Dons have ‘little margin for error’ in race for play-offs

Jason Tali scored a hat trick in Sundays defeat at Newcastle Thunder.
Jason Tali scored a hat trick in Sundays defeat at Newcastle Thunder.

Dons head coach Gary Thornton admits that his charges flattered to deceive in Sunday's League One clash against Newcastle Thunder at Kingston Park.

“We set off well and led 12-0 but for some reason we just looked flat for most of the game after that,” said Thornton.

“They came back into it but we got ourselves back in front by half time and we asked the players for a bit of a reaction in the second half during the break.

“But they came out much stronger than we did and they caught us off-guard and although we finished strongly we had left ourselves with too much to do.

“We’d done our homework on them and we knew they’d be a decent side but they didn’t do anything we didn’t expect and the fact that they were the better side on the day was mainly down to how we played.

“I don’t want to use their 4G pitch as an excuse, but (stand-off) Jordan Howden was a bit apprehensive before the game in view of the hip injury which saw him make a delayed start, as were a couple of lads who were carrying knee injuries.”

He added: “It was certainly a disappointing result because it was a game we had targeted to win and we went there in a bit of form having won our previous three games.

“When I saw the fixtures at the start of the season I thought that we could probably afford to lose between two and four games and still finish in the top four and be well placed when the league is split into the top eight – from which the top five will contest the play-offs - in July.

“We’ve now lost two so we’ve not much margin for error and we’ve got to go to both Toulouse and Rochdale who are still unbeaten.

“We dropped to third after Sunday’s defeat and there are teams below us who have at least one game in hand.

“But whereas we’ve played most of the former Championship sides and - apart from the two games previously mentioned - we haven’t got a bad run-in, a lot of the sides around us still have to play each other so clearly some clubs will drop points.

“Having said that, we’ve still got to beat the likes of Coventry Bears, who we play this weekend, and we know from experience that you can’t take anyone for granted.”

Bears, who gave Keighley a run for their money in the first ever rugby league game to be played at the city’s Ricoh Arena on Sunday, will be back at their Butts Park Arena base this weekend.