BARNSLEY RUFC return to action when they host fellow relegation-battlers on Saturday – hoping to continue from their strong finish to 2023.

The Shaw Laners are third-bottom in Yorkshire Division Three, two points clear of the relegation zone and four ahead of bottom club Sheffield Medicals who they host at the weekend.

Barnsley lost their first seven games of the season but then were unbeaten in four with three wins before a narrow defeat at Rotherham Phoenix in their last game before Christmas.

Coach Tom Kittrick said: “We’re back with a big game.

“Sheffield Medicals are in a bit of a slump. I don’t think they’ve won since they beat us last year.

“We need to win to move a bit further away from the relegation zone.

“We have to target games like this and make sure we get five points.

“We need to start beating teams around us, don’t give them a bonus point and make sure we get one.

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“They are a university side so we’re not sure what they will turn up like straight after Christmas – whether people are back or not.

“We can’t concentrate on that.

“We have to worry about ourselves. We have five or six first teamers missing.

“Last time we played them, before I was involved, they were very good in the scrum and, as you would expect from students, they had some quick lads in the backs.

“We just have to play our game and get the plan right.”

Barnsley are now hopeful of avoiding a second successive relegation, having ended a 29-game losing run.

“It will be tough but the lads are confident. From not winning in nearly two years to going unbeaten in November then getting wins in December too, we have come a long way.

“The aim is to be going into the last few games of the season knowing we’re safe.

“We have a run of seven straight games on the next seven Saturdays, which will tell us where we are.

“We set targets every three games.

“At the minute we’re doing it on points not performance.

“We’re in a position where we’ve got to win.

“We have three home games in January which is always helpful but we have the two top teams in the league as well.

“We were unlucky at Rotherham.

“They scored from the last play of the game.

“We had two props missing and, without that, we might have been more dominant at the end.”

Kittrick, a rugby league coach, was brought in to help Jonathan Rickerby earlier in the season.

Rickerby is currently not involved in the club due to personal reasons but is expected to return.

Kittrick said: “The club has been on the wrong end of things since Covid.

“We needed to get the right environment.

“We’ve flipped how training was presented. We are trying to make it more focused around skills and getting people doing things right.

“Then we build that into a bit of a basic gameplan with a bit of direction on the pitch which was lacking.

“We’re doing more gym sessions and video analysis.

“We got quite a quick reaction from all of that.

“The main thing we had to was change was the ethos of the club and make it a place people want to be.

“We have a really good set of lads.

“We have had players come back from other teams because we’ve got the environment right.

“We’re not fully there yet.

“There are still things we want to implement but, for the first time in a few years, the club has a plan and some structure.

“Everything is really positive.”

The 3pm game against Sheffield will be a double-header as Barnsley Ladies are due to host Novocastrians in the Championship North from 1pm.

The women’s team are seventh in the nine-team league with 15 points from nine games.

Wath visit Bramley Phoenix in Yorkshire League Two.

They are currently third, three points off top.