Undefeated Eagles seek home comforts at Valley

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IS IT too early to start worrying about how the season will end? Now my football-watching friends are already suffering from that end-of-season twitch. Promotion or play-offs for some – the ‘r’ word is stalking the others.

Rugby League because it is a ‘summer’ game is just getting into it’s stride but a bit of that uncertainty from my round ball mates is rubbing off.

The Rail Cup is on the back burner and it’s only two out of 18 league games down. Sheffield Eagles are unbeaten but nagging away is the knowledge that all winning runs like political careers end in tears.

Of course there is no relegation from the Championship this season – next year the league will increase to 14 teams. That doesn’t help in a 10-team league where there is little margin for error. It’s brutal arithmetic, lose one or two games and kiss goodbye to the league leaders’ shield.

Last season, Featherstone Rovers finished top of the league dropping only four points from one defeat and a draw. The second team, Leigh, had the same record but had three points deducted for some neat passing on the salary cap.

Meeting that kind of standard gives an edge to tomorrow night’s home game against Halifax, who like the Eagles have won two out of two in the league. Not that games with Fax in recent seasons have been places to bring your granny for a quiet treat.

Eagles don’t have a local ‘derby’ game but Fax seem to have taken on the role in best panto baddie style. Eighteen months ago the clubs battered each other with lawyers’ letters over whether former Eagles’ forward Sam Barlow could play against his old club. Thankfully since then the handbags have been put away and the action is on the field. Last season games went with home advantage in the league but the Eagles got the vital win in the play-offs and rubbed Fax’s nose in the dirt 50-12.

Halifax have a new coach in former GB forward Karl Harrison. As a player his nickname was ‘Rhino’. You don’t need more hints on how Fax will play.

Eagles tomorrow have the home advantage. But caution, the Eagles have invented the away ‘home’ game in recent seasons. The venue is Bramall Lane after three games at Don Valley Stadium. One minute you get your eyes and the binoculars adjusted to the long view from Don Valley’s panorama next it’s off to the Lane. Is it really home advantage?

Two more games are planned for the Lane in May then the gates slam shut, United start painting the grass or something, and it’s back to DVS.

Visiting teams don’t like coming to Don Valley – maybe that’s an advantage. I’m no fan of the Valley but after more than 20 years of watching games across the wasteland of a running track it does sort of feel like ‘home’.