RUGBY PREVIEW: Hartlepool Rovers v Blyth

SWITCH: Liam Austwicke
SWITCH: Liam Austwicke

WHICH Hartlepool Rovers will turn up for the Durham Northumberland One confrontation with Blyth?

That is the question on the lips of Rovers coaches Graham Puckrin and Carl Robinson ahead of the visit of the promotion-chasers to the Friarage (kick-off 2.15pm).

Rovers have gone from the ridiculous to the sublime in the last 160 minutes of league rugby – a dismal home defeat to Medicals was followed by an excellent 27-20 win at Ponteland.

Their third Northumberland test in as many Saturdays, on paper, at least, should be the hardest.

Blyth will present a serious challenge – they are second in the table and will hope to close the gap on Horden if the leaders come a cropper at Durham City.

“We were 100 per cent better last week,” Robinson told SportMail.

“The attititude was first class – we had to make quite a lot of changes and we lost Lee Maddison early doors but the players really stepped up to the mark.

“I could reel off the names of player after player and say ‘he did this and he did that’.

“But, for me, it was a real collective effort.

“The win could have been by a lot more, I think the margin flattered Ponteland.

“But the important thing was we won and played as we know we can.

“We have to build on that – we can’t afford to take a step back after moving forward again.

“It’s as I’ve always said, it’s about which Hartlepool Rovers turns up? If it’s the right one then we’re capable of beating anyone.”

But today they will meet an efficient and motivated force – Blyth have won 13 out of 17 and currently occupy the play-off spot.

“We should have won up there,” Robinson said.

“We lost 20-16 but they did not beat us, we gave it away.

“But they are a good side and riding high.

“We tend to lift our game against teams like that and hopefully we will do so again.

“Blyth are doing well and will come here full of confidence, so we must meet them head on.

“They have a wise head and big boot at either stand-off or centre, Andy Sutherland, who kicks them into the corners, so we must be wary of that.

“But we are more than capable of beating them, if the right Rovers turns up.”

Rovers have named Maddison in their pack though the influential flanker faces a lunchtime fitness test on a calf strain.

The Friaragemen have the luxury of Stewart Grazier on stand-by to move up from the bench if the young forward is ruled out.

Andrew Flounders returns to the front row after being unavailable last weekend. He is included at prop with Michael Tucker keeping his place in the pack but switching to hooker.

James Evens, who was also unavailable for the win at Ponteland, comes back in at centre, where he partners Ian Coulson.

His return has prompted a positional alteration. Steven Barnfield is moved from full-back to scrum-half at the expense of Taz Pelser, who is named on the bench.

Dangerous attacker Liam Austwicke is also on the move, being switched from centre to full-back.

Rovers: L Austwicke, J Gunn, I Coulson, J Evens, A Smith, D Fawcett, S Barnfield, A Flounders, M Tucker, G Wise (capt), C Whitehead, A Pinchen, T Church, L Maddison, M Wilson. Subs: D Cookland, S Grazier, T Pelser