Battle to stay up is hotting up

Batley coach John Kear
Batley coach John Kear

While Leigh take on Featherstone on Friday night, there are some crucial games in the battle to avoid relegation in the Kingstone Press Championship this Sunday. We look ahead to them.

Barrow Raiders v Keighley Cougars

Barrow Raiders coach Bobbie Goulding is aiming to avoid a tenth successive Kingstone Press Championship defeat when his side host Keighley Cougars on Sunday.

Raiders are already relegated, but Goulding said: “I’m looking for a performance for the fans.”

Keighley coach Paul March could be boosted by the return of James Craven, who missed last week’s 17-10 victory over Swinton Lions due to a chest infection.

March said: “The performance wasn’t great, but we got the three points and it puts us in right direction.

“We go into this weekend looking for another three points, and we’re not bothered how they come.”

On Barrow, he added: “They’re playing for pride at the minute, and that can provide dangerous opposition when they’re at home and playing for that.

“We’ve to be on our guard, but on the other hand if we get a good start then heads can drop.”

Dewsbury Rams v Rochdale Hornets (3.00pm)

Dewsbury Rams coach Glenn Morrison hopes to have Karl Pryce and Stephen Nash available to face Rochdale Hornets.

But the Rams are still battling against a mounting injury list, with 11 players expected to be unavailable again this weekend.

Morrison said: “Rochdale have got a good squad. They’ve probably missed a couple of results they could have had, but they’re still going to be very tough opposition.

“They’re playing some good footy and they’ll come with confidence after winning last week.

“We’ve got to make sure we do our best, because it’s a big game for us to try to take some pressure off in terms of the play-offs.”

Hornets coach Ian Talbot also has a series of injury concerns. Warren Thompson (broken ankle) and Ryan Millard (groin) are both ruled out, while Joe Greenwood and Dave Llewellyn face late fitness tests.

Talbot said: “We’ll be looking to use the full allocation of five dual registration players this week.”

On Dewsbury, he added: “Their early season form has got up them up there doing well.

“If they get a fully fit team and squad, they’ll be as good as anyone in the competition. They’re a bit hampered at the moment, but they’ve still got plenty of quality.”

Doncaster v Workington Town (3.00pm)

Doncaster coach Paul Cooke insists his side will face a huge challenge to avoid a third consecutive defeat when they host Workington Town on Sunday.

Cooke said: “They’re the best team in the competition at the minute, so things don’t get any easier for us.

“I’ve seen them over the last few weeks and they’re a different team. We’re going to have to watch plenty of players if we want to get the three points, but we’re a desperate team.

“We’ve lost twice in consecutive weeks and that’s first time that’s happened to us this year.

“I know the players are critical of themselves, but the time for that stops now.”

Richard Wilkinson is still sidelined for the hosts, while Workington could have Jarrad Stack available after he missed last week’s win over Whitehaven due to work commitments.

Town are aiming for an eighth consecutive Kingstone Press Championship victory under coach Phil Veivers.

North Wales Crusaders v Halifax (2.30pm)

North Wales Crusaders coach Anthony Murray remains optimistic of securing his first win in charge of the club.

Crusaders fell victim to another agonising defeat last week, losing 30-28 against Rochdale Hornets.

But Murray said: “The effort and commitment is there – we showed that with how we stick in and got something out of it.

“It’s just certain areas – mainly individual errors – that are costing us big time.”

Halifax coach Karl Harrison has no new injuries to contend with as he bids to keep the pressure on second-placed Featherstone Rovers.

Harrison said: “We’re still a million miles from where we need to be, but we’re certainly going in the right direction.

“We’re on a nice unbeaten streak and long may that last, but we’ve got another tricky game against North Wales.

“We’ve got to win all our games to finish where we need to finish.”

Simon Brown could come into contention as he bids to return following a broken thumb.

Sheffield Eagles v Swinton Lions (2.00pm)

Sheffield Eagles coach Mark Aston will give a late fitness test to Mitch Stringer (knee) before finalising his team to face Swinton Lions in Sunday’s Kingstone Press Championship clash.

But one player who will definitely miss out is loan signing Will Hope, who has been recalled by Salford.

The Eagles are aiming for back-to-back wins – and a fourth victory in five games – after last week’s triumph over local rivals Doncaster.

Aston said: “We’ve been Jekyll and Hyde and we need to be consistent – that’s been the story of our season, but hopefully we get a bit more confidence out of the win”

Swinton coach John Duffy is still without Zach Johnson (suspended) as the Lions seek to end a six-match losing streak.

Lions lost 17-10 against Keighley Cougars last week, but Duffy believes his side is not far off.

He said: “At times we had panic plays, but with a little more concentration it could have been different.”

Whitehaven v Batley Bulldogs (3.00pm)

Whitehaven coach Dave Woods could recall Samir Tahraoui for Sunday’s crunch clash with Batley Bulldogs.

Whitehaven are three points behind Batley in the Kingstone Press Championship table.

Victory for the hosts could pull them level with the Bulldogs in the race to avoid relegation, but Batley coach John Kear is boosted by having no new injury worries after last week’s defeat against Leigh Centurions.

Kear said: “There’s a lot riding on the outcome, but in order to achieve the outcome you’ve got to go through the processes. You can’t be anticipating consequences; you’ve got to make sure actions are effective.

“If your actions are effective, the consequences look after themselves. We’re aware of the situation – as I’m sure Whitehaven are – but you’ve still got to play as well as you can.”

He added: “Whitehaven were very unlucky last week. They’re a good team with some very good players and threats, but what we’re trying to do this week is look after ourselves and focus on what we’ve got to do.

“If we do that, everything else falls into place.”