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Sheffield backs Keighley's steely defence
8:36pm Thursday 26th April 2012 in Keighley
Graeme Sheffield has put together a strong case for the defence ahead of Keighley’s Northern Division play-off match at Alnwick on Saturday (3pm).
The Rose Cottage director of rugby knows the Durham & Northumberland Division One runners-up are a free-scoring side.
Although nowhere near as potent as champions Darlington, who scored an amazing 1,006 points, they still clocked up 854 points from an identical 21 wins and five defeats in finishing second, nine points adrift.
However, Sheffield is confident his Yorkshire One runners-up will be able to cope, saying: “They won’t have come up against a defence like ours.”
But just to make sure on the back of conceding two late tries in their 29-15 victory at Knottingley last Saturday that sealed their opportunity to be promoted to North One East, Sheffield said: “We worked hard on defence in training on Tuesday.”
Keighley had the second best rearguard in the division, conceding only 361 points, which was only inferior to champions Pock-lington’s 353.
However, Keighley only had the fifth best attack with 657 points, which put them behind Pontefract (715), Pocklington (697), Driffield (686) and Bridlington (669).
Alnwick, who lost 17-10 at Hartlepool Rovers last weekend, haven’t got an unblemished home record this season, losing successive matches against Darlington (24-11 on October 15) and Stockton (25-22 on October 22), but they have run in plenty of points otherwise when they have been hosts, scoring 420 in their 11 victories.
Keighley, on the other hand, in what is traditionally one of the North’s tightest divisions, have lost four matches on their travels this campaign – 15-3 against Ilkley, 22-14 at Driffield, 19-11 against Bridlington and 17-11 at Pocklington.
However, they have won the other nine, including the last six.
They have been against Heath (32-21), Castleford (34-3), York (24-15), Huddersfield YMCA (42-30), North Ribblesdale (35-6) and Knottingley, while previously they had won at Dinnington (13-11), Scarborough (13-10) and Pontefract (24-19).
The men from Utley won’t be lacking in support on Saturday as three coach-loads of supporters are setting out from Rose Cottage, plus another group in cars, making some 200 fans in all.
Sheffield knows that Alnwick, secure for a while in second place in their section, have had Keighley watched, while they haven’t been on a spying mission themselves but he said: “It is all about how we play on Saturday, and we intend to make a strong start and hit them hard.
“But we didn’t even turn our attention to Alnwick until after last Saturday’s game as all matches in this division are tough, as I have said before.
“And I think Alnwick are about the northernmost club in England as Berwick play in the Scottish divisions.