Promotion is the target as new coaches aim to take Harborough forward

Steve Hanna
Steve Hanna

Market Harborough will begin their season this weekend with a new guard overseeing their progress.

A trip to Rushden & Higham beckons on the opening day of the Midlands Two East (South) season and it will be a first league game in charge for new coaches Ian Smith and Richard Bowden.

They come with an impressive background as Smith made well over 300 appearances for Leicester Tigers while Bowden is one of the most respected coaches in the county.

It means promotion is firmly in the sights at Northampton Road – although director of rugby Steve Hanna admits it might take a while for them to know how good they are.

“The aim is definitely to go up,” Hanna said.

“We’ve recruited two of the best coaches in the county and they have been working the players very hard in pre-season.

“The team are probably the fittest they have ever been.

“That has shown in our pre-season games when they have still been going right at the end against teams from a higher level than us.

“It has also stirred things up in terms of selection.

“It has been opened up as a first and second team squad.

“If before you thought you were just a second-team player now that door is well and truly open.

“Also, if you thought you were fixed as a first-team player, now there are no guarantees.

“We are confident we can achieve something this season but everyone will feel like that at this stage.

“It might take two or three games before we know exactly where we are.

“Availability is an issue at this time of year but we are also finding our feet under new coaches.”

The expectation will certainly be there for Harborough to push on from their third place finish last term.

For much of the season they were in contention to go up before just missing out.

Now, Hanna says, it is time the senior sides matched the levels set by the rest of the club.

“We probably have the best facilities in the county,” he added.

“We now have the best coaches in the county and we certainly have the best mini-juniors in the county.

“The first team now needs to punch at that level as well.”

Lutterworth, who did gain promotion last season, started their Midlands One East campaign with a 15-7 defeat at Market Rasen & Louth.

This weekend they are at home to county rivals Melton Mowbray – the side who went up with them as champions last season.