ELLAND host Ovenden in Division Two of the National Conference tomorrow (2.30) and you would be hard pressed to find anyone who isn’t expecting a full-blooded derby clash.
There has been little between the pair in recent meetings, notably the corresponding fixture on the opening day of the last full season which finished with an 8-8 scoreline and a brawl.
It could be close again tomorrow because Elland have comfortably won their opening two league games at Greetland, against Featherstone Lions and Askham, while Ovenden are unbeaten in five matches and head the section.
A line through Widnes West Bank suggests the visitors are favourites. Gareth Jones’s side were 20-15 home victors against the Conference newcomers last week while Elland had lost 36-8 away to the Cheshire side a fortnight earlier.
Jones concedes that Elland know how to play their sloping pitch but says the trip should hold no terrors for his side after a victory there late last season.
“My lads really put it in at training on Tuesday and they are all full of confidence,” he said.
Jones is keeping his team plans under wraps but has a couple of players returning who are keen to force their way into the side.
Prop Chris Sykes hasn’t played a league game yet this season, having picked up a five-game ban following his late dismissal in the one-point Challenge Cup defeat at Leeds Metropolitan University.
Utility man Wes McGibbon is also available again but Jones said: “It’s possible they will have to wait for a chance.”
Hooker Luke Sutcliffe is scoring tries for fun this season and he is a player Elland will have to pay particular attention to.
Looking at the bigger picture, stand off Jones said: “We’ve just got to keep winning home and away. Waterhead are still unbeaten and we’ve got East Leeds (fourth) next week. We just need to keep the momentum.”
Opposite number Karl Fairbank is looking for his side to make amends for last week’s 26-24 defeat at Normanton Knights.
“We shot ourselves in the foot,” said Fairbank. “We were eight points in front with five minutes left but gave away an interception try and then they scored again from the last play.
“It was a real disappointment to me because they are the sort of team we should be beating.”
Elland will have forwards Marc Shickell and Danny Fox back while Junaid Malik brings his skills and know-how to the back line.
Fairbank’s son Miles, who plays in the second row, will be an absentee.
“Ovenden are the form side in our league and must be playing good rugby,” added Fairbank.
”We always expect a tough game against Ovenden. There’s a bit of pride at stake and we’re looking forward to it.”