RUGBY PREVIEW: Percy Park v West Hartlepool

STARTING SPOT: Chris Atkins. Picture by TOM COLLINS
STARTING SPOT: Chris Atkins. Picture by TOM COLLINS
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IAIN Dixon is looking to see West Hartlepool extend their miserly defensive record when his side visit Percy Park tomorrow in North One East (kick-off 2.15pm).

West have conceded only four tries in the last 240 minutes of league rugby and that solidity will be vital tomorrow at Preston Avenue.

Percy Park, second in the table, just four points behind Sheffield, are looking for an instant return to National Three North following their relegation last season.

The North Shields outfit are in great form, boasting an undefeated home record and five wins in a row.

Dixon acknowledges the test facing his side but following their superb 15-5 win a fortnight ago at Pockington, who had boasted the best home record in North One East, the head coach knows his side’s ability to keep out the opposition could help them pull off another stunning success.

“We started the season quite loose defensively, which is not like us,” Dixon told SportMail.

“We have turned it around defensively and we need to maintain it.

“We have conceded only four times in three games.

“We need the sort of defensive performances we gave against Pocklington and the home games against Alnwick and Wheatley Hills.

“Tomorrow is going to be a very hard game. Percy Park are a good side and always well-drilled.

“They are not the biggest pack or the biggest set of lads but they want to play quite an open game and we are going to have to be on our mettle.”

West were left frustrated by last week’s agonising home defeat by Wheatley Hills and they will want a reaction tomorrow.

They allowed the Doncaster side into a 13-point lead, before finding their attacking rhythm to lead 15-13 thanks to five Zac Southern kicks, only to gift Hills a late winner with a penalty.

Dixon added: “You can’t give sides in this league a 13-point start and expect to pull it back.

“We were slow out of the blocks and were made to pay for that.

“The second half was more like the way we can play and we scored 15 unanswered points to take the lead.

“But then we contrived to give them a penalty when we had the ball.

“Overall though we were well below par and our decision-making was not the best.”

West’s coaches have made a surprising decision in selection, opting to start with top try scorer Sam Miller on the bench tomorrow.

Chris Atkins returns to the side and joins skipper Dan Boatman and Jordan Baggs in the back row. Jay Corbett comes into the second row while Andrew Foreman starts at centre with Scott Butcher back in his favoured position on the wing.

West: S Waites, S Butcher, A Foreman, P Youll, K Jamieson, Z Southern, R Painter, R Wood, A Rollins, A Coates, J Corbett, J Rafferty, D Boatman (capt), J Baggs, C Atkins. Subs: J Angus, S Miller, L Bailey

HORDEN have yet to finalise their squad for tomorrow’s basement clash in Halifax where they visit second-bottom side Old Crossleyans.