BATLEY coach Craig Lingard considers this weekend’s clash with Sheffield Eagles as another key game that they can pick up points in.
The Bulldogs were beaten three times by Sheffield last season but the South Yorkshire side are bottom of the Championship table having lost their opening three games.
Victory over Swinton two weeks ago gave Lingard’s team their first points of the season and, ahead of a return to the Fox’s Biscuits Stadium following last week’s Challenge Cup exit at Leigh, the Batley boss believes that both sides will have marked Sunday’s (kick-off 3pm) game down as a key target to win.
He said: “Our home form is going to be massive for us this year, particularly against the teams that you’re expected to be in and around at the end of the season and I’d expect Sheffield to be one of those teams.
“They’ve had a bit of an indifferent start and lost the first three games, but they beat Halifax at the weekend (in the Challenge Cup) so they’ll be coming full of confidence.
“I imagine (Eagles coach) Mark Aston will have identified this as a really important game for them to get two points off us, so it’s going to be a tough game.
“I imagine the weather conditions and pitch conditions are going to be pretty similar to the Swinton game last week, so hopefully we can give them the blueprint from that game and carry it out against Sheffield as well. As important as Swinton was, this game is important as well.”
Back-rower Shaun Pick is likely to be ruled out of the game as he continues to wait for further clarity on the extent of his neck problem.
Winger Johnny Campbell is also a doubt after bashing his leg against a pole on the sidelines at Leigh, while prop Joe Taira came off with concussion in last Friday’s game and will need to pass the return-to-play protocols.
Lingard made five changes to his team for their fourth-round Challenge Cup exit, with Lucas Walshaw, James Brown, Dale Morton and Anthony Bowman all carrying minor niggles which will clear this week.
Tom Lillycrop made his first appearance since re-signing for the Bulldogs, and Lingard says the front-row forward is in contention for a 100th appearance for the club this weekend.
“He’s definitely in my thoughts,” said the coach. “Whether I give him another week or two training or try and get him a game with Leeds, I don’t know, but I’ve got no concerns regarding his fitness.”
Batley’s dual-reg partners have no reserve game this weekend so Tyler Dickinson may have to wait a bit longer to get the game with the Rhinos that he needs before making his comeback.
“He’s missed several weeks so I don’t think he’ll be with everyone else fitness-wise at this moment in time,” Lingard said of the prop.
However, Lillycrop’s return and the performance of on-loan Leeds man Tyler Dupree against the Centurions give them plenty of options in those positions.
Lingard said: “Tyler Dupree was one of the players who stood out for me in the middle of the park so we’ve got plenty of competition for places. It’s one area we’re not light on.”
Another player who did himself no harm in the Leigh defeat was George Senior, who played his first competitive game of the season at centre and has forced his way into Lingard’s thinking.
“Against a Leigh team who are top of the table, he didn’t look out of place, and he got his first try as well so we’re really pleased for him,” said Lingard.
“He’s showing a lot of potential and he’s definitely one for the long-term future, but he’s certainly put some questions marks in for me for the outside backs as we’ve got some people who are not quite where I’d want them to be at this moment in time.”
Meanwhile, back-rower Danny Bravo has been sent to League One side Doncaster on a season-long loan deal.