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Monday, 20 October 2014

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Barrow Raiders' rivals fear tough trip to Craven Park

CHAMPIONSHIP bosses are backing Barrow to batter sides into submission at Craven Park this season.

Opposition coaches admit they are dreading the trip to Furness when the season gets under way – with sides almost universally expecting a tough battle against the promoted Raiders.

Barrow were unbeaten at home last year, beating Championship side Swinton in the Northern Rail Cup, French champions Lezignan in the Challenge Cup and all their league opponents on home turf.

That will add to the worries of teams making the trip, one Mark Aston, coach of reigning champions Sheffield, described as a ‘long ruddy journey’, with others expanding on his views.

York City Knights boss Gary Thornton summed up the views of many when he said: “I’ve never been to Barrow and had an easy game – ever, either as a player or a coach.

“It’s always difficult to go to Cumbria and win.”

While York – who finished bottom of the Championship last season – might be expected to approach the trip along the A590 with some trepidation, other clubs higher up the ladder are not relishing it either.

Daryl Powell, in charge of competition favourites Featherstone, a side with Super League aspirations, knows Barrow have work to do after promotion, but expects their visit to Craven Park in June to be a difficult one.

He said: “Barrow is never a good place to go. It’s always tough.

“They will feel like they need to stabilise, which any promoted team does, but they’ll look towards their home form and that’s where everybody is going to find it really difficult.

“It’s always tough going up to Cumbria and we won’t be going up there thinking it’s going to be a rollover, no way, that’s not in the Cumbrians’ nature.

“We look forward to the tough tussle up there – we’ve had quite a few up there in recent years and it should be great.”

While Barrow will be expected to be difficult opponents at home, some coaches are not going to underestimate them wherever they play this season.

Leigh Centurions are one of the sides expected to be competing for honours come the end of the campaign, but boss Paul Rowley knows they will get no favours in their quest from Raiders.

“I’m expecting Barrow will have what they always have had – they will be tough and uncompromising,” he said.

“It is a difficult place to come and play – I don’t think hostile is the right word, but it’s very much a case that home advantage counts at Barrow.

“Darren Holt has gone back to the local theme, which is great, and they will not be short of enthusiasm, skill and flair.”

Keighley coach Paul March has already seen what Barrow have to offer this year.

His side actually won at Craven Park in pre-season – beating Raiders 23-20 – but he knows not many teams will be able to say that come the end of 2013.

“Holty has got them playing some good football,” he said. “On that day, we went up there and played them in pre-season and it wasn’t the best conditions, but you could see the potential in them.

“I know Liam Harrison is going to be a massive figure for them if they are going to do well – he caused us a lot of problems when we played them in the friendly – and Liam Campbell as well.

“It’s tough up there. They are rebuilding from Des’s era and moving on and I am sure they will be as competitive as everybody else will be.”

While most coaches are not looking forward to heading over to Craven Park, there is one coach who bucks the trend.

If only because it is the shortest of three trips into Cumbria for his men, Halifax boss Karl Harrison said he is looking forward to it, while also wishing the team success after their promotion. He said: “I hope Barrow do really well, because they are a proper rugby club who have been through hard times – they’ve had controversy but they are now back at a good level of playing, where they deserve to be.

“It’s always a good trip up there and I am looking forward to our encounters with them.”

Most, though, do not share that relish of the trip ahead, and Batley Bulldogs coach John Kear summed it up when he said: “Barrow did marvellously well last year with all the trials and tribulations they had to endure. To then secure promotion was a great achievement.

“You look at the player roster and they have got some great players, so you know full well that you are going to go up there and get a typical Cumbrian welcome, and you know full well it is going to be tough to come away with the points.”

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