THE BEES have a welcome distraction from the league this weekend, November 21, as they take part in the British & Irish Cup for the first time.
You could be forgiven for thinking that the competition is the last thing Bees boss Russell Earnshaw wants - but he is relishing the tie.
Not only are there a number of ex-Bees players involved with Rotherham Titans, but it will give head coach Earnshaw the chance to see if his fringe players can step up to the plate.
“It will be a really good opportunity for the young boys to get some game time,” said Earnshaw, who is going to be sidelined for six weeks after dislocating his shoulder in last week’s home defeat to Coventry.
“We’ll have a good look at some of those who have had limited match time so far and a couple of the new boys too.”
The B&I Cup features 24 sides plucked from Welsh, Scottish and Irish leagues and teams from this country’s second tier, the Championship. The club’s opening fixture is at Rotherham this Saturday (kick off 2pm), with a home fixture against Cardiff the following Saturday (November 28).
To help with the extra fixtures, Earnshaw has brought in ex-Esher prop Joe Reid on trial, while hooker Stuart Philpott has signed until the end of the season. But the two ins were evened out by two outs this week, including talented flanker Chris Brightwell.
“Unfortunately, we haven’t got as big a squad as most of the Championship clubs, so we won’t have the luxury of resting our top players for the cup games,” added Earnshaw.
“They know it’s going to be a tough game - Rotherham’s a tough place to go with a pitch and crowd that helps the home side so much.
“But I’ve told my players to treat the next 16 games running up to March as preparation for the play-offs, which will decide our fate in this league.”
Last Saturday, despite a battling defensive display, the Bees went down at home to Coventry 6-21. It was a brave backs-against-the-wall kind of performance by the Bees, who were hindered after losing player coach Earnshaw after two minutes, outgunned up front and reduced to 14 men by a yellow card.
* The Bees are offering a special entrance price for the home B&I Cup encounter with Cardiff (November 28), at just £10 for Adults, £5 for concession and children go free.