chris Heywood was unavailable, while Will Du Randt had to work.

That meant two teenagers, Tom Clark and Tom Husband, started the game and a third – Jamie Wood – came on as a replacement in the second-half.

That jarred with the options available to Stockport head coach Dean Schofield from his bench.

Managing key moments in matches

Northwich, at least in part, were co-conspirators in their downfall.

Martin Balshaw’s dismissal, no doubt borne of frustration and in retaliation to provocation that notably went unpunished, ended any hopes the visitors had of recovery.

Blacks had earlier endured long spells of pressure in the first-half, and that led to a higher penalty-count than normal.

One, in added time, proved particularly costly as it gifted to Stockport a chance to push over a fourth try that gave them extra breathing space.

Had it been 24-7 at the interval, and Richard Dale’s converted try opened the scoring shortly after it, then perhaps they could have asked more questions of Port’s defence.

Making the most of the conditions

Stockport, assisted by Ryan McGovern’s accurate and considered kicking with a strong tailwind, were able to pin back their guests for most of the first-half.

That allowed them to make the most of their extra strength and weight to maximum effect at set-pieces, particularly at the scrum.

Their first try also came from a textbook driving maul, and there were echoes of Northwich’s defeat at Blackburn last season when they were simply outmuscled.

[Joe] Maddocks and [Adam] Bennett have made Blacks more powerful up front than a side that started that game, but even they had their work cut out.  

Playing up the slope, and with the wind in their faces, made it an important toss to win before kick-off.

It’ll get easier, right?

Leaders Carlisle, victors in five of their six matches and the only side in North One West to pass 200 points so far, are due at Moss Farm next Saturday.