CONFIDENT: John Kear is backing his side to recover ahead of the Championship play-offs
JOHN KEAR admits speculation could be to blame for Batley’s recent run of poor form – but the Bulldogs chief is refusing to make excuses.
A host of the club’s big-name players are being linked with moves elsewhere come the end of the season, while a raft of new additions are rumoured to be joining.
Gareth Moore is understood to have penned a two-year deal with Championship rivals Featherstone and the half-back is expected to be followed by teammates George Flanagan, Keegan Hirst and Liam Walmsley.
Jason Walton and Greg Johnson are Super League-bound, having agreed deals with Salford City Reds, and there is exit talk surrounding Paul Mennell, Tom Hemingway and now Gareth Potts.
And a fifth-straight defeat suffered at the hands of Doncaster last time out did little to boost fans’ optimism ahead of this weekend’s visit of Workington Town (kick-off 2pm).
“Speculation is there, I won’t deny that, but it cannot be used as an excuse,” Kear told The Press.
“Things are happening which possibly are beginning to affect the squad, but it doesn’t justify poor performances.
“I would add that the overhaul in personnel which is likely to occur is something very much out of my hands. It is not something I wanted.
“The first half against Doncaster was by far our worst of the season and I was extremely disappointed with what was served up.
“More worryingly, not only did we play poorly, there were below-par levels of effort and application on show.
“There is no crisis, but we are out of form and that has been the case for a few weeks now.
“We were scratchy against Leigh in the Northern Rail Cup, better against Featherstone, but dreadful against Whitehaven and Doncaster.
“We are not the first team to have a major dip in this competition, Featherstone lost to Doncaster, and I would rather us have it at this stage than just before the play-offs.
“Workington are in extremely good form and we are going to have to improve dramatically.
“Sadly the majority are playing far from their best, getting ratings of two or three rather than the desired seven or eight.
“And we simply haven’t got the x-factor players capable of carrying out-of-form teammates.”
Kear has received a timely boost, however, as the Bulldogs aim to record their first league win since June 9, with news that utility forward Mark Applegarth has put himself back into contention – almost a month ahead of schedule.
The 28-year-old had been ruled out with serious knee injury, but contacted Kear to inform the ex-England boss he could be ready for Batley’s Cumbrian test.
Loose forward Ash Lindsay is also in line to return following a four-week stint on the sidelines.
“Mark phoned me straight after the game last Sunday, expressing his desire to make an early return.
“It says a lot about his character and the type of person he is, he said he wasn’t willing to let the season collapse after such a strong start.
“He is currently undergoing extra strength and conditioning in order to get the all-clear from our medical staff.
“If we could get him and Ash back for the weekend then it would make a massive difference.”
By Ryan Sparks