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Fetaherstone Rovers v Batley Bulldogs: Low key Shield derby day lacking a cutting edge

John Duffy.
John Duffy.
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THE NEXT seven games are about more than marking time, rival bosses John Duffy and Matt Diskin insist.

Duffy’s Featherstone Rovers open their Betfred Championship Shield campaign at home to Bulldogs, coached by Diskin, tomorrow (3pm).

Matt Diskin.

Matt Diskin.

Rovers finished fifth in the Championship, two places and 16 points clear of Batley. This year the top-two on the Shield table will go straight into the final. Neither Rovers nor Leigh Centurions, who they lead on points difference, can be caught so home advantage is the only issue to be decided. At the other end of the table, Bulldogs are not mathematically safe from relegation, but are eight points clear of the danger zone with 14 to play for.

“We have to make sure we win our games and get a home tie in the final,” Duffy said of his side’s motivation. “There’s one thing we can go for now, the Shield and we’ve got to make sure we go and get it.”

Duffy – who has recalled Danny Maskill from loan at York City Knights – admitted missing out on the middle-eight Qualifiers was a painful blow, but added: “We were one point away and one win off coming second. It’s not all doom and gloom and we haven’t had a bad year. We’ve had a good year, we’ve been hit by some injuries of late and we just have to finish as high as we can.”

Diskin is already planning for next season. He said: “As a group, club and staff we need some improved performances rolling into the end of the year. We need a bit of confidence as we plan for next year. It has been a tough year and we’ve not delivered what we are capable of doing.

“We need to make changes and it’d be nice to do it on the back of some convincing performances.”

Diskin stressed there is still pressure on his team to produce wins between now and the end of the campaign.

“It’s a results-based industry and if you don’t win you are under pressure,” he warned.

“We need to make sure we are all pulling in the same direction which has been an issue at times this year. We’ve got to make sure we deliver some good results in the next seven games.”

Batley will be close to full-strength, though James Davey is struggling with a finger injury.