Rugby League: Highfield higher on hope: Johnson's arrival breathes life into stragglers

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The Independent Online
Highfield. . .18

Chorley. . . . 8

WHILE most of their more secure brethren played glorified friendlies yesterday, there was plenty of life down among the dead men. Highfield and Chorley have adopted different strategies in fighting for their existence by avoiding finishing in the Third Division's bottom three. Chorley are battling on with the largely young and inexperienced side who have won only three games this season; Highfield have gone among fellow strugglers for some proven players in a bid to buy a reprieve.

It was that approach that paid off at St Helens Town football ground. The acquisition of Chris Johnson from Blackpool and Roy Haggerty from Barrow, to add to the vast experience of Ian Potter, gave Highfield three Great Britain internationals to bring some craft to bear on their partners in distress.

Potter and Haggerty gave them a steadiness in the pack that Chorley could not match, but it was Johnson, the former Leigh full-back, who was instrumental in building a first-half lead that Highfield never lost.

Johnson kicked three goals and two drop goals as well as setting up Highfield's try for Geoff Dean with a break and pass of real quality, while Chorley could only reply with a goal from Mike Smith.

Moving more purposefully after the break, Chorley got the benefit of the doubt when they were awarded a penalty try after their wing, Trevor Painter, lost the ball over the line.

Smith kicked the goal and Chorley were briefly in with a chance until a long-range breakaway try by Shaun Barrow and a Johnson penalty gave Highfield the victory and, perhaps, slightly the better chance of escaping the bottom three.

There were two ironies in the situation. The first is that, in front of only 411, there will be a lot worse games of rugby in the First Division this season. The second is that two clubs who went at each other as though their lives depended on it could yet seek a merger as an alternative to disappearing completely.

Highfield: C Johnson; Hudson, Hester, G Haggerty (A N Other, 56), S Barrow; Dolan, W Johnson; Lewis, Pemberton, Potter, Dean (N Barrow, 66), R Haggerty, Viller.

Chorley: Smith; Marsh, Clayton, Meadows, Painter; Ashcroft (Price, 63), Bimpson; Edwards, Walsh, Whiteside (Tollitt, 22; Whiteside, 63), McTigue, Sedgwick, Crook.

Referee: D Redfearn (Huddersfield).

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