By MARK BENGOECHEA
Peter Winterbottom hopes his new-look Esher side can put on a show for the fans in Saturday's first home game of the season against Dings Crusaders.
The Black and Ambers return to Molesey Road boosted by their nine-try 61-34 victory at local rivals Barnes last weekend, in which Tom James grabbed a hat-trick.
Director of Rugby Winterbottom had been looking for a cutting edge in attack after the narrow defeat at Redruth in the league opener and was delighted by the response. Now he hopes an Esher side showing five changes can build on that platform as they look to establish themselves as promotion contenders in National League Two Division South.
Winterbottom said: "It's been an odd start playing two games away, so to play at home will be fantastic for the guys and I hope we put on a show. A lot of the supporters don't know many of the new players but they have all been working hard and I hope that they can perform against Dings and give the supporters something to cheer about so they can look forward to the season after a good victory."
Dings have had a mixed start to the season, winning their league opener 25-24 at Westcliff after being 19-3 down but losing 33-10 at home in last week's Bristol derby clash against Clifton.
Winterbottom is expecting a tough encounter. He said: "I think Dings will be quite a difficult proposition. They're a hard-working side, a typical West Country side with solid forwards and they'll come at us hard. We'll be looking for improvement in attack and defence. Although it's a team effort, it's the individuals that will have to step up to the plate and deal with Dings in one-on-one tackling."
Winterbottom is also looking for more consistency from the Eees with their impressive attacking display at Barnes marred by lapses in concentration that allowed the Londoners to score five tries themselves. Esher had stormed into a 28-0 lead with a try bonus point wrapped up inside 25 minutes only for Barnes to reply with three tries before the break to leave the game in the balance.
Winterbottom said: "We started well and scored four good tries but then we lost a bit of concentration and focus, which was disappointing, and let Barnes back into the game. But in fairness, we pretty much dominated the second half despite still making some errors. There was a lack of concentration at times but all in all it was a far more encouraging performance than at Redruth and to score nine tries was excellent. We got our attack working a lot better and looked a lot more comfortable on the ball. We've just got to cut out the little errors and lapses in concentration and tighten up in defence."
Esher have made two changes in the pack with Cam Gentles coming in for Hugh Sloan in the second row and Dan Lamb making a first start at loosehead with Matt Lowes on the bench. Sam Bullock returns at scrum-half for Jack Walsh, Dan Rowland comes in at outside centre for Harry Priestner and Josh Clark replaces Corey Venus at full-back.
Winterbottom added: "We've made a few changes, one or two through injury, but we're also giving some of the players a shot who have been playing well in the Twos and we felt they deserved a chance."