Rugby league preview: Tunks in a bind

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THE scramble to avoid the First Division trap-door intensifies this afternoon with the bottom four clubs in confrontation with each other.

Leigh are virtually doomed already, although their young side is by no means as bad as some who have occupied last place in recent years, and they could do some damage to the team immediately above them, Wakefield Trinity, by winning there today.

Wakefield last week asked their players to take a 20 per cent pay cut and they face a dogfight to avoid the other relegation place with Oldham and Hull KR, who also meet this afternoon.

George Fairbairn's regime at Rovers has been a matter of spinning out very thin playing resources, something he has done relatively successfully, considering the problems he has faced.

Peter Tunks has got himself into a subtly different bind at Oldham. Originally, the wheeling and dealing he indulged in at a club where the main gates came to resemble a revolving door were forced on him by an urgent need to balance the books. There have been times lately, though, where his need to tinker with the side has looked suspiciously like a compulsion, which has denied them any stability and has sometimes left players confused about their roles.

Tunks hopes that the arrival of Glen Liddiard from Australia will eventually solve his problems at stand-off, but creditors are still knocking on the door at their increasingly antiquated Watersheddings ground and the chances are that he will have to sell players again at the end of the season.

If Oldham beat Hull KR today and Wakefield see off Leigh, the three sides will be locked together on 10 points and the mother of all relegation battles will be in prospect.

TODAY'S FIXTURES: Silk Cut Challenge Cup third round (3.0 unless stated) Barrow v East Leeds (2.0); Bramley v Redhill; Carlisle v Askam (2.0); Dewsbury v Hensingham (3.30); Doncaster v Wigan St Patricks; Highfield v Saddleworth; Huddersfield v Woolston (3.30); Hunslet v Barrow Island; Keighley v Oulton (3.15); London Crusaders v Shaw Cross; Rochdale v Millom; Ryedale York v Leigh MW (3.15); Swinton v Irlam Hornets; Whitehaven v West Hull (2.30); Workington v Beverley. Stones Bitter Championship Featherstone v Halifax (3.30); Hull v Castleford (3.15); Oldham v Hull KR; Sheffield v Bradford Northern (3.15); St Helens v Warrington; Wakefield v Leigh (3.30); Widnes v Salford.