Preview: Stags all set for crucial Championship One clash with Gateshead Thunder

Hemel Stags club crest
Hemel Stags club crest

Hemel Stags make the long journey to the North East this weekend to face fifth placed Gateshead Thunder in an important Kingstone Press Championship One fixture.

The Tynesiders, led by the mercurial Stanley Gene, have been in good form of late, and victories in their last two matches has moved the Thunder back into the final play off place – just one league point adrift of fourth placed Hemel Stags.

The teams have already met twice this season, on both occasions in Hertfordshire, with the sides sharing the spoils with a victory apiece.

Hemel drew first blood courtesy of a 37-24 win in mid March thanks in main to a Mitch Barbera hat-trick and an Aaron Small double, while former Wakefield Trinity star Jamie Rooney inspired Gateshead to a 26-22 success in the second encounter on the first day of June.

Stags coach Troy Perkins has been given a major boost with the news that London Broncos winger Kieran Dixon is available for Sunday’s game as he continues his recovery from a serious injury.

Perkins said: “I coached Kieran when he was just 12 years old, gave him his first-team debut at Hemel when he was 16, and he’s a massive addition to our squad this week.

“He’s buzzing to get back playing after being out for so long, and hopefully he can get match fit for the back end of the Super League season.”

On Gateshead, Perkins said: “We always knew this game was going to be a big game for both clubs, and the winner will go a long way to securing a play-off position.

“Gateshead are in good form. Jordan Meads is looking pretty good and Benn Hardcastle is a smart half-back.

“But we’re going up the day before and we’ll be in Newcastle from Saturday afternoon, so we’re giving ourselves every opportunity to perform.”

Thunder coach Gene, meanwhile, insists his side must improve for Sunday’s game – despite scoring 48 points last week.

Thunder emerged 48-28 winners over Oxford, but Gene said: “It was nice to get a good win, but there’s still room for improvement when we play Hemel.”

Hemel’s 19-man squad for Sunday’s match is:

1. James Cameron

2. Kieran Dixon

3. Michael Brown

4. Matt Cook

5. James Hill

6. Jermaine Coleman

7. Jy-Mel Coleman

8. James Howitt

9. Evan Simons

10. Dom Maloney

11. Ciaren Clement-Pascall

12. Barry-John Swindells

13. Alex Ingerfield

14. Jimmy Morgan

15. Ryan Chester

16. Eddie M’Baraga

17. Malakhi Lloyd-Jones

18. Joel Thomas

19. Guy Aldam