HARTLEPOOL Rovers face another crucial league test tomorrow when they take on old rivals Durham City at the Friarage (kick-off 2.15pm).
Rovers, in fourth place in the table, are just four points off the play-off spot in Durham Northumberland One.
Four points (or five) tomorrow would keep them in touch with Consett, but a defeat could easily see them slip to mid-table such is the competitiveness of the league.
Only six points separate Guisborough in third with Novos in ninth and with Rovers facing matches against Darlington (A) and Consett (H) in the coming weeks, tomorrow’s outcome could be vital.
Coaches Graham Puckrin and Carl Robinson do not want to see their team make a backward step.
“It’s a pretty tight league,” Puckrin told SportMail.
“We’re pretty happy with the position we’re in at the moment, but we have a run of three very hard games over the next three Saturdays.
“If we’re where we are now after Durham City, Darlo and Consett I’ll be over the moon.
“But it’s got to be one game at a time and we only have City in our thoughts.
“It is always a hard match against City, they have had a pretty good start to the season and scored a lot of points against Consett and Guisborough.
“I’m happy with the way our lads are playing and their attitude.
“We went a few points behind at Gateshead but the players rolled up their sleeves and got stuck in and got a deserved in.
“I’m hoping to do the same tomorrow and come away with the points.”
Rovers and City have remarkably similar records this season, the Friaragemen having the edge with one more victory.
Durham though seem to be hitting their best form, scoring 131 points in their last three outings, the only set-back being a remarkable 49-46 Hollow Drift defeat to Consett.
Rovers have lost only once at West View Road to date - an agonisging 31-28 loss to leaders Morpeth – but their impressive home form allied to City’s dreadful record at the Friarage should provide them with encouragement tomorrow.
Rovers have not strayed too far from the side which won 27-25 at Gateshead.
Andrew Flounders, who missed the trip to Low Fell after getting married, returns at prop, with Glen Wise moving down to the bench. But Ben Little, who made an excellent first start of the season, is unavailable so his front row spot is taken by Michael Tucker who missed the win at Gateshead because of work commitments.
Dylan Langley is unavailable so Andrew Pinchen switches from the back row to lock, with Matty Wilson coming in.
He will team up with Lee Maddison and Callum Whitehead, who was outstanding in the victory at Eastwood Gardens.
The back division is unchanged which means James Evens, who landed the winning kick, must be content with a place on the bench.
Rovers: L Austwicke, D Grand, J Gunn, I Coulson (capt), A Smith, D Fawcett, S Barnfield, A Flounders, K Maguire, M Tucker, A Pinchen, D Baxter, C Whitehead, L Maddison, M Wilson. Subs: J Evens, G Wise, T Church.
l SEATON CAREW return to league action in Durham Northumberland Two hoping to put an end to their recent run of defeats.
They play host to Whitley Bay Rockcliff, who lie in sixth place, one point behind Seaton. Rockcliff achieved the double last season but both sides will be aware that the loser tomorrow could well slip into the bottom half.
On the selection front, the pack has been shuffled with both Steve and Simon Wilson starting in the second row. Peter Storey moves back to flanker in the absence of captain Kev Tumilty.
Stand-off James Lindsay is also unavailable but old stager Jeff Storey is able to step in.
The impressive centre pairing of Jon Taylor and Martin Lithgo make a welcome return.