Keighley chief Graeme Sheffield: Fixtures favour us in survival battle

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Graeme Sheffield Graeme Sheffield

Graeme Sheffield believes Keighley have an easier run-in than their main rivals in the Yorkshire One relegation scrap.

His side have boosted their survival hopes by halving the 14-point deficit between themselves and third-from-bottom Pontefract in a fortnight.

Having doubled their win tally with victories over Old Brodleians at home (20-9) two weekends ago and Pontefract away (20-17) last Saturday, Keighley have eight games left in which to climb out of the bottom two drop zone.

And despite away trips to south Yorkshire powerhouses Dinnington (top) and Doncaster Phoenix (third), director of rugby Sheffield said: “Our run-in isn’t as bad as some of the other clubs and we would expect to win at basement club Acklam.

“If it came down to having to win the last game of the season at Scarborough on April 12, we have the players who can do it.”

Keighley fear no-one at home and have winnable matches at Rose Cottage against York, Bridlington and North Ribblesdale. They also host fourth-placed Wath, who currently trail the top three clubs by 13 points.

Sheffield said: “Wath are quite an old side who prefer to play on smaller pitches, while Bridlington is another ‘eight-pointer’.

“Pontefract have a more difficult run-in and so have Heath (they play each other at Heath on February 8 when Keighley host York).”

Pontefract host second-placed Ilkley on February 15 when Keighley are at Acklam, and Pontefract also have to visit fifth-placed Selby (March 1).

Heath, who are currently eight points above Keighley in fourth-from-bottom spot, must host both Dinnington (March 22) and Doncaster Phoenix (April 5) and visit Wath (April 12) and North Ribblesdale (March 29).

Conversely, both Heath (March 1) and Pontefract (April 5) have both to play Acklam, who have lost all 18 of their matches so far, at home.

No wonder Sheffield reckons: “It is not going to be over until it is over.”

Keighley were seemingly in charge last weekend when they were leading 20-5 and seeking a fourth-try bonus point.

Instead, Pontefract fought back to 20-17 to claim a losing bonus point themselves and Sheffield admitted: “We do things the hard way.”

“We were in control of the match for an hour, with Danny McGee and Alex Brown kicking as well from hand as they have done all season but we then made one or two strange decisions.

“A lot of our lads are in their mid-twenties and they are excitable.

“We went away from the game-plan, but Pontefract came back into the match when they brought a second row on and their scrum half proved lively.”

Keighley also had the handicap of having prop Craig Spencer sin-binned.

Sheffield said: “We conceded two of our three tries from quick tap penalties and their scrum half took one and we didn’t get back ten metres. Craig wiped him out to be yellow-carded but fortunately there wasn’t long to go.”

Keighley have a blank weekend coming up before their home clash with mid-table York.

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