Kingstone Press Championships previews
Saturday June 7
Kingstone Press Championship One
London Skolars v South Wales Scorpions (3.00pm)
London Skolars coach Joe Mbu could give a home debut to Irish student international James Kelly in Saturday’s Kingstone Press Championshp One clash against South Wales Scorpions.
The Skolars have lost their last four matches, while South Wales came agonisingly close to claiming their first win of the season when they met Gloucestershire All Golds last week.
Scorpions coach Mike Grady said: “I’m pleased with our progress, but it’s just our individual errors that are letting us down. As soon as we cut those out, we’ll start getting results.
“There’s no pressure on us, we’ve just got to try to improve each week.”
On London, Grady added: “They’re up and down, a bit of a mixed bag, but we struggled against them last time we met. Most teams in this league can beat anyone on their day.”
Grady expects to name an unchanged squad, with veteran Neil Dallimore making a successful return to action last week.
Sunday June 8
Kingstone Press Championship
Batley Bulldogs v Rochdale Hornets (2.00pm)
Batley Bulldogs loan winger Alex Brown could return to action on Sunday having missed last week’s narrow defeat against Featherstone Rovers.
Sam Scott and Mark Applegarth are also back available as coach John Kear aims to move the Bulldogs higher than the ninth place they currently occupy in the Kingstone Press Championship table.
And Rochdale Hornets coach Ian Talbot admits his side faces a real battle in Sunday’s clash.
Talbot said: “The fact we’ve taken some points off Batley already this year will form part of their build-up, I’m sure.
“I don’t think they’ll make the same mistakes again and we’ll have to be ready to face a very good team.”
A win for Hornets would narrow the gap between themselves and the top nine as they battle for Championship survival.
But Talbot said: “We’re not too bothered about the league, we’re more bothered about our own performances.
“We’ve been gifting territory and possession to our opponents, and we need to stop doing that and start going set for set with teams.”
Sean Casey is unavailable for Rochdale after suffering a dislocated jaw. He faces three weeks on the sidelines.
Sheffield Eagles v Workington Town (2.00pm)
Sheffield Eagles coach Mark Aston is looking for a major upturn in form as his team approaches the second half of the season.
The Eagles have won only one of their five home games this year and are only four points off the relegation zone.
Ben Jones could be available for the Eagles, while Aston must decide whether to recall Andrew Henderson for Sunday’s crunch clash.
Workington coach Phil Veivers will be hoping for good news on Dan Rooney, Kris Coward and Andy Morris, who all failed fitness tests last week ahead of Town’s defeat against Leigh Centurions.
But Veivers believes the performance his under-strength team produced against the table toppers can kick-start their season.
Workington now face Sheffield, Halifax and Featherstone in their next three games.
Veivers said: “I honestly believe that we’re capable of beating any other team in the competition. I know we’ve a tough June programme, but that performance against Leigh can drive us on.”
North Wales Crusaders v Swinton Lions (2.30pm)
North Wales Crusaders coach Clive Griffiths has stressed the importance of Sunday’s Kingstone Press Championship clash with Swinton Lions.
The Crusaders are two points behind ninth-placed Batley Bulldogs in the league table.
Griffiths said: “With our form being up and down, this is a big game for us.
“We beat Swinton earlier in the year and they’ll be smarting from that. They’ve a lot to play for, but so have we.”
He added: “We’ve let go of too many homes games. We had disappointing results against Rochdale and Keighley, but this is another opportunity for the boys to get back on track.
“There are two leagues now – the top group, and the rest of us that are fighting for survival.”
Crusaders are boosted by the return of Seb Martins, but Andy Moulsdale (shin) looks set to miss the rest of the season.
Jamie Dallimore, Craig Ashall and Tommy Johnson face late fitness tests before Griffiths finalises his team.
Lions coach Ian Watson remains upbeat, despite last week’s home defeat against Doncaster.
He said: “We just need to keep our concentration for the full 80 minutes and maybe something will happen for us.
“We’re not too far away from a win, but we need to stick at it.”
Barrow Raiders v Doncaster (3.00pm)
Barrow Raiders player-coach Bobbie Goulding looks set to make his second appearance for the club after last week making a playing return nine years after he last pulled on the boots.
Goulding came through his return injury free and could be joined in Barrow’s squad by on loan winger Niall Evalds.
But Doncaster coach Paul Cooke is determined not to let Goulding’s presence distract his side from the task in hand.
Cooke said: “I commend the man, he’s infectious to his group.
“We’ve had a long chat about what Bobbie brings to them, and you can times that by 10 when he’s on the field.
“We’ve spoken about having respect for the bloke and what he’s done in the game. He’s made better players than we are look stupid by getting into their heads, and that can’t happen to us.”
He added: “We quickly drew a line under our game against Swinton and we’ve had a good chat about what’s expected this week and what obstacles we’ve got to overcome with regards to things like travel and a tight pitch.
“It’ll be tough on Sunday, but we’re looking forward to it.”
Mark Castle and Shaun Leaf are both missing for the visitors, but Ryan Wilson is back in contention.
Featherstone Rovers v Dewsbury Rams (3.00pm)
Featherstone Rovers coach Andy Hay is aiming to complete a five-star start to his new job by securing a fifth successive victory when his team face Dewsbury Rams on Sunday.
Loan signing Jason Crookes is expected to be available for Rovers, while Ben Blackmore has joined Featherstone on a two-and-a-half year deal.
Rams coach Glenn Morrison expects to be without Kieran Hyde and Jobe Murphy, who both suffered ankle injuries last week as Dewsbury won 38-18 against North Wales Crusaders.
Victory this week would move the Rams into the top four of the Kingstone Press Championship, but Morrison insists: “We’re not really looking at the table.
“We’ve let a couple of games go that we should have won, and we should be higher than we are, but we’re OK.”
On Featherstone, he added: “They’ve had a lot of turnover in players – they’ve brought another three Super League players in this week – and it’s going to be tough.
“They might take time to gel or they might fire. We’ve just got to concentrate on ourselves, and if we do that we’ll be all right.”
Kingstone Press Championship One
Hemel Stags v Oldham (2.30pm)
Hemel Stags coach Troy Perkins is hoping to make the most of a difficult period as his side prepares to face the top three clubs in Kingstone Press Championship One in successive fixtures.
Perkins said: “It’s a tough three weeks, but if we get a couple of results in those three games then we’ll be sitting all right.
“The flip side is that if we get three losses then we probably drop out of the play-off positions. It’s probably the most important period of the season for us.”
On facing Oldham, Perkins added: “If we win we get close to the top three in the table, but if we lose we start getting in the mix with the next group of teams down the ladder.
“It’s a massive game, but we’ve put in some good performances at home and we’ve got to try to get a result.”
Perkins expects to name a similar team to the one that faced Gateshead Thunder last week, while Oldham coach Scott Naylor has a concern over winger Dale Bloomfield (thumb).
Josh Crowley and Sam Gee are also major doubts for Sunday’s trip south.
Gloucestershire All Golds v York City Knights (3.00pm)
Harry Chapman-Walker and Sam Te’o are both pushing for a place in the Gloucestershire All Golds team to face York City Knights in Sunday’s Kingtsone Press Championship One fixture.
But coach Steve McCormack could be tempted to stick with the same squad that won 38-36 against South Wales Scorpions last week.
McCormack said: “We’re well aware that we have to step up in all aspects of our game against York.
“Individually and collectively we have to be at our best against one of the best teams in the division, but I’ve been delighted with the players’ work ethic, attitude and commitment.”
The Knights travel without Nathan Freer, Lee Paterson and James Haynes, but Iain Morrison could come into contention.
York coach Gary Thornton said: “There was only 10 points between us on the first day of the season, so we certainly won’t be taking the All Golds lightly.
“We’re in pretty good form, but they’ve definitely improved. They’ve brought in some loan signings and under Steve (McCormack) they’re going pretty well.”
Oxford v Gateshead Thunder (3.00pm)
Oxford coach Tony Benson expects Sean Morris and Andrew Hoggins to both be available for Sunday’s Kingstone Press Championship One fixture against Gateshead Thunder.
The pair were late withdrawals for last week’s game against Hunslet, but are both now fit and available.
However, Valu Bentley is a major doubt after suffering another injury blow.
Seventh-placed Oxford are just two points adrift of the top five. Benson said: “We’re certainly aiming for the play-offs and I think we’re capable of doing it.
“We’ve blooded another load of players this year, and they’re all going pretty well and being pretty consistent.”
On Gateshead, he added: “They’re certainly quite a different team to earlier in the year, but the big thing with Gateshead is that you never know who you’re going to play.
“We’re just focusing on being as good as we can be, and hopefully that will be good enough to get the job done.”
Loan signing Joel Farrell could come into contention for Thunder after joining on a one-month deal from Dewsbury Rams.