RUGBY PREVIEW: Stockton v Hartlepool Rovers

CHURCH SERVICE: Tyrone Church leads the Hartlepool Rovers v Ryton. Picture by Tom Collins.
CHURCH SERVICE: Tyrone Church leads the Hartlepool Rovers v Ryton. Picture by Tom Collins.
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COACH Graham Puckrin is looking to see Hartlepool Rovers display a composed outlook in tomorrow’s derby at Stockton.

Rovers are moving along nicely in the promotion pack in Durham Northumberland One after back-to-back victories over Novos and Ryton .

Puckrin and Carl Robinson’s side are fourth in the table – one of five in-form teams within a point of each other.

Morpeth seem strong title favourites – they have taken maximum points so far after six weeks of the programme.

But the play-off spot looks up for grabs and Rovers are one of the contenders.

Tomorrow, they visit the side just one point and one place below them in the table in what is a key fixture.

Puckrin wants to see Rovers maintain their attacking approach at Norton while showing a greater degree of patience (kick-off 3pm).

“We’re not doing too badly,” he told SportMail.

“We’ve had some decent results and I’m a bit disappointed we didn’t beat Morpeth, but we got a couple of points from that game.

“Since losing to them, we’ve won comfortably over the last two weeks. But we’ve missed chances in both matches.

“We’re pleased with the lads, we keep coming on strong in the second half which shows the fitness is good.

“We’re learning and improving but we’re still tending to panic when we don’t need to be.

“We have snatched at chances when if we had stayed composed we would have got over the line.

“Patience is important – we don’t have to score with our first attempt.

“Lapses of concentration have cost us at the other end and we’ve let in some soft tries, so that’s another area we need to be good at.”

Rovers will certainly need to be on their mettle tomorrow.

Stockton are a team transformed. The Station Road outfit finished fourth bottom last time around when they registered only five bonus points all season.

One of those came against Rovers after a 26-22 home defeat to the Friaragemen.

Stockton have picked up four bonus points already, winning four times in the first six weeks of the campaign.

They have defeated Darlington and Durham City and Puckrin says they have respect for their hosts.

“Both clubs always treat it as a big derby,” he said “Stockton are always hard to beat through there and I’ve told the lads they will be right up for it. No one runs away with matches between the sides so it will be close.

“I’m confident we are good enough to win if we play like we have the last two weeks, but we have to perform.”

Rovers are minus two of their key players with Chris Sainty and Kevin Maguire both unavailable.

The backs are re-jigged slightly with Liam Austwicke switching to full-back from centre with Jack Gunn returning to the midfield spot alongside skipper Ian Coulson. David Grand, a sub last week, moves up from the bench to the wing.

Up front, Jon Cushlow comes in at hooker for Maguire who was outstanding in the win over Ryton.

Rovers: L Austwicke, D Grand, J Gunn, I Coulson (capt), A Smith, M Barnfield, S Barnfield, A Flounders, J Cushlow, M Tucker, D Baxter, D Langley, T Church, L Maddison, M Foster. Subs: D Fawcett, G Wise, M Wilson