RUGBY PREVIEW: Horden v West Hartlepool

SWITCH: Chris Atkins
SWITCH: Chris Atkins

COACH Iain Dixon admits West Hartlepool can’t contemplate a derby defeat when they head to Horden in a critical North One East clash tomorrow (kick-off 2.15pm).

West urgently need to get back on track after slipping from seventh to ninth after successive defeats and are now just three points above the relegation zone.

Even if they suffered a shock defeat at their local rivals tomorrow, they are unlikely to drop into the bottom three.

But Dixon is desperate for the points to keep a gap with Bradford & Bingley and Driffield, who visit Brinkburn next week.

West will start as favourites tomorrow at Welfare Park though, if there were odds quoted for this fixture, they would have narrowed over the last seven days.

While West were losing in miserable fashion to Northern – the Newcastle side overtaking them in the standings thanks to a 9-3 win at Brinkburn – Horden were pushing Ilkley all the way in Yorkshire, going down 22-14 to the promotion contenders.

“I still don’t know how we got beaten last week,” Dixon told SportMail.

“But we need to pick ourselves up and we need to win.

“If we don’t then the pressure cranks up even more.

“We are going to have to be at our best to beat them.

“Horden will be massively up for this – they’ll be targeting this as their first win.

“They’ll look at our current form and look at their own and they’ll be going hell for leather for this.”

West are certainly going to have to up their game from last Saturday.

“Our set-pieces were really good last week, it was our game management that let us down,” said Dixon. “We need a sharper cutting edge, more snap to our play.”

Horden may be winless at the foot of the table and doomed to a return to Durham Northumberland One, but their tails are up and will be hoping to register their first victory.

Horden head coach Glenn Bowman says his players are relishing tomorrow’s local battle.

“The lads are looking forward to it,” he explained. “Its been a while since we’ve had a home game so it’ll be good to get back to the Welfare.

“With it being West will obviously add a bit of spice to things.

“We put in a good performance last week and there’s been a good buzz among the lads this week.

“If we can mirror that performance then we’ve got a chance of getting something from the game.

“But it won’t be easy, West are a good side and will want to bounce back after the loss last week.

“We’ve got to back ourselves – we’ve got to remember how we’ve played against the top sides in the league over the last few weeks and go out and do the same here.

“What have we got to lose?”

Horden are boosted by the return of scrum-half Taz Pelser, who has been one of their leading players this season.

He resumes at number nine with Luke Watson switching back to centre.

West make three changes to their side.There is a positional alteration in the backs with Stuart Waites switching from full-back to stand-off shirt with Zac Southern making the opposite journey.

Up front, Ian Pinchen returns at prop with Adam Coates stepping down to the bench. Liam Bailey is promoted back into the starting line-up and plays in the back row with Chris Atkins making the switch from flanker to second row.

Horden: R Brymer, C Oliver, J McCallum, L Watson, D Mason, C Jones, D Heckles, T Pelser, M Thompson, C Wood, J Hudson, G Malcolm, P Malcolm, P James, N Turton, C Brown, C Purvis, S Heckles.

West: Z Southern, L Mallinson, S Butcher, P Youll, K Jamieson, S Waites, R Painter, R Wood, A Rollins, I Pinchen, O Bennett, C Atkins, D Boatman (capt), L Bailey, S Miller. Subs: M Hogan, A Coates, C Johnston