Co-operative Championships previews
Co-operative Championships previews Friday April 2
BATLEY BULLDOGS v DEWSBURY RAMS
Batley coach Karl Harrison is keeping his fingers crossed over the fitness of prolific try-scorer Johnny Campbell. A thigh strain kept Campbell out of Batley’s win at Keighley last week but he is hopeful of playing against the Rams on Friday.
However, Gareth Moore is a major doubt, having spent a night in hospital last week after receiving a leg injury during the Co-operative Championship fixture at Cougar Park.
Dewsbury narrowly missed out on a victory over Widnes last week and will travel to Batley in confident mood.
Rams coach Warren Jowitt said: “We should have won, but that’s not good enough. The game was ours; we had it in the bag with six minutes left.
“We’ve got to learn. We’re a bit of a young, inexperienced side at the moment. We’ve got to learn how to hold on to a lead. It’s an 80-minute game and you’ve got to play for 80 minutes. Hopefully we’ve learnt something out of that Widnes fixture.”
Lee Lingard still has a “possibility” that he could play on Friday but Adam Hayes (groin) is unlikely to feature. Rob Spicer, Austin Buchanan and Alex Bretherton remain a number of weeks away from full fitness.
Jowitt added: “Easter is a tough spell we’re all chasing three points from every game, so these are going to probably be the toughest two games of the year because of how hungry our opposition is going to be.”
FEATHERSTONE ROVERS v HALIFAX
Tim Spears and Sam Smeaton could come into Daryl Powell’s thinking after making their return to action during Featherstone’s reserve game against York last week.
But with Rovers having achieved four wins out of four Co-operative Championship fixtures, Powell is unlikely to make widespread changes to his team.
Featherstone beat Whitehaven 54-18 on Sunday but Powell is still demanding more from his squad.
He said: “We did some smart things but I thought we were off our standards, if I’m being honest. We made too many errors, especially in the second half. It was disappointing and I think we can improve on that. We’ll have to improve against Halifax because they’ll be looking to respond.
“We keep talking about consistency in our performances and that’s going to be important over the next couple of weeks. You can’t sit back and let teams come at you at this level.”
Mark Gleeson, Said Tamghart and Luke Branighan could all return for Halifax.
Coach Matt Calland will look to bounce back after last week’s 48-10 mauling against Leigh.
Calland said: “It was another terrible performance. I’m really disappointed with how we played, particularly in the second half.
“We’ve got a really tough next two weeks ahead of us. Featherstone are going really well. They’re well structured and well drilled so it will be a big test for us.”
KEIGHLEY COUGARS v SHEFFIELD EAGLES
Oliver Pursglove is extremely doubtful for Keighley after suffering a knee ligament injury against Batley, but Brendan Rawlins and dual-registered signing Nathan Massey will be in Barry Eaton’s squad to face Sheffield.
Tests have also revealed that Scott Law does not have a hernia and he will be given a late fitness test before any decision is made on his involvement.
Keighley play Sheffield, Dewsbury and Halifax over the Easter period, and Eaton said: “Three games in six days is a big ask for any club, especially for a part time squad where the players are going to be going to work in between those fixtures.”
However, Keighley’s performance against Batley last week has given Eaton genuine belief in his squad’s ability to perform in the Co-operative Championship.
He said: “We’ve made some fantastic strides since the first league game at Widnes. We’re now back to where we feel we should be.
“If we’d been a little bit more clinical against Batley, or if the weather had been a bit different, then things may have gone a different way. We feel as though we broke Batley’s line more times than they broke ours in open play.
“We posed a lot of questions offensively and our defnce stood up because all their points came from kicks.”
Jason Mossop could return for the Eagles after missing his side’s 22-10 victory over Dewsbury a fortnight ago.
TOULOUSE OLYMPIQUE v LEIGH CENTURIONS
Toulouse prop Brendan Worth misses Friday’s clash with Leigh after being given a one-match suspension by the RFL’s disciplinary committee. Worth was also fined £50 after pleading guilty to head-butting a Keighley player during a fixture on March 20.
Leigh travel to France without Tyrone McCarthy, Lee Mitchell and Matty Blythe, who have been recalled to Warrington over the busy Easter period.
The Centurions hammered Halifax 48-10 last week and are searching for a win that could put them at the top of the Co-operative Championship if other results go their way.
Assistant coach Paul Rowley said: “I think we’ve been coming up under the radar and that Halifax result has maybe just woken everybody up to the fact that we’re a realistic threat for silverware.
“It’s a new challenge for us this week to approach a game as a favourites and rise to the challenge.”
Rowley added: “Toulouse had a good phase in the middle of last season. They’re without Mitchell, their hooker, but they’ll still pose a threat.
“They like to play with a bit of flair and promote the ball but one of our strengths is our defence and hopefully that will be strong again on Friday.”
Co-operative Championship One
HUNSLET HAWKS v DONCASTER
Hawks coach Paul March insists that Doncaster’s shock win over York last week will not distract Hunslet from their own targets on Friday afternoon.
March’s men are searching for their third league win of the season while Doncaster will arrive in south Leeds in high spirits after claiming their first victory of the season.
But March said: “It’s our performance that we need to be looking at.
“Rochdale had a good performance in the week before we played them and it made no difference against us. It’s all about how we perform against Doncaster.”
March will run a series of late fitness tests on a handful of players ahead of the busy Easter schedule.
He said: “We’ve got two tough games in four days so I won’t risk anybody that is not 100 per cent.
“If someone misses Friday then that extra rest will be good for them and hopefully they’ll be ready to go on Monday.”
Dons coach Tony Miller is hoping to have Scott Johnson (ankle) back in time for Friday’s Co-operative Championship One fixture at Hunslet.
Liam Brown (shoulder) will be monitored as the week progresses before Miller finalises his line up.
Miller said: “Hunslet have spent a bit of money on players, but I’m confident that we’ll go there and give a good account of ourselves.”
LONDON SKOLARS v BLACKPOOL PANTHERS
Skolars’ conditioner Jamie Boston could feature in the club’s playing squad after making a surprise comeback earlier in the season.
“He’s really keen to play,” said London coach James Massara. “He took part in the training run on Wednesday night and he’ll add something to us if he does decide to return to playing.”
But Jermaine Coleman has seen his season brought to a premature end after he was forced to undergo a knee operation on Wednesday. He will be out for nine months.
Massara said: “It’s tough to take, but Jermaine’s in surprisingly good spirits.”
Massara added: “Against Blackpool we’ve got to look after the little things and then the big things will look after themselves.
“We’re in for a tough test. Blackpool are a very good team and we need to turn up ready to play from the first minute.”
Casey Mayberry will not feature for Blackpool after being ruled out for a month with a hamstring injury.
On his side’s early season form, Panthers coach Martin Crompton said: “I’m absolutely delighted so far.
“Our performance last week was exceptional – our best since I’ve been at Blackpool – and it was against a very experienced Swinton team. We completed our first 18 sets in the first half. If you continue that then you’re going to win more games than you lose.”
He added: “I’ll be shuffling the team about and resting a few bodies on Friday in order to be fair to the lads who’ve missed out over the last week or so.
“It keeps everybody on their toes and that’s probably why I got such a clinical performance against Swinton.”
ROCHDALE HORNETS v OLDHAM
Hornets coach John Stankevitch insists the Good Friday derby with Oldham is as big as any other rugby league derby.
Stankevitch said: “It’s absolutely massive. I’ve played in a few St Helens-Wigan derbies but I don’t buy into the fact that one derby is bigger than another.
“The fans and players will be just as emotional in this game as they would be in a Wigan-Saints or Leeds-Bradford derby.
“Both teams will approach it as a must-win game. It’s important for the league ladder but it’s also hugely important in terms of pride.”
Stankevitch will make late judgement calls on a number of his squad. He said: “We’re reasonably healthy – we’re not really struggling, but we’re also not in tip-top condition.
“We’ve got about eight players carrying injuries and the majority will play but their knocks mean they’re not going to be 100 per cent fit. We’ve not got the luxury of being able to pick players in place of them.”
Craig Littler will definitely not play for Oldham after being released from his contract due to his work commitments.
New signing Dean Hatton could make his first team debut for Tony Benson’s side.
YORK CITY KNIGHTS v GATESHEAD THUNDER
Brett Waller (ankle) and Chris Thorman (thigh) are hoping to be fit for York’s clash with Gateshead on Good Friday.
The Knights are looking to bounce back from last week’s shock defeat Doncaster with a convincing display against the Thunder.
Steve Lewis, Joe McLocklan, Jordan Ross and Richard Blakeway will also face late fitness tests for York.
Gateshead quartet Matt Garside (broken arm), Jimmy Atkinson (hamstring), Joel Brown (calf) and Mark Walker (chest) will not play on Friday while Liam Duffy is rated as only 50/50 by coach Chris Hood.
However, Rhys Clarke is set to return to action as Hood plots Gateshead’s second win of the Co-operative Championship One campaign.Hood said: “We’ve got to play high percentage football and not make mistakes with the ball.
“We’ve also got to control the middle of the field and the York go-forward. They’ve got a good pack that punch holes and if you control them then that will give you a chance against them.”
Hood added: “We’re looking to improve on the performance we had against Workington. We’ll work hard again at training and give it our all against York.”