HARTLEPOOL Rovers face bogey team Carlisle tomorrow desperate not to take a step backwards in more ways than one.
There is likely to be mixed emotions for the Friaragemen tomorrow on their way acoss the A69 to Cumbria.
They will go there with optimism after their dramatic 14-12 win over promotion-chasing Cleckheaton last weekend.
But Rovers also travel in the knowledge that they are heading to one of their graveyards.
Rovers have a dreadful record against the Cumbrians - losing four of their five league meetings between the clubs.
And they have saved two of the team’s worst away displays since the Millennium for journeys to Warwick Road, losing 55-11 in 2007 and 36-12 in 2009.
Rovers have allowed Carlisle to play as they please on both visits and tomorrow must repeat the magnificent effort against Cleckheaton.
Alan Brown’s team began 2011 with an encouraging display against leaders West before losing 22-8, but they let themselves down seven days later by collapsing to a 50-10 mauling at Wheatley Hills.
How they responded last Saturday against Cleckheaton, with a real blood and guts defensive battle before snatching a vital four points with the last kick of the game when Chris Sainty kicked a sensational drop goal.
Club captain Mark Power said: “Every time we’ve been to Carlisle, it’s been a bad afternoon for us.
“I think it’s a psychological thing with Carlisle, but we’ve got to get it out of our system.
“If we play like we did against Cleckheaton then we’ve got a chance.
“We know the situation we are in, but the lads are giving 100 per cent and everyone has pulled together.
“I think the spirit has always been good but as Alan said in the Mail the other night, all the lads who are here really want to play for Rovers and give everything for the team.”
Power was a spectator on Saturday and put his recovery from back surgery to the test by “jumping around like mad” when Sainty dropped the match-winning goal.
“It was a fantastic way to win,” said the 30-year-old.
“Yes, we had a bit of lady luck at the end, but there has been a couple of times this season when the luck has gone against us.
“I think the lads deserved it for the way they got stuck in and never gave up.
“Now we need to play with the same spirit and attitude tomorrow.
“Carlisle are a good side but we need to stand up to them and give them nothing, just like we did last Saturday against Cleckheaton.”
Rovers face a mid-table team who simply can’t wait to play in front of their own supporters again.
Carlisle have not played on Warwick Road since beating Old Brodleians 26-18 on November 13.
Their last two fixtures have been in Yorkshire. They lost at Old Crossleyans in their first outing of 2011 but did Rovers a favour by winning 26-25 at Driffield last time out.
Carlisle have a mixed home record, winning three of their six matches on their own territory, so there is some encouragement for Rovers.
The Friaragemen have been lifted by the comeback of a couple of “old stagers” like Brian Foreman and Simon Hall, while there were happy returns to the side from James Masshedar and Darren Smith.
Foreman has formed a good midfield pairing with Ian Coulson, even if neither would consider themselves first and foremost as centres.
“Brian has brought a real spark to the side,” said Power. “Him and Frankie [Coulson] have come together well and given us a lot of stability.”
James Masshedar (work) and Stephen Jones (injured) are ruled out in the back division.
Liam Austwicke returns after England Colleges trials at Warwick University to play full-back while Thomas King, a second-half sub for Jones against Cleckheaton, stays on the left wing.
Up front, there is one change. Brown is ruled out so Andrew Pinchen starts in the second row alongside Darren Smith.
Rovers: L Austwicke, A Lilley, I Coulson, B Foreman, T King, C Sainty, A Arnell, S Smith, D Gregory, I Pinchen, D Smith, A Pinchen, S Hall, S Grazier, A Dring. Subs: M Tucker, A Smith, C Atkins