Cleckheaton eye crucial away win

Ryan Piercy has played in 14 of Cleckheaton's 15 National Three North matches.
Ryan Piercy has played in 14 of Cleckheaton's 15 National Three North matches.

Cleckheaton will bid to make a winning start to 2017 and put further daylight between themselves and the National League Three North relegation zone on Saturday.

The Moorenders travel to Ilkley lying precariously above the drop zone, just seven points clear of third-bottom Morley.

With tough games against high flying Rossendale and Sandal to follow, it is crucial Cleck return from North Yorkshire with something to show for their efforts.

Scott Benton’s men ended 2016 on a disappointing note, going down 21-7 away to Morley but it is hoped the Christmas break will have helped recharge the batteries.

Cleckheaton have won five out of their 15 league matches but three of those have come on the road, so there is hope that they can put in a good display at eighth placed Ilkley.

Cleckheaton have scored 350 points this season, at an average little over 23 per game, but 112 of those have come in two comprehensive wins over basement club Stockport, who have yet to muster a single point this term.

Captain and number eight Richard Piper is the team’s leading try scorer with seven to date, while centre Josh Hall and Neil Chivers have four apiece.

Chivers, along with Ryan Piercy are the leading appearance makers with 14 apiece and will be keen to play in at least six of Cleck’s remaining 13 games to be awarded their first team ties, as will Luke Pearson, who has played in 13 of their 15 matches.

Fly half Ronan Evans is the leading points scorer with 70 from 22 conversions, seven penalties and one try but the Moorenders will be hoping for a series of improved displays as they look to ease any relegation worries in the coming weeks.

Cleckheaton play their only home game of the month on January 14 when second-placed Rossendale visit Moorend, followed by a short trip to Sandal on January 28.

Morley, who won for only the second time in 14 league outings against Cleckheaton, face Rossendale and Sandal before a key game in the relegation scrap when they travel to Doncaster Phoenix on January 28.

Doncaster are just a point above Morley in fourth-bottom and lie six adrift of Cleck having lost their last eight matches.

Phoenix host Lymm on Saturday then travel to Stockport before crunch games against Morley and a trip to Cleckheaton at the start of February.