MATT SHEPHERD insists in-form Plymouth Albion will not underestimate Blaydon at Brickfields today (3pm).
Albion go into the National One game on the back of three bonus point wins over Esher, Coventry and Fylde.
Graham Dawe’s side have won eight of their last nine matches and have moved up to fourth in the table.
Their only defeat since November 21 came at home against another lower placed northern team, Hull Ionians.
Blaydon, like Hull, have a dominant pack of forwards who are extremely dangerous from driving mauls.
Shepherd, who will start at full-back this afternoon, insists Albion have to make sure they have learned their lessons from that Hull defeat.
“We can’t go into this game just thinking we are going to win just because we are at home, as we slipped up against Hull,” he said.
“We just have to treat this game as if we are playing the top of the league.
“We have to go out and put a good show on. We want to make sure we get what we want – and obviously that’s five points, but we just have to play the conditions properly and stay away from their big bunch of forwards. We can’t do exactly what they want us to do.”
Albion found Blaydon’s forwards tough to cope with away in October before running out 38-33 winners, while last week the North East club pushed leaders Richmond all the way before narrowly losing 10-3.
“We saw the game they played against Richmond,” said Shepherd. “And Richmond played right into their hands and played forward rugby.
“Even though we have a good scrum, we have to keep away from them and just let the backs have a bit of a run around and see what we can do.”
Albion’s backs have been in good try-scoring form recently.
“All the backs scored against Coventry and I got two last weekend,” said Shepherd. “We just have to get the ball out and make them (Blaydon) run around. There’s only so many minutes a big set of forwards can run around for.”
Shepherd says Albion just have to make sure they do not give away penalties to give Blaydon any catch-and-drive opportunities.
“I think they scored four or five driving maul tries when we played them away,” said Shepherd.
“If we cut down the penalties, as we have done the past couple of weeks, then I’m sure we’ll do some damage hopefully.”
Cornwall player Shepherd made his first start at full-back for Albion last week against Esher, having previously started games at scrum-half and on the wing.
The 25-year-old insists he is not bothered where he plays.
“I just want to be on the pitch,” he said. “I want to be playing as much as I can.”
Meanwhile, Albion’s assistant coach Simon Lane will lead Gloucestershire in the County Championship.
It will mean he will be coming up against Plymouth’s director of rugby Graham Dawe, who is Cornwall’s head coach, and many of the Albion players, who also play for the Duchy.
Champions Cornwall host Gloucestershire in the opening match of the competition.