Closure threat to Dewsbury

Rugby League
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Dewsbury go into their Silk Cut Challenge Cup fifth-round tie against Widnes tomorrow with the threat of closure hanging over the club. The First Division side have been revealed as having debts of pounds 890,000, growing at the rate of pounds 1,000 a day.

The Rugby League has ordered its entire management team to resign and has put a financial rescue squad into Crown Flatt to try to save the club. Players who were recently put on full-time contracts have returned to part-time terms and two of the club's South Africans have gone home.

Financial distress is not the monopoly of the smaller clubs, as shown by the news that Wigan face a huge tax bill a week after going out of the Cup, but it must be a distraction before the meeting with Widnes, no strangers to crisis themselves.

Widnes' biggest boost for a tie that guarantees a First Division club a semi-final place when the winners go to Hull next week is the return of Stuart Spruce after a knee injury. Spruce, wanted by Bradford if they can generate the necessary cash by reaching the semi-finals, replaces Gary Broadbent.

The other remaining fifth-round tie at Thrum Hall sees Halifax take on Sheffield Eagles for the right to meet Leeds in the quarter-finals.

The feeling at Halifax is that the first of the two matches in prospect could be the harder. Their coach, Steve Simms, has Wayne Parker fit to replace the injured Craig Dean at scrum-half and two of his most experienced backs, the winger John Bentley and the centre and goal-kicker, John Schuster, are also in contention after recent absences.

The Eagles have had mixed luck with flights from Australia. Their prop, Danny McAllister, got back from a break in Brisbane in time to stake his claim for a place, but Paul Carr could miss out after his plane was delayed. Two long-term injury victims, Anthony Farrell and Mark Aston, are both expected to be fit.

The football director of the Blackpool Gladiators, Tom Mather, has criticised the decision to refuse them a place in the Second Division but to admit a new club in South Wales. "We were far better placed to become competitive in the short time available," he said.