Skills coach Mark Laycock says a vocal Kingston Park crowd can make the difference for Newcastle Falcons on Friday when London Irish provide the opposition.
The Exiles fly north to face a Falcons side placed fourth in the Aviva Premiership table, Newcastle having lost only one of their four league encounters this season.
On the back of last weekend’s thrilling 33-32 victory at Bath anticipation is building for Friday’s 7.45pm kick-off, with strong ticket sales reported during the week.
And Laycock believes the Falcons faithful can play a major part in the team’s ongoing success, the skills coach stating: “Our home crowd are fantastic for us and historically when they’ve really got behind the team, the players have responded.
“When we’re on the back foot in a game the contribution they can make is massive, and a noisy Kingston Park atmosphere really drives the team forward during those difficult times that you inevitably experience in any Aviva Premiership game.
“There’s nothing better for the boys than to really hear that South Stand come alive at a crucial point in the play, and it definitely adds to the occasion when our supporters get involved.”
Determined to remain grounded despite the external hype building around the Falcons’ strong start to the campaign, Laycock said: “The boys are in a good place at the moment but we’re not getting carried away, and it’s just one game at a time in terms of how we’re looking at things.
“We’ve had a look at London Irish, we know what they’re about and hopefully we’ve got a game plan we can execute on the evening.
“We’ve talked about the momentum shifts within last weekend’s game at Bath and how we can control them a lot better, having gone so far ahead and then dropping behind before coming back and winning it right at the end.
“As a skills coach it’s always nice to see when the players are showing confidence and playing with freedom on the field. I’m getting a lot of time to work with them in training and we’re constantly working on parts of the game where we can be better, but it doesn’t happen overnight and we’re by no means the finished article.
“In terms of Friday London Irish have got nothing to lose, so we know they’re going to come up and fire into us.
“We’ve got to respect the threat that they pose and we will certainly do that, but at the same time we’ve got to focus predominantly on our own game. They gave us a really tough test when they came up here the last time a year and a half ago, and we know they’re a dangerous team. We’ve just got to try and nullify the threats they possess and impose our own pattern onto the game.”
Combining his first team skills role with a position as academy manager, Laycock was also pleased with much of what he saw during Monday night’s second-string victory over Sale Jets, with a 31-0 triumph giving them a perfect two wins from two in the A-League.
“We were pleased with the result even though it possibly wasn’t the best game,” he said.
“It was a wet night and defences were on top for a lot of it, which made it quite scrappy. It got a bit fractious at times but I thought we scrambled really well, we got off the line and caused them a lot of problems when they had the ball.
“When we think about how we get better as a team we just need to have a little bit of composure on the ball, look after our possession better and not force things too much. But it was still pleasing to get the bonus point and enjoy a good, solid win. A lot of the guys haven’t played for a few weeks so they blew the cobwebs away, and I was pleased in that respect. They’ve got to keep doing it so they’re in contention for the Aviva Premiership games, but our depth is looking good at the moment.
“Similarly to the first team, the key for us is not to get carried away by the fact we have won a few games.
“We’ve got Leicester away at Welford Road on Sunday afternoon and that will be a tough game, and after that we have another strong team in Northampton who are the reigning A-League champions. We certainly have to take the confidence from how we’ve started the season, but also be mindful that it’s still early days.”
Tickets for Friday night’s Aviva Premiership visit of London Irish (kick-off 7.45pm) are available by clicking here, calling 0871 226 6060 or from Kingston Park Stadium in person. Buy before Friday to get the best advanced prices.