RUGBY PREVIEW: West Hartlepool v Horden

BACK: Winger Scott Butcher
BACK: Winger Scott Butcher

IAIN Dixon is braced for a fierce derby battle tomorrow when West Hartlepool host Horden in North One East clash which is vital to both clubs.

West have home advantage for what the head coach describes as a “cup final” (kick-off 3pm).

And how West need every advantage they can get at the moment.

After a good start to the season, three wins from five matches, West have not picked up a single point from their last two outings.

Defeats to Ilkley and Northern have seen West drop to ninth and one place above the bottom three.

It is too early to be reaching for any panic buttons but they need to get back to form at Brinkburn.

Not that they will be receiving any favours from their neighbours.

Horden have lost all five fixtures and do not have a single point to their name.

They will view tomorrow’s trip down the Coast Road as a chance to change all that.

Four of their next seven matches are against clubs at the bottom end of the table and if they are to turn around their season they must do it over this period.

Dixon is well aware that points and pride are of equal importance at Catcote Road tomorrow.

“A derby against Horden is like a cup final – for both clubs,” Dixon told SportMail.

“I wouldn’t read anything into the league table at all where this match is concerned. I’m expecting quite a feisty encounter.

“Horden will be targeting this as a win and I’m expecting a close game.

“I’m not sure the league truly reflects how good Horden really are.

“They are a good, physical side but they have been badly hit by injuries.

“It is going to be a close game and we’re going to have to be at our best.”

West are minus two of their integral figures tomorrow. Top scorer Stuart Waites is out after suffering a shoulder injury at Northern. But Liam Bailey, who started on the bench last week, returns to the starting XV where he resumes his midfield pairing with Peter Youll.

Andrew Foreman moves down to the bench. Scott Butcher, who was unavailable for the trip to Newcastle, is back on the wing in place of Matty Tyers.

In the forwards, Dan Boatman serves a one-game ban after being sent off for two yellow cards at McCracken Park which means Chris Atkins returns to the starting eight. Ex-Horden star Owen Bennett skippers the side.

West: L Mallinson, K Jameson, P Youll, L Bailey, S Butcher, Z Southern, R Painter, I Pinchen, A Rollins, A Coates, J Rafferty, O Bennett (capt), A Barker, C Atkins, S Miller. Subs: A Foreman, J Baggs, R Wood

Horden (from): D Heckles, R Brymer, A White, A Docherty, L Watson, C Oliver, A Turner, T Pelser, M Thompson, G Malcolm, J Yates, J Hudson, P Armstrong, R Walsh, S Heckles, C Gilmour, P James (capt), AN Other