Doncaster RLFC: 'We've still got time to put things right' - Richard Horne
Sunday’s home game against third-placed Oldham at the Keepmoat Stadium (5.30pm) will mark the midway point of the Betfred League One campaign.
The Dons go into the game holding down the final play-off spot on points difference thanks to recording their first league win in four games against West Wales a fortnight ago but their record hardly inspires confidence.
“It’s been tough up to now and we are not where we wanted to be in the league at this stage of the season,” admitted head coach Richard Horne.
“Hopefully we’ve got some players coming in over the next couple of weeks which will strengthen us.
“I think top spot is possibly beyond us now being seven points adrift of leaders Whitehaven (and having a worse points difference).
“There is the possibility that they’ll lose three or four between now and the end of the season but will they lose enough for it to give us a chance of catching them? There are also other clubs better placed than us.
“Obviously we want to finish as high as possible but we’ve just got to be in the five because I’d back ourselves against anybody in the play-offs.
“We have to be on our game every week and we have to get results,” he added.
“We also have to find a way to win when we aren’t at our best. Teams have done that against us but we haven’t been able to do it ourselves.”
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Although the win over West Wales was welcome, as was Sunday’s 1895 Cup victory over Oldham, many supporters are not yet not convinced supporters that the Dons have turned the corner.
But a win over Oldham at the Keepmoat followed up by a victory at Hunslet next Friday would bring about a change of heart.
It doesn’t help the club’s cause that Sunday’s game will be their last at the Keepmoat until August and that both scheduled home games during that period against promotion rivals Whitehaven and Newcastle will be played at Featherstone.
Ultimately, however, the club’s fate could rest with keeping key players fit in the second half of the season given the lack of strength in depth in several areas – a situation not helped by Kieran Cross and Brad England having picked up long-term injuries against West Wales.
“It has hurt us a bit that the likes of Hakim Miloudi and Liam Harris, who we had planned to use throughout the season as part of our dual-registration arrangement with Hull FC, have not been available to us apart from the odd game,” said Horne.
“When we did our pre-season recruitment we didn’t look to strengthen in the areas we presumed we’d have cover from Hull FC and it’s left us a bit weak in certain positions.
“So, we’ve had to look around but there isn’t a lot out there at the moment because other teams have got injuries.”