RUGBY PREVIEW: Gosforth v Hartlepool Rovers

ROVERS RETURN: Stewart Grazier
ROVERS RETURN: Stewart Grazier

HARTLEPOOL Rovers aim to show they can be contenders rather than pretenders by winning at Gosforth in Durham Northumberland One tomorrow (kick-off 2.15pm).

Rovers are in a rich vein of form, despite something of an injury and unavailability crisis at West View Road,

The Friaragemen have bounced back from a home giveaway against Durham City four Saturdays ago by reeling off three wins including two on the road.

In fact, Graham Puckrin and Carl Robinson’s team have picked up 14 points out of a possible 15 and are currently just three points off the play-off spot.

A victory at Bullocksteads tomorrow would guarantee them at least third place going into the mid-season league break.

“I couldn’t be happier with the lads,” Robinson told SportMail. “It would be great if we could finish the year with another win.

“Me and Puck were talking after the Blyth game last week about how we’d won nine out of 13 but it could have been even more.

“Momentum is so important so it would be fabulous if we could make it four wins on the bounce and take us into the new year in third.

“Last week was an awful game – neither side ever got going – but we still came away with the points.

“But before then, we were scoring tries for fun. That’s the standard the lads have set.

“I’m not sure anyone in this league is as fit as us, but instead of seeing us finishing games at the pace we have been, I want to see us start at that pace and maintain it.”

Tomorrow though will be a test of character as well as skill. Rovers struggled to beat Gosforth at the start of the season and Robinson expects a “hard game”.

He said: “Gosforth don’t play on their artificial pitch any more so it’s going to be boggy up there.

“Our forwards though are doing well and hopefully they will do so again tomorrow and supply good possession to our backs and we can move the ball about.

“Tomorrow is a massive game. If the lads believe and play as they can then we are capable of getting the win.”

Rovers have been strengthened by the inclusion of David Grand to the backline while Dylan Langley resumes in the pack.

Glen Wise is unavailable so Ben Little switches from second row to prop.

Rovers have been boosted by the return of ball-handling number eight Stewart Grazier who could be a key figure coming off the bench.

Rovers: AN Other, D Grand, J Gunn, M Barnfield, A Smith, D Fawcett, S Barnfield, A Flounders, K Maguire, B Little, D Langley, D Baxter, T Church, L Maddison, M Wilson. Subs: I Flounders, S Grazier, J Fleet