Batley play host to Rovers following fixture switch

New Batley captain Luke Blake is set to see a specialist on Monday following two wrist operations in the close season.
New Batley captain Luke Blake is set to see a specialist on Monday following two wrist operations in the close season.

Batley Bulldogs will play host to Championship rivals Featherstone Rovers in their second pre-season game on Sunday January 18 (ko 3pm).

The match was originally scheduled to take place at Featherstone’s Big Fellas Stadium but the newly relaid pitch will not be ready in time.

Rovers have already been forced to switch a lucrative friendly against neighbours Castleford Tigers and the latest rescheduled game will come as a further blow to the Featherstone coffers.

Luke Blake has been named as Batley’s new club captain but it is unlikely he will feature against Rovers, following two separate wrist operations in the close season.

Blake is due to see a specialist on Monday when he is expected to be given the all clear to resume full contact training.

Coach John Kear is relishing the challenge his side face against Rovers, following the 18-16 derby win over Dewsbury on Boxing Day.

Kear said: “Dewsbury was a pretty good test for us and further tests will allow us to assess where we are in what is a fascinating pre-season.

“I’ve already promised a few lads extended run outs when we face the Heavy Woollen side and everybody will play at least two games.

“I expect Luke Blake to have an extended run against the Heavy Woollen but it would be unfair to throw him straight in against Featherstone.

“We have some senior players at the club and Alex Rowe, Keegan Hirst, Alex Bretherton and Lee Mitchell have all been around the block but we also have some young, hungry and ambitious players.

“Ayden Faal, Cain Southernwood, Blake, Sam Scott and Hirst were all sat in the stands against Dewsbury and we will not risk anyone who is not fully fit as our focus must be on February 15 and our first game against Workington.”

Kear could hand promising youngster Tom Thackray a second chance to stake a claim against Featherstone.

Thackray has been training with Batley during pre-season and was given a run-out against Dewsbury Rams on Boxing Day.

Kear was impressed with the performance and admitted: “Thackray did himself the power of good and I may play him again against Featherstone.”

It is unlikely anyone else will be handed trials against Rovers but Kear may well be tempted to give other youngsters a game when Batley take on a Heavy Woollen select side, coached by former Bulldogs favourite Danny Maun, on Sunday, January 25.