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Tom Vickers’ Saints v Bath preview: Pressure still on Mallinder’s men

JUST THE START? - Saints enjoyed their win over Worcester last weekend, now they have to follow it up with a win against Bath on Saturday (Picture: Linda Dawson)

JUST THE START? - Saints enjoyed their win over Worcester last weekend, now they have to follow it up with a win against Bath on Saturday (Picture: Linda Dawson)

Saints have not lost a league game to Bath at Franklin’s Gardens for almost 13 years - and they desperately need to preserve that record on Saturday.

The west country side will have the scent of blood in their nostrils as, brimming with belief, they face a Northampton team under pressure to perform at home.

Bath, whose last Premiership victory at Saints came on April 22, 2000, have nothing to lose.

If they don’t make the top four this season - they are currently eight points adrift of fourth - it won’t be a major surprise.

Though there are big expectations at The Rec, the club remain in a building process.

One which is starting to come to fruition.

Bath have shown signs of improvement from last season and the run which has seen them win their past six games will give fans and players a boost ahead of next season.

As will the arrivals of star men such as George Ford and Juan Pablo Orlandi, who are on their way at the end of the current campaign.

For Saints, though, failure to finish in the play-off positions would, rightly or wrongly, be viewed as a failure.

Their ability to secure a place in the end-of-season shootout in recent years has ensured expectations remain sky high.

And failure to finish in the top six, which Northampton will slip out of with defeat this weekend, would be viewed as something of a disaster.

The thought of a season without Heineken Cup rugby is not one anyone at the club will want to consider.

When you’ve dined at the top table, eating elsewhere just isn’t as enjoyable.

A defeat on Saturday would see the storm clouds gather over the Gardens.

Saints have lost their past three Premiership home games, failing to win a league match on their own turf since November 24, when London Welsh were beaten.

They know they owe the fans a big performance, but more than that, they owe them top level European rugby next season.

And if they can maintain tradition by beating Bath at home on Saturday, doubts about achieving that goal can begin to be banished.

 

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