RUGBY PREVIEW: Hartlepool Rovers v Darlington

ROVERS RETURN: Liam Austwicke. Picture by Tom Collins.
ROVERS RETURN: Liam Austwicke. Picture by Tom Collins.

HARTLEPOOL Rovers have been hit by more injury woe ahead of their daunting Durham Northumberland One clash with Darlington.

Rovers, already without key midfield backs Michael Barnfield and James Evens, have lost points ace Chris Sainty with a dead leg for the visit of the promotion challengers to the Friarage (kick-off 2.15pm).

It is another blow to coaches Graham Puckrin and Carl Robinson, who says they are having “no luck at all with injuries at the moment”.

Robinson told SportMail: “We’ve lost Chris who spent a night in hospital this week having the blood drained from his leg.

“It is more bad luck and I don’t think we’ve had any good so far.

“I don’t think we have been able to name the same side this season.

“We just can’t seem to be able to put any sort of run together because of the chopping and changing we’re having to do.

“But we are going to have to man up and take on the challenge.

“Darlington are up in second and they’ll be a hard test.

“I don’t know a great deal about them apart from they are big up front and they favour the catch and drive.

“We’ll have our work cut out because of that, but I fancy us against anyone on the Friarage.

“If we go into the game with the right attitude as we did against Novos and Stockton then we have a chance.”

It has been an up and down campaign so far, but if they overturn the formbook tomorrow and triumph, that will be the first time they have won three in a row this season.

Last week they kept a clean try sheet in the 22-6 derby win over Stockton, a result which moved them closer to the promotion places than the relegation zone.

“We have to put in another performance like that tomorrow,” added Robinson. “We were a bit disappointed we did not get a try bonus point, but four points are points.

“Defensively we were excellent and we will need to be again tomorrow against Darlington.

“Tomorrow is a big game and it would be great if we could make it three wins in a row.”

Liam Austwicke will start at stand-off tomorrow with David Grand and Tom King forming the centre pairing.

Up front, Rovers bring in former skipper Jon Cushlow to start at hooker after coming of the bench last week.

Another ex-skipper Mark Power, who spent a spell at Darlington when they were a national league club, is added to the 18.

Rovers: S Barnfield, J Gunn, T King, D Grand, A Smith, L Austwicke, T Pelser, A Flounders, J Cushlow, G Wise, A Pinchen, A Hanley, S Grazier, L Maddison, A dring (capt). Subs: M Power, T Church, D Fawcett