KEIGHLEY won an eventful derby against Bradford Salem 29-10 on Saturday to stretch their long unbeaten home record.

The hosts have now won 23 of their last 24 matches at Rose Cottage, with the odd game out a 7-7 draw against Old Brodleians in February 2020.

Keighley’s last defeat on their artificial pitch was in October 2019 when Leodiensians triumphed 27-12 on it.

So will second-placed Keighley’s fortunes in Counties One Yorkshire be decided away from Utley and will they be able to cope with muddier pitches now that winters are becoming warmer and wetter?

Head coach Dan McGee is realistic but also confident about his team’s prospects, with fixtures at all the other current members of the top five - leaders Goole, Hullensians (third), Old Rishworthians (fourth) and Huddersfield Laund Hill (fifth) - to come.

He said: “We have a tough second half of the season against teams who will probably come into their own with the weather, such as Wetherby.

“We cannot just be a fair weather team. We will have to dig in and earn those points, which is going to be tough.

“We will just keep going and do our thing. The prospect of heavy pitches does not worry us at all. We will play our game, we can scrummage well and if teams want to come at us, we can tackle them and take them down.

“We have one of the best defensive records in the North of England.”

That latter point is backed up by the statistics, with only three clubs in the North having a better defensive record over eight matches than Keighley’s current 85 points conceded.

Keighley bagged the only try of the first half against Salem via full-back Alfie Seeley, after winger Alan Ebbrell took the ball at pace.

There were further scores in the second half from winger Ben Parkinson and Seeley, with in-form fly-half Alex Brown adding four penalties and a conversion.

Salem replied with tries by hooker James Brown and right-winger Jake Green but their afternoon went rather pear-shaped late on with the dismissals of replacement Elliott Cousins (high tackle) and flanker Tom Cummins (late tackle) inside the final 10 minutes.

Those misdemeanours followed a yellow card for skipper Christian Baines (no-arms tackle) midway through the half.

Salem also lost Green (in the act of scoring) and full-back Callum Smith to ankle injuries, but will doubtless be looking forward to the return fixture at Shay Lane in January.

McGee added: “Derby day was always going to be a big game and emotions can sometimes get the better of you, but we dug in, rode their purple patches and kept true to our game.

“I would have taken a 3-0 victory to be honest but we played some good rugby.

“I wasn’t disappointed at half-time to be only 8-0 ahead because I thought that it reflected the game.

“They had some chances and we did and it was a very tight game, very physical, but at half-time our lads knew that they had more in them and that we could push on.

“We tried to push at the end for a four-try bonus point and didn’t get it, and that could be important, but I was happy with a win and four points.

“That we kept our heads was pleasing and we kept on the right side of the referee.

“Their two red cards and a yellow card showed how they played - on the edge - and you are sometimes going to find yourself on the wrong side of things if you do that.

“Our forwards are playing well as a unit, and Max Wild played very well, but we have given our man of the match to (his fellow flanker) Adam Kemp for his unseen hard work, his carries and his work at the breakdown, as he is just relentless.

“Alfie has been under the weather, as were a few of the others, but he always puts 100 per cent in and delivers and causes teams problems.

“He earned a few penalties with his footwork and is as safe as houses at the back.”