This weekend’s League One previews

Saturday July 11

York City Knights v University of Gloucestershire All Golds (6.00)

York City Knights coachJames Ford said: “I was disappointed with the end result last week but credit to Oldham, they’re a good team, they stuck to their plans and pulled away from us in the last 10 minutes. We’ll learn from that, we’re a young team, we made some uncharacteristic errors at the back end of the game and put ourselves under pressure but we’re all willing to learn, myself included. Hopefully we’ll get another crack at Oldham later on in the season.

“I watched Gloucester against Oldham and they were very competitive in just about every aspect. Lee Greenwood’s obviously doing a real good job down there. There’s plenty of distance travelled on how they’ve improved over the season and they’ll fancy their chances, so we need to make sure we’re really well prepared and ready for a tough game. They’re a big team and they’re going to come up and try and build some momentum so we need to be on the money.”

Centre Greg Minikin is a doubt with a hamstring problem

Reflecting on last week’s win at South Wales Scorpions, University of Gloucestershire All Golds coach Lee Greenwood said: “In patches we were good. We ran in three tries straightaway but missed all the kicks which kept them in the game and as soon as they scored it was tight. In a 15-minute spell of either half we did the damage really. It was pretty comfortable in the end for us.

“It’s back to being underdogs again this week at York, the odds are stacked against us. They’ve changed the kick off from Sunday at 3 o’clock to 6 o’clock on Saturday at Heworth. The Sunday away games are easier for us because we can go up on Saturday and stay over but now we’re just going to go up on the day, which isn’t ideal.

”It’s a hell of a long day for those guys who are travelling but York are having their problems so there’s no point in adding to them.

“We were massive underdogs anyway but will go up and give it our best.”

Graham O’Keefe is a doubt with a dislocated finger while loose forward Chris Vitalini has a calf strain however prop Izaak Duffy comes back into the reckoning.

Barrow Raiders v London Skolars (6.30)

Barrow Raiders lost 30-20 at Swinton Lions last week but coach Paul Crarey felt it was a game they should have won. “I think we gave it away,” he said. “We were in total control with 14 minutes to go, then Peter Lupton was sinbinned. A lot of unforced errors then cost us the game. Tommy Gallagher crashed over for two close range tries when we were down to 12 men, so that was it.

“We’ve got to pick ourselves up this week against London, who had a good win last week. It’s tough with the distance they have to travel, so we’re hoping to catch them cold.

“We started well at Swinton and finished poorly. What we’re looking for is consistency and an 80-minute performance. We’ve got to be focused when London come because we need to win these sort of games to stay in touch with the top teams.

“It was tough when we played them down there for 60 minutes before the deadlock was broken, so we’re expecting a tough game. They are a team that fight, so we’ve got to be on the ball.”

Wing Cameron Pitman is struggling with a groin injury and centre Andy Litherland is likely to be out with a head injury, however second row Adam Nicholson should be back while stand-off Bradley Marwood and wing Kyle Dolan are both available.

London Skolars got back to winning ways with a victory over local rivals Hemel Stags last week. Coach Jermaine Coleman said: “I was pleased with the result. There were elements of our performance that were really good. Ultimately, there are still flaws within our game and our systems that cost us in other games but didn’t at the weekend.

“It’s a long trip up to Barrow this weekend but it’s an opportunity for people to spend a bit of time together. It’s probably not the nicest way to do it but it is what it is and we all know what we’re buying into when we start.

“It’s something we’re looking forward to and for us as a group of people at the moment it’s all about being consistent. We need to take Sunday’s performance into this week and see where that gets us.”

Sunday July 12

North Wales Crusaders v South Wales Scorpions (2.30)

North Wales Crusaders had a convincing win at Coventry Bears. Coach Anthony Murray said: “It’s always nice to get a few points on the board and not concede too many. No disrespect to Coventry, but if I’m honest the game lacked a little bit of intensity compared to the previous week against Keighley, but we got out of it what we wanted.

“We’ve got the Welsh derby this week and South Wales seem to be competing of late. They beat London, which was a real good result especially away from home, it’s not an easy place to go. They were unlucky against Gloucester, who are no pushovers.

“We’re anticipating a real tough game. Anything can happen in a derby so we’ll be taking them very seriously but we’re hoping to get the two points to continue our push up the table.”

South Wales Scorpions coach Mike Grady said: “It was like a typical feisty derby last week against the All Golds and our young side stood up really well but the All Golds just had that extra experience that gave them the edge.

“We’re looking forward to North Wales this week. They will be looking for a win to keep in touch with the top sides. There’s no pressure on us, we will just go at there and have a go, enjoy it and give a good account of ourselves

Forward Neil Dallimore and full-back Jonny Leather are injured and there’s a doubt over half-back Paul Emanuelli.

Props Mike Connor and Osian Phillips are back in contention and the Scorpions have also agreed to take forward Nathan Rainer on loan from the All Golds.

Coventry Bears v Keighley Cougars (3.00)

Coventry Bears coach Tom Tsang said: “It was a bit of a frustrating game last week. We are definitely improving and the performances we’re putting in have improved from the start of the season but it’s not being reflected in the results at the moment.

“Without a doubt we’re competing for longer in games and we’re giving ourselves opportunities. In the North Wales game we probably had the same amount of good field position and opportunities to score but the difference was we just lacked that cutting edge and weren’t clinical in the final third of the field whereas they were. They took every opportunity that came their way.

“We give ourselves chances but at times aren’t really sharp enough to make the most of them. In terms of overall team performance we’re definitely pushing on each week but we just need to make sure the individual errors don’t cost us too much in defence.

“When we went up to Keighley it was under different circumstances so it will be good to play them with the result in mind. They’re a tough team and are at the top of the league and deservedly so. I think the main thing for us is to stay positive and keep searching for those improvements week by week and doing the best we can.”

Keighley Cougars had a 44-14 win over Oxford last week. Coach Paul March said: “I didn’t think we showed them any respect at the start of the game and against sides like that you have to respect them and get into the game. That’s something we need to learn but I thought in the second half we put in a professional performance, especially in the conditions.

“It’s another tough one this week. They were part of the emotional day when we played our first game without Danny (Jones). That was a tough game to play in and they played their part and I’m sure they’ll play their part in this game as well so I’m expecting it to be tough. We need to go down there and do a professional job. If we do that then hopefully there’ll be only one outcome.”

Newcastle Thunder v Hemel Stags (3.00)

Stanley Gene, the Newcastle Thunder coach, was very disappointed with his side’s 32-28 defeat at home to Rochdale Hornets. “It was the same as the week before,” he said. “We came so close but haven’t got the points. When you compete against teams like that you’re in an arm wrestle and you have to take your chances.

“We’ve got to blame ourselves, we’re giving away too many penalties and most of them were around initial contact. We miss that first contact and then struggle to control the ruck.

“But as I’ve said to the boys, playing teams like Barrow and Rochdale, they’ve been in the top division for a while, so they’re used to it.

“I think the next few weeks will tell us where we are, we’ve got Hemel this week then Keighley and York away. It’s a tough challenge for us.”

Hemel Stags coach Troy Perkins said: “I don’t think we performed as well as we would have hoped last week. We were put under a lot of pressure in the first half, however in the second half we conceded a couple of soft tries that took the game beyond reach.

“At 12-6 down we had a couple of chances to draw level and make the last 15 minutes pretty interesting but we just made a couple of errors down on their line and didn’t put them under enough pressure.

“Skolars probably put out the best team they have all season and are a decent side when they’re on their game and were a bit too good for us.

Looking ahead to this week he said: “Newcastle are a really good team. We played them down at our place earlier in the season and they beat us convincingly. They’ve got some smart players in the halves and threats out wide as well as a big pack.

“We’re going to have to handle that ruck area, which is something we haven’t been doing too well, so we’ve got to really step up to the mark. We’ve lost a lot of size and go forward through injury from the start of the season so we’re pretty lightweight up front but we’ve just got to front up, be tough in that middle and try and match these bigger packs.”

The Stags have signed England student prop Matt Ross in addition to Jamie Crowther on loan from University of Gloucestershire All Golds.

Oldham v Rochdale Hornets (3.00)

Oldham coach Scott Naylor was very happy with his side’s win over York City Knights which kept them at the top of the table. “It was an important game and apart from maybe a blip, I thought we played really well,” he said. “It was a good mature performance, they are a tough side who are fit, very well organised and obviously well coached. We had to play really well to win and we did, which was pleasing. I don’t think York will lose many games from now until the end of the season.

“It’s the big derby this week and form and everything else goes out of the window. It’s the bounce of the ball and who wants it most. It usually comes down to a few key decisions or a few things that happen in the game that decide the outcome. Hopefully it will be our day.

“It’s an important game in the context of the leaguek. We want to stay where we are and will keep Rochdale behind us if we win, so there’s a bit more riding on it than just a derby match on Sunday.”

Rochdale Hornets coach Ian Talbot said: “We called for an improved performance after the Hemel game and we got it. Although we beat Hemel it wasn’t a good performance so it was very pleasing to go up to Newcastle and come away with two points. We had to hang on at the end when they put us under all kinds of pressure. It was pretty similar to the game at Spotland earlier in the season when they came away with a last minute win. But this time we managed to hang on.

“Oldham v Rochdale is a massive derby no matter what tier of the professional game it is. There’s still that intensity, local rivalry and bragging rights up for grabs. They are a quality team who are sitting at the top of the competition at the moment but we’ll be going there hopefully to peg back a couple of points and get a little bit closer to the summit ourselves.”

Prop John Cookson will be out for a while with a broken arm

Oxford v Swinton Lions (3.00)

Oxford coach Tim Rumford was able to take some positives out of his side’s 44-14 defeat at Keighley Cougars. “For the majority of the game at Keighley I was pleased with our effort and intent,” he said. “The first half was really, really good, we applied a lot of pressure and disrupted them but the 15/2 penalty count against us didn’t help.

“We were busted in the last 20/25 minutes against a quality team but we showed character. There were a lot of players in there who hadn’t played a lot of Rugby League. We’re confident we can get a lot closer to some of these Northern teams before the end of the season.

“This week we’re at home to Swinton, who are a great side. I watched them a couple of weeks ago against York. They’ve got big, strong back rowers and centres and like to get the ball out to the edge. We’re going to have to be really on our mettle to compete but there were some positives to come out of the Keighley game that we can take into the game.

“The game is being played at Hemel because our pitch is being re-seeded. We won there earlier in the season, so it might be a good omen.”

Swinton coach John Duffy said: “Obviously it was a much-need win last week and a good performance from the players. Barrow have been playing well the last few weeks and they didn’t surprise us, they came at us hard so it was a real good result for us.

“Oxford will be tough. It’s another long journey for us. We’ll have to prepare well for the game. They’ve had some decent results this season so far so we’ll have to go down there with a good attitude to get a win.”


Full reports of all this weekend’s League One matches will feature in Monday’s edition of League Express, the digital edition of which can be downloaded from the website.