Rugby League: Schofield survives

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The Independent Online
THE knives have been out for Garry Schofield in Leeds this week, but a slightly tarnished favourite son has survived to seek redemption against Warrington tonight.

Schofield has taken much of the blame for Leeds's dismal performance in their 36-6 defeat at Bradford last Sunday. He played one of the worst matches of his career, but more damaging is the belief, expressed by a string of callers to the local radio station that evening, by letters to local papers and - more cautiously - some at Headingley, that he was not trying.

It is no secret that Schofield feels a sense of grievance at playing under the captaincy of Ellery Hanley and until last Sunday, many sympathised with him.

But the contrast between Schofield's excellent form during Hanley's recent absence through injury and his sudden slump on the skipper's return at Bradford means that much of that sympathy has been lost.

The Leeds coach, Doug Laughton, however, has declined to drop or suspend Schofield as some have urged.

'He has been taken to task over his performance, but he hasn't been alone in that,' Laughton said. 'He has only had four bad matches since I came here, but whenever he does there is a witchhunt. I've heard these suggestions that he wasn't trying, but I believe it was purely a matter of him having an off-day - and that is what he says himself.'

Laughton could have dropped most members of the team that played at Bradford, but he has restricted himself to bringing in Steve Molloy for Shaun Wane at prop and drafting in two new substitutes - James Lowes, the scrum-half signed from Hunslet, and Paul Anderson, a young prop who impressed in a handful of appearances last season and has recovered from a toe operation.

Leeds face a difficult task tonight against a Warrington side who thrive under the lights. Warrington's half-backs, Kevin Ellis and Greg Mackey, have developed into a highly effective combination and the very least Leeds need is for everyone to be pulling together.

The alternative is further changes in the playing staff, but although Laughton might well be interested in the Widnes centre, Darren Wright, who was put on the transfer list yesterday, it would not be at the asking price of pounds 130,000.

Featherstone, who visit Oldham tonight in the first meeting of the season between the two Second Division promotion favourites, have put Andy Fisher up for sale at pounds 80,000 and Mark Gibbon at pounds 7,500.

Nottingham City have dismissed their coach, Dave Sampson, and his assistant, Trevor Briggs, as an economy measure after, two months after the pair took up the posts.