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2018 Begins In Barrow – Barrow Preview

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Barrow Raiders v Keighley Cougars Match Preview by Joshua Chapman (@JRCSport)

Date: Sunday 14th January

Time: 2:00pm

Venue: J F Hornby Stadium, Barrow-In-Furness

The Cougars return to action after a 119 day wait! And they begin 2018 in the same fashion they finished 2017 back in September, with a trip to Cumbria to face familiar foes Barrow Radiers at the J F Hornby Stadium.


Barrow secured promotion to the Betfred Championship as they grinded out a 10-6 home victory over Whitehaven in the League One Play-Off Final. Shane Toal scored both of the Raiders tries on a tense afternoon at Craven Park played in difficult conditions to secure promotion, but the game did not go without controversy with Whitehaven feeling they had a try wrongly disallowed after Dion Aiye scored there only points off the afternoon.

The Cougars finished 2017 with a 32-18  defeat away at the Barrow Raiders that saw them miss out on a place in the play-offs. Neil Cherryholme marked his final game before retirement with a rare try with both Davey Dixon and Andy Gabriel also finding the line, but a spell of ill discipline in the second half saw Barrow cross for three quickfire tries to snuff out any hopes of a comeback and end Keighley’s season.


Barrow Head Coach Paul Crarey includes three of his four off-season recruits in Glenn Riley, Jono Smith and Alec Susino but will be without Dean Parata who only arrived in the UK from Australia ahead of this weekend, although Parata is expected to be in attendance at Craven Park. Crarey will also be without Captain Martin Aspinwall and winger Shane Toal who both miss out through minor injuries sustained in pre-season training.

Keighley Cougars Head Coach Craig Lingard has opted to leave Captain Josh Tonks and half-back pairing Matty Beharrell and Benn Hardcastle out of the side for tomorrow’s opening friendly with the trio expected to get their first runouts against Batley next weekend. Davey Dixon withdrew from the squad on Friday morning, with his place in the side taken by Reserves winger Calvin Barker. Matt Ross features in the first game of his trial period and is joined by 9 of Linners’ 13 off-season recruits.


Linners’ heads to Craven Park with a young side filled with new faces, one of which is second-row forward Liam Senior who joined the Cougars from Wakefield Trinity. Senior, who comes highly recommended from now Bradford Head Coach John Kear, find his first test in the shape of Barrow’s new signing from Rochdale Jono Smith who is considered one of the most powerful and dangerous in his position outside of the Super League. With both looking to lay down markers at their respective new clubs, it should be a physical and interesting tussle.


RAIDERS: Ashall; Bullock; Carter; Crellin; Cresswell; Dallimore; Duerden; Fieldhouse; Holmes; Hulme; Johnston; Litherland; Loxam; Mossop; Riley; Smith; Stack; Susino; D Toal; Walker; Wiper.

COUGARS: Aaronson; Bailey; Barker; Barnes; Emmett; Fairhurst; Gabriel; Gaylor; Hallas; Kenga; Leeming; Lumb; Lynam; Nicholson; O’Sullivan; Reed; Ross; Ryder; Senior; Wright.


Barrow Raiders Head Coach Paul Crarey: “I just want to come out of the pre-season games healthy. To me, it doesn’t matter about results this year.

“We were unbeaten in pre-season last year and did really well in the league, but it’s about giving everybody game-time and being ready for a tough start. Probably over the first few games in the Championship we will rotate and there is no pressure on us.

“We want to do really well (against London Broncos, Toronto Wolfpack and Leigh Centurions), but that’s not where we’re at. But you never know; our attitude has got to be right and people will support us if we compete.

“We don’t want to roll over and die, and give every game up, we want to fight and challenge in every game we play.”

Keighley Cougars Head Coach Craig Lingard: “The philosophy we brought in when I joined is that we’re not bothered about people’s ages.

“I wanted people who wanted to achieve something in the game, people who wanted to improve and people who wanted to get back into a higher league. I’m not particularly bothered whether you are 28 or 18 if you are good enough and have got the right attitude.

“I think people have seen that. Last year we had 16 players under the age of 24 in our first team.

“When people are getting released from Super League clubs at 19, 20 years old because they have not been offered a full-time deal, these players have got to look at where they going to get a chance.

“If we can identify that we have given ‘x’ amount of players their debut or their chance that are not at a particular age or have particular experience of Championship or League One, then it is a big tick in the box for us and I think that certainly helps.”


The man in the middle at the J F Hornby Stadium this Sunday afternoon is Bradley Milligan from Workington. A regular whistleblower on the amateur scene in the Rugby League hotbed of Cumbria, Sunday’s friendly between the Raiders and Cougars marks Milligan’s first game in charge in the semi-professional game.


With both sides in action for the first time in 2018 in what is expected to be tough conditions at Barrow, this game could be a close encounter. Craig Lingard will use this opening game of the season to blood in a number of his new signings with Paul Crarey looking to give all his side the maximum amount of gametime possible ahead of a tough opening to life in the Championship with London, Toronto and Leigh providing the Raiders first three opponents of 2018. Both teams have worked hard on contact and goalline defence in pre-season so the defences could decide who comes out on top in this one.

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