With five games to go, four for some, in National League 2, it was thought games between the league’s top three would decide the two promotion places, that was until Rochdale Hornets got involved.
Hornets have delivered two huge blows within the space of four games, adding to Barrow’s recent woes, which has also seen them lose to Blackpool and Hunslet, on Sunday, before following that up with Wednesday night’s 50-8 win over Doncaster.
It’s good news for Gateshead, who now find themselves in pole position for one of the two available promotion spots.
The Dons, playing catch up thanks to their cup exploits, must now surely turn their attention to securing a home play-off draw after their defeat at Spotland.
That leaves Gateshead, Barrow and Oldham as the main contenders for the automatic promotion spaces, confirmed as the top two teams in the division following last week’s Super League licence announcement.
Barrow in particular have a huge run in, facing each of their main rivals – Gateshead, Oldham, Keighley and Doncaster. Their clash with Thunder this Saturday could well be pivotal in deciding who claims the National League 2 title.
Thunder, currently top of the league, have played a game more than both Barrow and Oldham, but could have a six point lead at the top come close of play on Saturday.
The Roughyeds themselves are still in with a shout, and they will be watching this Saturday’s game between the top two with interest, knowing that either way, a huge opportunity will be opened for them, particularly as they host Barrow the following week. Oldham, though, face tricky trips to Doncaster and York, which makes their home game against Barrow even more pivotal.
It’s going to be a massive task for Doncaster to get anywhere near the top three, considering the backlog of fixtures they find themselves in, but they will be looking to finish in the top four to ensure a week off ahead of the play-offs.
Below are the run-ins for the main five contenders:
Gateshead Thunder – 47 points
02/08/08 – Barrow (Away), 10/08/08 – Blackpool (Home), 17/08/08 – Workington (A), 24/08/08 – Doncaster (H)
Barrow Raiders – 44 points
02/08/08 – Gateshead (H), 10/08/08 – Oldham (A), 15/08/08 – Keighley (H), 20/08/08 – Doncaster (A), 24/08/08 – Swinton (A)
Oldham – 42 points
03/08/08 – York (A), 06/08/08 – Doncaster (A), 10/08/08 – Barrow (H), 17/08/08 – Swinton (A), 24/08/08 – Workington (H)
Keighley Cougars – 36 points
03/08/08 – Doncaster (H), 10/08/08 – Workington (H), 15/08/08 – Barrow (A), 24/08/08 – Hunslet (H)
Doncaster – 31 points
03/08/08 – Keighley (A), 06/08/08 – Oldham (H), 09/08/08 – London (A), 15/08/08 – York (H), 20/08/08 – Barrow (H), 24/08/08 – Gateshead (A), 29/08/08 – Hunslet (H)