LIKE many sports fans, Paul Crarey loves a good old-fashioned underdog.

Indeed, the Barrow Raiders head coach was just one of those pleased to see Rochdale Hornets defy the odds and secure promotion to the Kingstone Press Championship by holding on for a 24-22 win over previously unbeaten Toulouse Olympique on their own turf last week.

That result means Barrow may well have to travel to the French side again for the League One play-off final next week, if they beat Doncaster in tomorrow's semi-final and Toulouse overcome York City Knights today.

But the fact Rochdale, who were the only side to take points off Sylvain Houles' side in the regular season with a 24-24 draw, were able to overcome a full-time outfit – much as Oldham did with Super League strugglers Hull Kingston Rovers in this year's Challenge Cup – has undoubtedly given a boost to the other three teams vying for promotion.

And, while Crarey is wary of his own side falling victims to a similar defeat against Doncaster, he is delighted to see the part-timers can, on occasion, still have their day.

“Money is not the be-all-and-end-all,” said Crarey. “Rochdale have gone to a side that have spent far money than them and beat them on their own ground, and nobody expected that at all.

“It's always good for the game when an underdog wins and it proves that if you work hard enough, focus hard enough, and someone doesn't prepare for you, then you'll get your rewards.

“Even at every amateur club, people are talking about the result – like when Oldham beat Hull KR – and I think it's really good for the game that money still doesn't rule in this sport.

“This club has come a million miles in two years in terms of the development and players we are signing. We've got to be ready for what comes next year and the year after, but we're definitely heading on the right track.”

Barrow's success so far this season can perhaps be considered an underdog story of its own as well, given how they have progressed from being on their knees following relegation from the Championship to the verge of a return to the second tier in the space of two years.

This has been achieved without throwing wads of cash around either – something the club simply cannot afford to do – and those principals will remain the same should the Raiders win promotion this season.

“What you've got to look at is what's behind you to keep you in the Championship,” said Crarey. “If people are spending £1m and £1.2m on a team, and you've got £350,000 to spend, then you're behind the eight-ball straight away.

“But what you can have is systems in place, kids coming through so that if you do go down, you can regroup and go back up again.

"What you don't want when you come down is capitulation. We've come into this club twice and picked it up off its backside twice, and I don't know if we'd be able to do it a third time.

“This is a rugby club with a great history and great support from the local amateur clubs, so it will always function, but we've got to bring the players through and get the kids playing so we've got that conveyor belt of talent.”

Ensuring the club has a stable base is key, while the transformation under Crarey in the past two years has once again made Raiders an attractive proposition for players from outside the area, with those who have come in – such as Ryan Fieldhouse and Martin Aspinwall ahead of this season – adding to what he is trying to build at Craven Park.

“If you look at other clubs who have been relegated from the Championship, the exodus of players is like when I first came in here,” said Crarey. “There were a handful of players who wanted to play for Barrow, agents didn't want to send people to Barrow and that's all changed.

“Agents are pushing players our way and even if you look at people we have brought in from the reserves at Leigh, they're becoming Championship players, so it's all good.

“We're talking to players without a budget for League One and the Championship, but what we're asking the agents is 'are the players interested in coming?'

“We want players coming here with a purpose, we don't want passengers or bad attitude. We want a good playing environment and a togetherness.”