Rochdale cancellation gives Vale chance to regroup and ease injury situation
Valuable breathing space was handed to Vale of Lune and their worrying list of injured players ahead of their next North One West fixture at Keswick on February 1.
Due to face Rochdale in the John Burgess Lancashire Cup, at Powderhouse Lane, Vale were boosted by the news that their opponents had conceded the tie.
A degree of confusion then reigned because still waiting in the semi final wings are Broughton Park who have been drawn at home against Vale.
When Vale played at Houghend in November and recorded a 22-20 victory, it did not constitute a double header and so a semi-final date has now to be arranged.
The two clubs are due to meet again on February 29 at the Lane in a league fixture but it is doubtful if Park would wish to concede home advantage.
Further details surrounding the last four game have still to be confirmed.
Since the turn of the year Vale’s league programme has not quite gone according to plan but it began brightly enough on a cold day at Warrington’s new venue at South Warrington Sports Club with a 21-18 win and the first double of the season against a resolute home side.
Victory however, did come at a price because forwards James Robinson picked up an injury and Tom Cvijanovic collected a red card.
The absence of these two formidable, competitive, hard working players surfaced over at Bowden when Vale badly needed someone to lift their game, which after a promising start, drifted passively along.
Bowden sensed there was nobody in the opposition to light any collective fires and they took the opportunity to grab maximum points in a 35-14 victory ongoing battle against relegation.
The injury list also began to creep up because scrum half Billy Swarbrick, who has been in irrepressible form this season, picked up an injury and was unavailable for the home fixture against title chasing Firwood Waterloo.
Despite the combined efforts of Jack Ayrton, Harry Fellows, Callum Kyle, Blake Snell and skipper Andy Powers in the No.9 shirt, Firwood Waterloo quickly assessed the strong and weak points of their opponents and sussed out the cut of their jib to inflict on Vale their heaviest home defeat of the season.
Vale’s aspirations were hampered by a raft of injuries which in turn resulted in a lengthening queue of the walking wounded outside the physio’s room, hardly encouraging news as they embark on a challenging February which contain four league games.
The fixture at Keswick and the home game against Broughton Park must be highlighted as targets but the away game on Penrith’s artificial pitch is certain to be a tricky hurdle to negotiate. Sandwiched between the two trips to Cumbria will be a home game against Stockport, whose form on the road has wavered slightly.
Eight plus points in the month would help to settle any nerves, a round dozen would be preferable, without being too greedy, but an unbeaten haul might be in the realm of Arthur O’Shaughnessy’s “dreamers of dreams.”
A great deal is going to hinge around the healing hands of the physio, team selection and a return of form to a squad that has stumbled and cannot afford too many slip ups if they are to avoid having to make furtive glances over their shoulders in the remaining three months.
Vale return to the rigours of North One West rugby on Saturday when they visit bottom of the table Keswick.
Keswick recorded their first away victory on Friday evening in a rearranged fixture on Penrith’s own patch, 26-19; an outcome that will give director of rugby, Jack Ferguson,coach Joel Unsworth and captain Andy Powers something to think about before kick-off time.