Batley Bulldogs gear up for crucial clashes with Newcastle Thunder and Widnes Vikings
The next two games are crucial in Batley Bulldogs’ season.
Craig Lingard’s side climbed a place this week without having to kick a ball and are now fifth in the Betfred Championship.
Sunday's visitors Newcastle Thunder (3pm) are seventh and Batley travel to eighth-placed Widnes Vikings a week later.
Bulldogs' position was strengthened on Wednesday when London Broncos, who had been in fifth spot, were deducted two points for failing to fulfil a fixture at Toulouse Olympique. They swapped places with Batley and are now sixth, though Sunday's game against Widnes has been called off.
Bulldogs have won three more games than Newcastle and Lingard stressed: “Sunday is a really big game for us.”
He said: “They are just outside the [top-six] play-offs and we are two and a half wins above Newcastle, because they’ve drawn a game.
“If we beat them, they’ve got to win four games to get above us, without us winning another game. With eight or nine games left in the season, it’s going to be a big ask for them to do that.
“I think we’ve got a few more wins in us yet.
“If we can win this week and next week, with the way the table is looking it is highly likely we’d be able to hold them off.
“I am hoping if we can win the next two it pretty much cements our place in the top-six, but if we don’t win we’ve got the chasing pack breathing down our necks.
“It’s two really important weeks for us, but we’ll get the first one out of the way, which is Newcastle.”
He warned: “They are a very good side, they’ve gone full-time over the last four or five weeks and you can tell that’s paying off for them.
“They’ve picked up some good victories and it’s going to be a difficult game for us.”
Bulldogs are on the back of a derby victory at Dewsbury Rams which ended a three-game losing run and Lingard reckons important lessons were learned.
“It’s good to be back to winning ways,” he said. “I was a bit disappointed with how we started the game, I don’t think we started it with the intensity a local derby deserved, but we managed to weather the early storm when Dewsbury dictated the possession and field position in the first 10 minutes.
“We had that bit of resilience to hold them out and work our way into the game. Apart from the first 10 minutes, I was really pleased with how we handled that first half.
“In the second half we looked after the ball a lot better. We had 12 more sets than Dewsbury and I think how we managed the last 30 minutes of the first half stood us in good stead for the second half performance.
“You don’t win a game with a five- or 10-minute performance, you win it with a 70- or 80-minute performance.
“That’s what we managed to get out of the boys and I was really pleased with the execution as well, the tries we scored were first class.”