Championship 1 Final Weekend Preview

The destination of the Championship 1 league leaders’ shield is in Doncaster’s hands, but Barrow are ready to pounce if the Dons slip up at London Skolars.

 

Barrow Raiders v South Wales Scorpions (3.00pm)

Barrow Raiders coach Darren Holt has warned his squad that they are playing for their futures at the club following back-to-back defeats.

Barrow have lost against Workington Town and Rochdale Hornets in their last two games, forcing Holt to admit that contracts are now on the line.

He said: “These performances have got to have an effect on what contracts will be offered.”

Former Warrington forward Andy Bracek is expected to overcome a knee problem in time to face South Wales.

Scorpions are without four players – Nathan Mossop, Jason Howells, Luke Kell and Dom Crosby – through suspension, but Dalton Grant, Alun-Wyn Davies and Rhys Davies are all set to return to action.

Scorpions coach Dave Clark has warned his troops to be ready for a stern test on Sunday afternoon.

Clark said: “It’s Barrow’s last home game of the year and they’ll want to reward their loyal supporters who’ve followed them all season.

“They’re coming first or second, and they’ll be desperate to get the points against us to put some pressure on Doncaster.

“I’m not expecting anything other than a very, very hard game, and neither are our players.”

 

Gateshead Thunder v Oldham (3.00pm)

Relieved Gateshead coach Kevin Neighbour is aiming for two wins in four days after steering Thunder to their first three points of the season on Wednesday night.

The north-east side beat Workington Town 24-22, but Neighbour is hungry for more.

He said: “Can we get two wins? Why not? We’re at home and the last game of the season is always a special one.

“Some lads will be moving on, and they’ll be wanting to do their best, and the buzz around the lads will carry them through.

“We’ve got that attitude about us now that says ‘we don’t care who we’re playing, we’re going to give it to you and you’ll have to earn everything you get’.”

Shane Ackerley looks set to miss out, with Neighbour fearing he had broken two ribs against Workington Town, while Ryan McBride is also doubtful.

Oldham caretaker coach Martin Roden will check on Valu Bentley, who is struggling with a calf injury.

But Luke Stenchion (broken hand) and Dave Ellison (work commitments) look set to be certain absentees from the Roughyeds’ squad.

 

London Skolars v Doncaster (3.00pm)

London Skolars and Doncaster are both aiming to claim historic wins when they meet at New River Stadium on Sunday.

Skolars’ win against Whitehaven last week gives them a chance to make the Championship One play-offs for the first time in their history.

Doncaster are looking to win the league for the first time in their existence, and with both coaches reporting healthy squads, it should be a fascinating clash in the capital.

Skolars coach Joe Mbu said: “It’s a massive game for both sides, but with the prize money at stake for the league title, I’m sure there’s more pressure on Doncaster than ourselves.

“They’ll be favourites, but I’m sure they won’t be looking forward to coming down to New River.

“We’ve won three in a row here now and there were no injury worries from Friday night.”

The Dons pledged to abstain from alcohol last weekend as they look to lift the Championship One title.

Dons coach Tony Miller said: “We know that it’s a potential banana skin in London, and we want to give ourselves every opportunity to win.

“If we’re successful then we will have a drink together after the game, but then we will stop again ahead of the play-offs.

“We would have snapped your hand off to be in this position at the beginning of the year.”

Miller has been boosted by the return to fitness of winger Tom Hodson and Mick Butterfield, though is unsure whether either will feature at weekend.

Forward Craig Robinson is expected to be included after recovering from a shoulder injury. 

 

Whitehaven v North Wales Crusaders (3.00pm)

Whitehaven assistant coaches Lee Doran and Les Ashe look set to take charge of the club’s final regular Co-operative Championship game following the dismissal of Don Gailer.

Gailer was told he was no longer required earlier this week, following Whitehaven’s defeat at London Skolars on Friday night.

The club cited ‘issues in the relationship between coaching staff and the players’ as a reason behind their decision, and ‘Haven players will now be determined to produce a strong 80 minutes ahead of the start of the play-offs.

North Wales Crusaders coach Clive Griffiths will check on the fitness of Danny Hulme and Jono Smith before finalising his squad to travel north, although Christiaan Roets is expected to feature after recovering from a recent concussion.

Griffiths said: “Whitehaven will be fired up, just like I’d expect in a last home game of the season, but we’ll be fired up as well.

“We know it’s going to be tough, but we’ve got to believe – as Oldham, Rochdale and London Skolars did – that you can beat teams in higher league positions than you.

“The odds are massively against us making the play-offs, but where there’s life there’s hope. We want to finish the season on a high.”

 

Workington Town v Rochdale Hornets (3.00pm)

Workington Town will look to bounce back from their shock midweek defeat at Gateshead on Wednesday night when they face a severely under strength Rochdale Hornets.

Workington’s hopes of finishing top of Championship One were ruined when they were stunned by a Gateshead Thunder side that ended a run of 64 matches without a win against professional opposition.

Joint coaches Martin Oglanby and Gary Charlton will assess any injuries from that game and look for a response from their side against Rochdale.

Town will definitely be without suspended winger Elliot Miller, but they are able to welcome back second rower Brett Phillips, who has completed a one-match ban.

Rochdale expect to name a host of young debutants with their squad stretched to its limits.

Already without five players through suspension following the recent game with South Wales Scorpions, caretaker coach Chris Hough also has other members of his squad unavailable.

Hough himself, Phil Braddish, Dayne Donoghue, Gary Middlehurst and Steve Bannister are the players banned as Hornets bid to secure a play-off place.

Tony Stewart and Andy Taylor are away on pre-arranged holidays, Mark Hobson requires an operation on his eye, and Steve McDermott is out with a groin complaint that could also need surgery.

With Joe Fitzpatrick also unavailable due to personal reasons, Hornets are expected to field a host of youngsters at Derwent Park.

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