GRAHAM DAWE is hoping his young Plymouth Albion team can handle the increased expectation levels on them after five consecutive wins.
Fifth-placed Albion entertain Hull Ionians at Brickfields on Saturday aiming to continue their impressive run in National One.
The club are keeping their fingers crossed that they can attract a decent sized crowd for their first home game in four weeks.
But Dawe is more than aware that playing at home after such a good run does bring pressure.
“We are certainly looking forward to playing at home for the first time in four weeks,” said the Albion boss. “But there will be a big issue of expectation, which is not always something you look forward to.
“The guys, though, just want to go out there and play and do the best they can, with or without the ball against a powerful, experienced, organised and direct Hull team, who are going to give us a pretty tough afternoon of rugby.”
In their last two matches, away at Hartpury College and Rosslyn Park, Albion have been the underdogs, but this weekend they will be favourites against a side sitting below them in the table.
However, Dawe said: “No-one should go to any game of rugby with preconceived ideas.
“Everyone can have their own thoughts and that’s something all successful sports teams have to deal with.
“But we just have to prepare, try to handle the mental challenge that sits in front of us and see where it takes us.”
Albion were beaten 25-21 away at Hull at the start of the season.
They had been 25-0 down after 55 minutes, but came back late on to snatch a bonus point.
“That game seems a long time ago now,” said Dawe. “We came away with a bonus point. We worked very hard second half – well, we worked hard all game, but especially second half – to get that bonus point.”
When asked if he felt his young team had learned a lot since that first away match in September, Dawe said: “Every individual in every organisation is learning daily. Every day is a learning day and I am sure we are wiser and certainly older, but they will be as well.”
He added: “They (Hull) have got a pack of forwards that know how to win good set piece ball, they have got one of the top try scorers in the league on the wing, a fly-half who kicks very well and intelligently, two very strong running centres and an astute kicker at number nine.
“They are certainly a well put together team and they will know how to go around Brickfields getting the best out of their forwards and giving their backs a chance to express themselves.”
Albion keep the same starting team that beat Rosslyn Park last weekend after centre Marc Koteczky recovered from a problem he picked up towards the end of the game in London.
The only change is on the bench, where club captain Jake Murphy takes the place of Elliot Bale to offer extra centre cover.
15 Ethan Ford
14 Seti Raumakita
13 Tom Bedford
12 Marc Koteczky
11 Harrison Cully
10 Billy Searle
9 Matt Shepherd
1 Ollie Dawe
2 Rupert Freestone
3 Christian Judge
4 Ed Holmes
5 Nile Dacres
6 Jarrad Hayler
7 Sam Matavesi
8 Herbie Stupple
Replacements: Dan Pullinger, Dan Collier, Gregory Sebastien, Cameron Setter, Jake Murphy.