RUGBY PREVIEW: Hartlepool Rovers v Morpeth

BARNEY'S BACK:Michael Barnfield
BARNEY'S BACK:Michael Barnfield

MICHAEL Barnfield will put a year of injury hell behind him when he pulls on the Hartlepool Rovers jersey tomorrow.

The stand-off replaces Daz Fawcett for the Durham Northumberland One clash with Morpeth at the Friarage (kick-off 3pm).

It will be his first start since the late defeat at Blyth last October.

When Barnfield produced a virtuoso display in the 2013 Durham Cup semi-final win over Stockton he looked the long-term figure for the key number 10 role.

But he missed the final with a broken hand and after five games at the start of last season, the vice-captain he was ruled out with a hernia.

The 26-year-old returned last week as a sub at Medicals and has been brought in tomorrow at half-back where he is partnered by brother Steven.

Joint coach Carl Robinson told SportMail: “It’s great to have Barney back.

“He’s been out for a while with a hernia, but he’s got himself fit.

“Barney made a big impact last week when he came on at Medicals.

“He’s comfortable on the ball and he brings his team-mates into play well.

“It is no disrespect to Daz, who has done well for us but after the way he performed last week, Barney has played his way into the team.”

The return of Barnfield is the only alteration in the back division while there are three changes in the forwards.

Andrew Flounders, unavailable last week, resumes in the front row with Glen Wise stepping down to be part of a very strong bench with John Padgett and Liam Austwicke.

In the second row, Anth Hanley is out with sore ribs but Rovers are able to bring back fit-again Dylan Langley.

Kevin McGuire also resumes and he comes in for Matty Wilson in the back row.

It is a big match for Rovers tomorrow – victory will put Rovers among the sides challenging at the top but a defeat would consign them to mid-table, which would be something of a disappointment given they won the opening two matches.

Morpeth have started the season like a house on fire, winning three off the belt as they look for an immediate return to North One East.

The Rovers record against the Northumberland side is a good one and Robinson and fellow coach Graham Puckrin would love to see their players maintain that tomorrow.

“As I’ve said before, with our lads a lot of it comes down to what’s in their heads,” Robinson said.

”Last week, we started well and I think we expected them to buckle.

“Medicals didn’t and neither will Morpeth. They have won three out of three and are a good all-round team.

“But we can beat anyone at our ground if we put it together as we showed against Guisborough.”

Rovers: C Sainty, D Grand, J Gunn, I Coulson (capt), A Smith, M Barnfield, S Barnfield, A Flounders, J Cushlow, M Tucker, D Baxter, D Langley, K McGuire, L Maddison, M Foster. Subs: G Wise, J Padgett, L Austwicke