MANY moons ago, Bob Hood coached a Yorkshire Under-20s side containing Dan McGee to cup glory at Twickenham.

But their good relationship will be put to the test over 80 minutes this Saturday, as Hood’s Bradford Salem side take on McGee’s Keighley outfit in a top-of-the-table Counties One Yorkshire clash at Rose Cottage

Keighley sit at the summit as it stands, but Salem are just two points behind, and will go top with an away win at the weekend.

The hosts would likely drop to third with a defeat, provided fellow title challengers Wetherby win at Wensleydale, and with only the league winner definitely getting promoted, it’s safe to say Saturday’s derby in BD20 has a lot riding on it.

Speaking to the Keighley News, McGee said: “In terms of this season, it doesn’t get much bigger than this game at the weekend.

“Given the location of the two clubs, the history between us and our current league positions, it’s a massive match, and one that’s great to be a part of.

“This kind of fixture is what you train every week for, both in terms of the occasion and the challenge it presents.”

Keighley have not lost since going down 8-3 at Shay Lane in the reverse fixture on November 4, but has their momentum been checked ahead of this crucial derby by having last weekend off?

Head coach McGee said: “At this stage of the season, you can easily say you want that momentum to keep going.

“But it’s good to rest sometimes, and it’s also allowed us to really work on things between our win at Beverley (on February 3) and this derby with Salem.

“Sometimes a free weekend can be a good thing, as it gives you that extra time to prepare, though a lot of us were in that boat last Saturday, as the weather wasn’t great and most teams weren’t getting ready to play anyone.”

Keighley’s free weekend was a planned one in the schedule though, not a postponed one, and the weather affects them less than most due to the artificial surface at Rose Cottage.

McGee said: “Our pitch helps us as we can have quality midweek training sessions on there, with our floodlights and the nice surface.

“Other teams might not always have that luxury on their grass pitches during the winter.

“But on the flip side, when we’re the away team, we have to get used to the mud and grass again that our hosts are used to.”

A win on Saturday would make Keighley favourites for the title, with McGee’s men having bounced back impressively from just missing out on promotion last season.

Keighley News: Sam Blakeley scores in Keighley's victory over Pocklington in November, the first of their ongoing nine-game winning streak.Sam Blakeley scores in Keighley's victory over Pocklington in November, the first of their ongoing nine-game winning streak. (Image: John Ashton.)

He said: “Getting promoted from Counties Two Yorkshire in 2021/22 was tough, but to go again after that and come second in Counties One, ending up being really disappointed not to go up, was a real achievement.

“I was worried about a hangover from that, so for the lads to be so switched on mentally and physically this season has been great to see.

“Before the season, I wasn’t sure we’d be here at this time of the year, sitting top of the league.

“But you’ve seen it in the performances we’ve put in that we deserve to be here.”