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Friday, 19 December 2014

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Buzzing Hornets confident of success

THERE is no shortage of confidence in the Rochdale camp ahead of the Championship One campaign, with coach John Stankevitch feeling his side can match any in the division.

“We would like to think that we’ve got as good a squad, if not better, than every team in the division,” said the 32-year-old Spotland boss.

“Without coming out and making ridiculous statements, I see us being able to compete with the likes of Barrow, Workington and Whitehaven, away and at home.”

Stankevitch’s belief is not without foundation.

Hornets finished fourth in the table last year and did so without the services of captain and hooker Phil Wood, who had knee reconstruction surgery.

This year, Wood is back and will be complemented by former Super League men Stephen Bannister and Anthony Stewart among a squad totaling close to 50 when the new under-23s squad is included.

“We’ve got a really strong first-team squad. Last year, I wouldn’t say we were lacking an awful lot, but I think we suffered our fair share of injuries – Phil Wood, our captain was out for the whole season for a knee reconstruction and he was a massive reason why we didn’t get promoted last year.

The coach said: “He’s fully fit and ready to go. We’ve also added Stephen Bannister, who arguably could still play Super League, Anthony Stewart, who has played more than 100 games for Saints in Super League, so brings a lot of experience, Casey Mayberry, who is an outstanding Championship player, Paul O’Connor, who has been in the team-of-the-year twice when he was at Oldham, Jonny Leather... the list goes on and on.

“We have recruited really well and I have retained the lads I wanted to. The only downside is that we lost our player-of-the-year last year, Craig Ashall to Halifax – but that’s what I want, I want players to progress.

He added: “I think the key to it will be consistency. If we’re consistent, I don’t see why we can’t be up there.

“We finished fifth in 2010, last year we finished fourth – so if there is a rule there to go by, this year we should be finishing third. But we know that sport is not like that.

“I’m really confident that if we get consistency we will be up there.

“There were games we lost last year which we should have been winning. No disrespect to some teams, but we didn’t see the London away game as a game we could have lost and yet we lost and that was three points we had taken away from us.

“It’s those games which would have made a massive difference and if we had won the likes of that London game, the Doncaster at home game that we lost, then we would have been promoted last year.”

Asked who he thought would be up competing with Hornets for promotion, Stankevitch said: “I think the Cumbrian sides are going to be tough. It’s always tough going up to Cumbria.

“South Wales, with their connection with Wigan, are going to be quite an unusual one. You won’t know what team to expect week in, week out. They could be a team that threatens us.

“Doncaster played really well last year, and they’ve signed Paul Cooke.

“There is strength all over the league really and that’s why I want us to maintain a certain level of consistency. I don’t want us to pick and choose games, because we can’t afford to do that.

“We need to make sure we perform at the same level every week.”

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