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globalrugbyleague - Fri, 23 Mar 2007 09:06:00 GMT

SHEFFIELD EAGLES v FEATHERSTONE ROVERS
Eagles’ boss Mark Aston is determined to find his strongest combination for Friday’s Northern Rail Cup clash with Featherstone.
Aston said: “It is now time to put the right permutation together.
“There are a few people out there who aren’t up to this level right now, (they’re) not up to the speed and the fitness of the game."
While Aston will use his final Group One fixture to make final preparations for the start of the National League One campaign, Rovers’ coach David Hobbs is still expecting a difficult trip to South Yorkshire.
Hobbs said: “They will want to finish on as high a note as possible, so we’ll be expecting a very tough game from them.”
Gavin Swinson (rib) is Featherstone’s only doubt. Hobbs and his backroom staff will continue to assess him until Friday afternoon.
SATURDAY 25TH MARCH
WARRINGTON WIZARDS v BRAMLEY BUFFALOES
Wizards’ administrator Dave Whalley is calling for his troops to show plenty of pride in their home record on Saturday.
A win will not be enough to grab top spot for Warrington in Group Seven of the Northern Rail Cup, but Whalley is still in determined mood.
He said: “We like to keep Wilderspool as a bit of a fortress and we’d like to keep that home record intact for two reasons – to finish the campaign on a high and prepare well for the league campaign.
“It won’t be easy though - Bramley have been in fine form.”
Matt Wilson (calf) and Chris Campbell (hamstring) will not be risked by the hosts, while Bramley will give starts to Chris Gardner and Australian signing Thomas Webb.
Buffaloes’ chairman Martyn Cheney said: “We are looking for another win and then a big draw in the last 16 stage.
“A nice Yorkshire derby would certainly do the bank balance plenty of good!”
DEWSBURY CELTIC v HEMEL HEMPSTEAD STAGS
Celtic coach Matt Diskin is hoping to guide his team to a first ever win against Hemel as Dewsbury sign off from a mixed Northern Rail Cup campaign at Crow Nest Park on Saturday (kick off 2.30).
Diskin is also hoping to put down a marker ahead of Dewsbury’s opening RLC National Division encounter against the Stags in early April.
But Stags’ boss Troy Perkins will not be making it easy for the hosts.
Ben Kaye and Nick Surtees return to add strength and firepower to the front row.
Perkins said: “It’s another chance for us to get some fitness under our belt, and our halves can have another run out – the more they play together, the better we’re going to go because they are two quality players.
“Hopefully there will be some impressive performances that can mean players are pushing for places for our next game.”
SUNDAY 25TH MARCH
BATLEY BULLDOGS v ROCHDALE HORNETS
Martin McLoughlin (ankle) is Batley’s main injury concern while Chris Langley should return after recovering from a hamstring strain.
Bulldogs’ coach Gary Thornton said: “It’s never easy against Rochdale, and they’ve been going really well this year.
“But we’ve improved week-by-week in the Northern Rail Cup, and hopefully we can continue that form on Sunday.”
Bolu Fagborun (hamstring), Chris Giles (knee), Dave McConnell (work commitments) and Matt Whitaker (knee) are all expected to be unavailable for Rochdale.
Hornets’ boss Darren Abram said: “You need a big mental approach when you go to Batley – you’ve got to play the venue.
“On top of that, nobody likes losing or putting in a poor performance at home, so it will be very difficult for us.”
BLACKPOOL PANTHERS v BARROW RAIDERS
Ian Parry and Safraz Patel should both come back into contention for Simon Knox’s Blackpool squad on Sunday.
Knox said: “Barrow have been the form team of the Northern Rail Cup’s Group Five, in my opinion.
“They’ve got good go-forward, they’re well marshalled and they have an abundance of pace in the threequarters.
“But there’s also been a massive improvement in our team over the last six weeks and I’m excited by what’s to come.”
Michael Basan could return for Barrow while Lee Dutton is expected to shake off a minor hand injury.
Raiders’ coach Paul Crarey said: “We believe that we’ve got to win to get through to the next stage of this competition, so we’ll go out there having prepared for a very difficult challenge.”
CASTLEFORD TIGERS v DONCASTER LAKERS
Chris Charles, Mark Leafa and Stuart Donlon will all miss out for Castleford but Tigers’ boss Terry Matterson welcomes back Craig Huby, Awen Guttenbiel, Joe Westerman and Richard Owen.
Matterson, who watched his team demolish Sheffield 44-6 in last week’s Northern Rail Cup, insists his side can get better.
He said: “We’re starting to play some good footy and throw the ball around.
“I like to think we’re going to improve and get better.”
Doncaster coach Kieran Dempsey will be looking for an improvement after blasting his troops following their 18-18 draw with Featherstone last week.
Lakers’ captain Joe Mbu also admitted “being good in patches isn’t good enough”.
Mbu said: “As a team we need to re-assess and put things right for the start of the National League campaign next month.”
DEWSBURY RAMS v HUNSLET HAWKS
Rams’ coach Andy Kelly will resist the temptation to make wholesale changes to his squad, despite already being assured of a place in the Northern Rail Cup’s last 16.
Kelly said: “I don’t want to break any momentum or disrupt the football we’ve been playing.
“We never get an easy ride against Hunslet. On the field its as much a derby game as it is against Batley. We always have to work hard to get whatever we do out of these fixtures.”
Hawks’ coach Mark Cass has doubts over Wayne Freeman (shoulder) while work commitments have ruled out Matt Firth. Johnny Wainhouse (hand) is also struggling.
Cass said: “We’ll be going there looking for a win.
“We had a poor performance last Sunday but we did that at Swinton and followed it with two great wins earlier this year.
“We’ve just got to get on with things. We want to qualify and we want to win – that’s what we’ll be going for.”
GATESHEAD THUNDER v KEIGHLEY COUGARS
Steven Bradley will grab Gateshead’s record for all-time appearances for the club when he plays in his 142nd game for the club on Sunday.
Bradley overtakes Kevin Neighbour but coach Dave Woods faces some bad news as Robin Peers (ankle) struggles to be fit. However, Dylan Nash is likely to return.
Woods said: “Keighley are a well-coached side but we’re just looking for a big improvement on our display against them earlier in the year.”
Cougars’ coach Barry Eaton is hoping for his side’s first away win against professional opposition since April 2005.
Brendan Rawlins will make his return but Wayne Sutcliffe (shoulder) and Ryan Smith (foot) are likely to miss out.
Eaton said: “I’ve had a quick look at their game from last week and they’re a much improved team from the one we beat.
“They’ve had time to settle in, gel and Dave Woods is quickly moulding the team together. It’s going to be a tricky game for us.”
LEIGH CENTURIONS v LONDON SKOLARS
Leigh Centurions are in determined mood following their 22-14 defeat at Celtic Crusaders last week.
Paul Rowley, Leigh’s assistant coach, said: “We set our own standards very high and we are not up to where we want to be at the moment.
“I’ve watched a few tapes on London and they’ve strengthened since we last played them early in this Northern Rail Cup competition. (But) yet again we expect a win and we will accept nothing less.”
Skolars’ coach Latham Tawhai is hoping to welcome Rubert Jonker into the squad for the first time in 2007.
Tawhai said: “Leigh have got to win to guarantee getting through to the next round. A win will be important for them and we’ll still go into the game working on lots of little goals.
“We’re still introducing different players to the squad. We’ve had new players every game so far this season.
“The door is still open for a lot of players in a lot of positions so if they put their hands up, they can earn their place in this side.
“Every single one of the players is ready to put in a much better display on Sunday.”
SWINTON LIONS v OLDHAM
Paul Kidd is expecting to be without Marlon Billy for Sunday’s clash with Oldham as he struggles to overcome a hamstring strain.
Bruce Johnson (dislocated thumb) is also very doubtful as the Lions look to finish their Group Four campaign of the Northern Rail Cup with a flourish.
Oldham boss Steve Deakin is hoping for an improved attacking display from his troops.
The Roughyeds lost 32-8 against Dewsbury last week and Deakin admitted: ”We lacked a spark.
“Confidence certainly isn’t low, but when you are down to the bare bones in selection intensity tends to drop a little.”
Back-row forward Ian Hodson could make his first appearance for Oldham but Kris Smith (knee), Craig Littler (shoulder), Geno Costin ( - Read More, Here