Rugby preview: Rovers give first start to forward John in Gosforth match

TRY-UMPH: Steven Barnfield  scores a try for Rovers against Bishop Auckland at the Friarage on Saturday.
TRY-UMPH: Steven Barnfield scores a try for Rovers against Bishop Auckland at the Friarage on Saturday.

HARTLEPOOL Rovers have handed a first start to tough forward John Padgett for tomorrow’s Durham Northumberland One trip to second-bottom Gosforth (kick-off 3pm).

The flanker, the brother-in-law of winger David Grand, is approaching veteran status.

But the ex-Sunderland player showed enough on his debut last week, when he came off the bench, that he is worth a spot in the XV tomorrow at Druids Park.

Coaches Graham Puckrin and Carl Robinson were impressed with his up-and-at-’em approach and they liken him to an old team-mate from the nineties and noughties.

“He’s a no-nonsense player,” Robinson told SportMail.

“John’s very much in the mould of Clive Potts, who many players and fans will remember.

“May be he’s not as dynamic as Pottsy, but he has similarities.

“John’s a hard, fit man who’ll run through a brick wall for ou.

“He’s a good fella, he’ll give you everything and he’s a good example to the younger lads we have in the squad.”

A no-holds barred approach should serve Rovers well on a ground which has never been a happy hunting ground for the club.

Their last win at the club on the doorstep of Newcastle Airport came during the 2008-09 promotion campaign.

And Robinson would like to end the wait for a ‘W’ tomorrow, especially after seeing the side bounce back to form last week when they beat Bishop Auckland 45-20 at West View Road.

“We’ve gone to Gosforth on a high before but when we’ve got there it’s then seemed to go downhill,” said the joint coach.

“I think some people have though too much about the pitch – it’s just artificial grass. But it’s still just a rugby field.

“We had a good training session last night and if we can go there in the same frame of mind then we have a good chance.

“Gosforth might have struggled a bit this season but as they have shown before they can turn it on when they want to.

“We’ve got to be on our game.

“But we’ve won at Medicals this season, which was a good day for us, and we should have won at Blyth in our last away game.

“It’s about which Rovers turns up. If it’s the right one then it’s a good chance for us to get a win.”

Rovers are still without injured skipper Andrew Dring (shoulder) and vice-captain Michael Barnfield (groin).

That means prop Glen Wise will continue to lead the side, with Robinson adding: “We have plenty of cover in both the back row and the backs.

“So there is no point pushing them to come back too soon.”

Andrew Pinchen resumes to the squad after missing last week’s win and he joins Tom King and Liam Armstrong on the bench.

The return of Armstrong is a welcome one after recovering from knee trouble.

The teenage flanker, son of ex-first team centre Brian and nephew of former Rovers, West and Tech ace Glyn, has not featured since the Durham Cup final in May.

“I’s nice to have Liam back,” said Robinson. “He’s been through the mill a bit with injuries.

“But’s trained and played for the thirds and is as fit as a lop.”

Rovers: S Barnfield, D Grand, L Austwicke, I Mulvihill, B Cushlow, C Sainty, T Pelser, A Flounders, J Cushlow, G Wise (capt), A Hanley, B Little, J Padgett, L Maddison, S Grazier. Subs: T King, L Armstrong, A Pinchen