CLECKHEATON have faced difficulties since returning to the rugby field after Christmas, and Head Coach Thiu Barnard is expecting them issues to continue.

Last Saturday saw the Bradford side make their new year comeback, but it wasn't the return they wanted, as they lost 31-18 at home to high flying Alnwick.

It was a strenuous afternoon for Barnard's men and absentees from the first team played a major role in contributing to that.

Cleck's Head Coach has asked for his players to step up ahead of a tricky period.

He admitted: "It's been a really tough transition back into rugby and the season in general, I've got to say. We've had a lot of players unavailable whether it be through illness, players going to play rugby league or through players going travelling post Christmas.

"It's tough to take but we can't feel sorry for ourselves. Instead, we need players to step up to take these guys' places because that's all we can do really. We'll be looking at our second team boys to do that because we've got some talented players in that group, so it's now up to them to make the step up and make the difference."

A 31-18 defeat to an inform Alnwick may not be too disheartening usually, but last week's fixture highlighted the issues at present within the Cleck squad.

Reflecting on their first game back after Christmas, Barnard said: "It was nice to be back playing again after a couple of weeks off despite not winning the fixture. However, it was pretty evident that we'd had a couple of weeks off and it was very tough because of the absentees within the squad. We were missing six key players from the matchday squad, and the training in the lead up to the game didn't go as planned because of the amount of players out with illnesses.

"Nevertheless, I thought we competed well and we still could have won the game. I know we'll continue to have availability problems in the coming weeks, so it's now about working to solve these issues. I have confidence that we can fix them because of the group of lads we've got."

Cleckheaton will be looking to get back to winning ways today at home to Doncaster Phoenix and they'll be hoping to secure the double over them. Last time out Barnard's men edged the home side 22-18 in a game that proved to be extremely feisty.

Cleck's Head Coach is expecting a similar contest this weekend.

He said: "I remember it being a real battle in the first game between the two sides and we had to fight hard to get the narrow victory.

"I've no doubt that they'll have some similar availability issues to us, however, I'm still expecting a hard fought contest with two strong sides going toe to toe. Yes, they are near us in the table as well, so it would be really nice to get one over on them."