This week brings another tense local derby as 5th placed Hornets take the short trip to 6th placed Swinton. To date, one point separates the teams: Hornets having one more win, but Swinton with a game in hand; Swinton margially ahead on points difference. All a bit tight.
A closer look at the fixtures reveals that Swinton are amongst the clubs most disadvantaged by League 1’s lop-sided bias: Swinton, Newcastle and North Wales play 14 games against top 8 teams plus 8 against the bottom 6 whereas York play 10 games against top 8 plus 12 against bottom 6. Keighley, Oldham, Hornets and Barrow 13 games against top 8 plus 9 against bottom 6.
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Swinton - the porn 'tache years
Compared with York, that’s essentially an 8 point ‘deficit’ for the Lions to make-up against teams in the top eight. Not an easy task - but one they’re clearly having a bloody good go at. Last week they chipped away at it further, completing a hat-trick of victories over Keighley this season with a 22-14 win at Cougar Park. No mean feat.
For us the strike threat comes from a familiar source, two ex-Hornets: the combative, attritional Stuart Littler and the ducking/darting winger Shaun Robinson. By our reckoning, Litller - now 35 - has played the full 80 minutes in every single game this season. Impressively durable.
Also keep an eye on points machine Ian Mort who earlier this month scored six tries and kicked 11 goals in the Lions’ 96-4 flogging of Oxford.
Elsewhere this weekend, York travel to South Wales for another gift two points, Oldham travel to North Wales, Keighley host a fast-fading Newcastle and it’s Barrow’s turn to get a free swing at Oxford - so it’s important to be a positive part of the change that occurs in the top five this weekend, not a victim of it.
Earlier in the week we tried to crunch the numbers on the remaining games, predicting wins, losses and winning margins and then extrapolating the results to the end of the season’s placings. Even predicting conservatively, it’s tighteer than we imagined: potentially points difference separating fourth, fifth and sixth. What IS key, though is that - first and foremost - we have to engineer a win of any kind against the teams around us.
Back in May, Hornets’ 28 - 16 win at Spotland was tighter than the scoreline suggests - and there’s no doubting that Sunday’s game will require another North Wales/Newcastle scale effort to some away from Sedgely Park with something. Indeed, in his comments post the Coventry win, Ian Talbot identified the quest for consistency as a primary component of the run-in.
However youlook at Sunday’s game, it’s there for the taking. And it’s going to be a belter, so get yourself over to Whitefield and let’s do our bit.