By Stephen Ibbetson
BATLEY BULLDOGS are looking ahead to the race for Wembley as they prepare to make their bow in the 1895 Cup this weekend. The new knockout competition has been launched this season to give clubs outside of Super League a more realistic chance of silverware, and sides in the second round are already just three wins away from the final at the national stadium.
Batley begin their challenge with a tie against Rochdale, the bottom side in the Championship table, at the Fox’s Biscuits Stadium on Sunday (kick-off 3pm). Following last weekend’s win over Halifax, the Bulldogs are six points off the play-off places and eight clear of relegation.
Coach Matt Diskin doesn’t believe that their position, outside of a relegation battle or serious play-off push, puts them in a better place to mount a cup challenge, but says his side will take the competition “very seriously”. He said: “We’ve got an opportunity to get to Wembley and that’s how we’re seeing it so for us it’s very important. We’ve got Rochdale and I know they had a big loss (last week at Barrow) but they’ll come up and fancy themselves, and the cup competition throws form out of the window.
“We’ve got three games for a chance at Wembley, so it’s Rochdale this week and then with the luck of the draw, you never know."
Batley have been doing it tough on the injury front in recent weeks but Diskin hopes to have several players back in action soon, with winger Wayne Reittie (groin) and props Tom Lillycrop (calf) and Tyler Dickinson (thumb) nearing returns.
“Tyler Dickinson should be joining full training this week so he’ll be available in a couple of weeks’ time,” said the Bulldogs boss. “Wayne Reittie’s a couple of weeks off, Tom Lillycrop’s not far off, so we are getting numbers back."
There was also bout of illness in the Batley camp ahead of the Halifax clash, which affected a number of players and resulted in the absences of Sam Smeaton and Paul Brearley.
“A few players probably shouldn’t have played today as well, which makes the win even more impressive,” added Diskin. After a second consecutive victory, following on from the derby win over Dewsbury at the Summer Bash, the coach wants to see his side hit the heights on a more regular basis.
“We’ve got a very good team here and we’ve just not hit the form that need to with a level of inconsistency,” he said. “You look at two or three results where we could have picked up points, and we’re sat in a different position. We’re not far off, we just lack consistency and concentration.”