Hartlepool West chief sets clear targets as his side prepare for two crunch clashes
West Hartlepool are looking to develop a ruthless streak as they prepare to take on the league’s bottom two sides.
The Brinkburn side are currently in third place in Durham and Northumberland One just two points behind joint leaders Durham City and Northern.
But both sides have a much better points difference than West, and that could prove to be a factor when the final promotion and play-off place are decided in seven games’ time.
As well as securing a winning bonus point at second-bottom Ponteland this week - and at home to rock bottom Whitby on March 2 - West could do themselves a power of good by racking up big wins.
However, Director of Rugby Graeme Southern says the first task is to secure five points in each game.
Southern said: “The maths are simple – we have seven games left and if we win all of them we will at least finish in second place and probably in first.
“Our win against Stockton was an important one as they are virtually now out of the race and that leaves three of us fighting for two prizes.
“We know what we have to do. We have strengthened the squad with the return to the club of David Heckles and Luke Mallinson in the backs and the return to fitness of Michael Hogan in the forwards – we are in good shape and I’m sure Northern and Durham City will be looking over their shoulders.”
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West will also have to be wary of the proverbial banana skin and will be reminded that the first game against Ponteland back in October did not entirely go with form.
The Tynesider’s had only won one game when they arrived at Brinkburn, but put up a great fight only losing 29-22 in the closing stages.
That remains one of their better results having not won a single league game since then and West start overwhelming favourites despite having to rejig the squad.
Top try scorer Will Hilditch has an ankle injury from last week’s 19-3 win and fellow centre Peter Youll is away.
Fortunately, experienced centre Gavin Painter has made a full recovery from a knee injury and returns to the backs.
There’ll also be a change in the pack with second row Jake Linighan and back row Scott Butcher both unavailable.
West squad: Zac Southern, Adam Larkin, David Heckles Gavin Painter, Callum Johnston, Luke Mallinson, Stu Waites, Ryan Painter (captain), Adam Coates, Andrew Rollins, Danny Cookland, John Bunter, Michael Hogan, Chris Atkins, Isaac Robinson, Jay Corbett, Tim Blades, Max Tennant.