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James Ayrton among five players coming into Bishop's Stortford lineup for National League 1 game against Hull Ionians

Andy Long has challenged his Bishop's Stortford side to put three consecutive defeats behind them and take maximum points before next month's break week.

The director of rugby saw his team go down 51-10 at leaders Richmond at the weekend, leaving them in 12th place in National League 1.

They now face a block of three games before having February 22 off, starting with the visit of second-from-bottom Hull Ionians this Saturday (3pm).

James Ayrton will be back in the Stortford team against Hull Ionians. Picture: Vikki Lince
James Ayrton will be back in the Stortford team against Hull Ionians. Picture: Vikki Lince

The strugglers have the worst defensive record in the division having shipped 833 points at an average of almost 47 per game since being promoted.

They are on an eight-game winless run - their only success came against bottom side Canterbury on November 16 - but they did give Stortford a scare in October when Long's men edged it 39-32.

"This is a must-win game for us," said Long, whose side head to second-placed Rams and host fifth-placed Blackheath before their week off.

"We've picked up some more injuries so we've got to rally round and it will give other players an opportunity. We're targeting 15 points before the break week.

"We were staring down the barrel of losing at Hull, so we know the dangers and know that they've got absolutely nothing to lose.

"We need to work on our set piece, to secure good possession and hopefully get a strong ref.

"There are 10 games left this season and 50 points up for grabs, so we want to get as many of those as possible."

Dan Elsom (groin) and Josh Stannard (head) were the latest players to join the injury list against Richmond, where Stortford conceded four tries in the last 10 minutes as the table-toppers made it seven wins on the bounce.

Tom Petty also misses tomorrow's game against Hull Ionians while Al Gliksten and Tom McCrone drop to the bench. The five players coming in are James Ayrton, Tom Banks, Harrison King, Ben Harrison-Price and Will Palombo.

"In terms of our performance, for almost three quarters of the game it was pretty much where we wanted it to be," said Long. "They showed their class when we were tired and we couldn't find a riposte towards the end.

"At 17-10 down we needed to find a gear to put them under pressure, but we probably gave away a couple of silly penalties which led to them being able to put pressure back on us."

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