BRADFORD Dudley Hill's first-team manager Steve Wright is still finding reasons to be cheerful, even though they are currently down in the relegation zone in Division Two of the National Conference League.

Harsh bans and player availability have contributed to just three wins in their opening 11 games, and a tough trip to leaders Barrow Island is coming up today.

A red card for Neil Wall in a recent game against Dewsbury Moor Maroons drew particular ire from Wright, who said: "That one with Neil was a complete farce.

"The linesman told the referee that Neil had used an elbow, so the referee sent him off and put it in his report.

"Meanwhile, Neil got jumped on after this supposed elbow and there was a load of fighting going on around him.

"But Dewsbury filmed the game, so we'd seen the video and felt Neil was innocent, so appealed to the RFL disciplinary panel.

"The video showed no use of the elbow, but they went with the referee's report and upheld the ban, even though the evidence said otherwise.

"Probably our best player this season, Pete Mitchell, got hit with a hefty suspension a couple of weeks ago too, and the RFL seem to be going to town a bit on bans this year."

But Wright conceded: "It's not just that, it's about us getting a settled team on the pitch too.

"With things being more open, and Covid being a bit of thing of the past for now, people are doing a lot of nice things and taking advantage after being cooped up.

"We're hoping it'll settle down, we can take some positives, and still have a good second half of the season."

Three teams are set to go down, but just two points separate the bottom six, and Wright still has faith his men won't fall through the trapdoor.

He said: "It's not been easy, but if you can string three or four wins together, you can be pushing up towards the play-offs.

"We've also put in a couple of good performances that have earned us points, had games where we didn't deserve to lose, and just switched off a couple of times at key moments."

And that was the case in the reverse fixture against this weekend's opponents, with Wright saying: "I was away when we hosted Barrow but we only narrowly lost, and we should have won from what people told me.

"We just had a couple of lapses and they had one lad on the wing that if you give him space, he'll punish you.

"We know we can match them and give a good account of ourselves up there."

And some young, familiar faces are giving Wright hope too.

He said: "We've had some lads come back that were previously juniors here, and we had seven in the first team against Woolston last time out.

"That's the most we've had in years, since the club's junior section fell apart, and though it'll take years to fully recover, it's positive to have those young, fresh faces.

"Some of our older lads are carrying on playing a bit longer than they might have liked, so it's great to have those young lads back, who grew up watching those older ones play open age rugby."