Dewsbury Rams v Batley Bulldgos: Time to blow cobwebs off in Heavy Woollen

Neil Kelly, head coach of Dewsbury Rams
Neil Kelly, head coach of Dewsbury Rams
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BOTH rival coaches reckon the Boxing Day Heavy Woollen derby will be an opportunity to assess how well pre-season has gone so far.

Dewsbury Rams have home advantage against Batley Bulldogs in the traditional fixture (noon), which comes more than five weeks before the Championship’s opening round.

“It’s a game, it’s a local derby and we are going to go out and try and win it,” Rams boss Neil Kelly stressed.

“Pre-season has been going really well so far, but – like everyone else – you don’t really know until you play a game.

“From that respect, I am looking forward to the game – to see where we are with four or five weeks of pre-season still to go through.”

Kelly reckons Tuesday’s clash will give him an idea of what Rams need to work on before their tough league opener at home to Sheffield Eagles on Friday, February 2.

“If there are any glaring deficiencies in the squad, physically or technically, it is not too late to sort them out,” he said.

Of his team for next week, he confirmed: “I am hoping to play all the squad, apart from Billy Hayes who we’ve signed from Huddersfield.

“He has had a shoulder operation; he has been signed off, but this game is probably two weeks too early for him.

“Everyone else is up for selection and I hope to play them at some stage in the game.”

Rival Matt Diskin said “everyone who’s fit” will get a game for Batley, starting with his strongest-available lineup and keeping changes to a minimum.

“We’re looking forward to it,” said the coach, whose side begin their Championship campaign at Rochdale on February 4.

“It’s chance to blow some cobwebs off and see where we are and what we need to improve. It’ll give us a marker for the remaining month of pre-season.”

Diskin described preparations so far as “good”.

He said: “We have hit the ground running and we’re looking quite sharp. We are in a lot better position than we were at this time last year.

“The new guys have come in and given us genuine competition for places.”