A LACK OF defined targets this season is helping Batley Bulldogs maintain their push for a place in the top four of the Championship, according to head coach John Kear.
The Bulldogs have won their last four outings to climb back up to third in rugby league’s second tier, ahead of their short trip south to face the under-performing Sheffield Eagles at Hallam Sports Park tonight (Friday June 10, 7.45pm).
“It’s a big credit to the players that we are where we are at the moment,” said Kear.
“The lads have done the business on the field, but together we have prepared very well for games and I think it is that preparation that has helped us to perform.
“Other teams have set targets to achieve but I think they can have a negative impact on the players sometimes.
“In my experience targets can either restrict teams or even shatter confidence.”
And Kear knows of the threats that Sheffield will pose in tonight’s encounter. Mark Aston’s inconsistent full-timers have lost 11 games already this term but on their day have proven to be a match for anyone.
Their biggest win of the campaign came away at Bradford in April when they ran out 46-28 victors.
“I think Sheffield were expected to be where we are at the start of the season after going full-time,” explained Kear. “For some reason it’s not quite happened for them but when they put a performance together they can be formidable.
“They put Bradford to the sword at Odsal earlier in the season and we’ve to make sure we prepare well to make sure they don’t do the same to us.”
And one area where Batley could be dangerous is from the bench.
James Brown has been influential as a substitute in his side’s victories over Dewsbury and Oldham, earning the man of the match award in last weekend’s win at Mount Pleasant.
Kear said: “It’s a 17-man game now, you need to utilise all your players if you are going to succeed.
“James has been brilliant from the bench and he’s done everything I’ve asked of him. So too has Pat (Walker) and the players know as long as you’re in the 17 you have a very important role to play.”
Batley will take to the field tonight without Danny Cowling, who will miss the remainder of the season following knee surgery. But the centre has signed a contract extension that keeps him at the club until the end of the 2017 campaign.
Elsewhere, Brad Day will make his return having been sidelined with a broken thumb and Cain Southernwood has passed a late fitness test on his ankle to be involved.