Leigh Miners play their first home game of 2015 on Saturday when they take on Cumbrian outfit Walney Central in the second round of the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup, Kick off 2pm at Twist Lane. Miners being reinstated into the competition after Hull Dockers where booted out after fielding an ineligible player in the narrow 10-6 victory at The Willows two weeks ago.
Since Miners first runout a fortnight ago they have continued to work on their fitness and skills (structure work) in preparation for the start of the new NCL season which is now only four weeks away. The games will now come thick and fast for the first team squad over the next week with this Saturday’s Challenge Cup game followed by a midweek game for at least ten of the squad in the Steve Maden testimonial game and then a home friendly next weekend against Saddleworth Rangers. Should Miners overcome a tough Walney Central side this week, the reward will be a tie against Championship One opposition in the third round which will be played over the opening weekend of March.
The lads will be looking to build on their performance from the Dockers game with them again looking to be solid defensively and have good go forward from the forwards, one thing they will certainly be looking to improve on is their creativity and execution as it was very average in Hull, hopefully that will improve this week with the new attacking structure put in place for 2015 being worked on a lot more over the last few training sessions.
Speaking about being reinstated back into the Challenge Cup, Utility player Jimmy Muir said “I think it’s a good thing that the RFL have stuck by the rules and kicked them out! Also it sets standards for other teams in the future and it also gives us another opportunity of making it through to play a semi professional side.”
On the narrow 10-6 defeat in Hull, Muir added “The dockers game was a good physical contest for both teams, I think we deserved a lot more out of the tie but we wasn’t clinical enough near the try line and that cost us”.
And looking ahead to the visit of Walney Central Jimmy said “This week we play against a side that have proven to be an up and coming young side, this will be a good test and if we don’t perform well we will get turned over, But I think we have all trained really hard this year and are looking strong”.
Coaches Allan Coleman and Paul Whitworth will make four changes from the seventeen that played at Hull Dockers with Martin Gray Mike O’Boyle Scott Travis and Jonny Youds making way for Brad Hargreaves Danny Jones Dave Rowlands and Bud Skinkis.
Talking about the news from Tuesday evening when Miners where put back in the cup, Joint head coach Paul Whitworth said “You have to feel for Dockers as they worked really hard for the win on the day and it was nice gesture for them to wish ourselves luck once they knew their fate. We didn’t know anything about it until the press release. Its just a minor set back for them. I don’t know the full details but I’m guessing it’s just something like a clerical error off the field that has caused the issue. As amateurs it takes a lot of unpaid volunteers to run clubs and administer teams, I’m sure lots of clubs will be checking their registrations this week!”
Looking back at the performance against Dockers Paul added “It was a really good game for a few reasons. I said we usually learn a lot from competitive pre-season games and it certainly was the case and we’re better for the run out. It was a day that reminded us, on different levels, why we left winter rugby! The weather, pitch conditions and how it adds up to restricted play and reduced skill levels. The core players got a really good work out down the middle which is really hard to replicate in training. The chance to have a look at some of the structure changes and timings we have been working on – some areas didn’t quite work and it’s given us a chance to correct them in practice. I thought we had enough field position and opportunities to take the game but although our patience was good, our final play execution let us down at times – that’s something that has to improve. But to give Dockers the credit they deserve they defended desperately and converted the only chance they had in the second half. I think as a group we came away frustrated with the loss but I was proud of the performance and we had lots of positives to take away.”
On Saturday’s opponents Walney Central, Whitworth said “It was a convincing win for them in the last round. Cumbria is producing some quality amateur sides at the moment. After hearing we are back in the competition we have had one session to prepare for the game and will make some changes, some forced and some to make sure players get some fair game time with the start of the new season coming up fast. Most of all we’ve got to make sure we get things right to put in a really strong performance.”
Walney Central will be coming to Twist Lane full of confidence after comfortably beating NCL new boys Hunslet Club Parkside 28-8 in Round One, the Barrow outfit won the treble last year in the shape of the Cumbria League title, Top four trophy and the Barton Townley Cup. Walney also have ex Barrow Raiders players Mike Backhouse, Liam & James Finch, Chris Larkin, Danny Lockhart, Brad Nicholls and Mike Whitehead within their ranks and will be sure to give Miners a very tough encounter on Saturday afternoon.