Barrow Raiders’ popular battle-scarred forward Jono Smith ends his six-week exile when he returns to face Featherstone Rovers tomorrow.

The return of Smith from a fractured cheekbone will give a boost to the Barrow pack, but it was the only snippet of good news coach Paul Crarey could take into the game.

“Jono put up his hand to and it is a great boost,” said Crarey. “He just wants to be playing again and he offered to come back before he was due to make his return. Tee Ritson was another who came back before he was expected. That is where we are with injuries.”

In contrast, Crarey is still counting the cost of what he describes as “a pointless exercise” – the sapping two games in four days that was the Easter programme.

“I have spoken to other coaches like John Kear at Bradford and Toronto’s Brian McDermott and they feel the same,” said Crarey. “A lot of clubs feel this way.

“When you have a whole season to get through the fixtures, it seems like a pointless exercise cramming two games into four days and it is inevitable that the Monday match will be of a poorer quality.

“That was certainly the case in our game at Bradford.”

The lack of recovery time over the Easter period is one of the Barrow coach’s concerns.

“Players who get a knock on the Friday have to spend Saturday and maybe even Sunday and then back in action on Monday,” said Crarey. “These are part-time players with families who get no time to share in the holiday.

“Surely one game is enough. Besides, very few fans attend both games.”

Prop Bradd Crellin joined the Craven Park casualty parade when he suffered a shoulder injury that Crarey fears will keep him out for up to six weeks and with players such as skipper Martin Aspinwall, Declan Hulme and the still-to-appear Gareth Hock on the long-term absentee list, Crarey’s one slice of good news was the return of Smith. Dan Toal will also make his comeback after serving a two-match ban.