At 3pm on Saturday Peterborough Lions were top of the table and everything in the garden looked rosy.
Come 3pm yesterday (Wednesday) and they’d slumped to eighth in the National League Division Three table after a double dose of disappointment.
The first setback came on the pitch at Nuneaton on Saturday when they lost 23-12. The second arrived four days later when they were notified they’d been deducted five points for fielding an ineligible player in the 22-9 win over Newport on September 12.
“We didn’t deserve to beat Nuneaton - they were really up for it and were the better side,” said chairman Andy Moore. “But losing five points for playing an unregistered player could certainly have been avoided.
“It concerned the registration of Tom Lewis. Although he’d been signed on for weeks his registration hadn’t been sent off in time. It was a mix-up within the camp but nothing to do with Tom.
“We’ll just have to take it on the chin and soldier on regardless. Now we’ve got some serious catching up to do.”
And closing the gap won’t come easy on Saturday as they entertain table-toppers Old Halesonians (3pm).
“It’s a bit early in the season to say it’s a must-win game,” said Lions player/coach Darren Fox, “but it’s certainly a massive one for us.
“If we’re to mount a serious promotion challenge we have to win our home games.
“Last week I asked for more energy, commitment and physicality from the lads and I got a bit. But it will need to go up another 30 to 40 per cent this weekend.
“We need to turn up and put in a big performance. And there’s no better way of doing that than against the team at the top of the table.
“Hopefully we’ll get a good crowd in, play some good rugby and then sit back and relax watching England v Wales. I’m really looking forward to it.”
After spending two weeks assessing his players from the touchline, Fox was forced to join in the action on the pitch at Nuneaton.
Half a dozen forwards - most through injury - missed the trip but Chris Humphrey, Matt Dunn and Darrell Ball are all likely to return against Old Halesonians.
“I must admit the squad hasn’t settled down as I would have liked,” said Fox. “Players missing every weekend has made it difficult and I’ve told the players they need to make themselves available as much as they can if we’re to have any chance of going up.”
Fox has blooded two players in the last two games who were playing last season for Thorney - some five levels below the Lions. They are brothers Jack and Tom Lewis and Fox was full of praise for them.
He said: “They both show great commitment. They are lads prepared to get their hands dirty and put their heads in where it hurts. That’s a massive boost for me. I can improve players like that.”
Tom actually marked his debut by scoring one of the team’s two tries.
Nico Steenkamp crashed over for the other but the Lions were always playing catch-up against a very well organised team after giving away two tries in the first 15 minutes.