DARYL POWELL believes his improving Castleford Tigers side are more than capable of defeating the First Utility Super League leaders tonight for a second week running.
Having won 31-24 at Leeds Rhinos last Thursday they now host champions St Helens, the team that subsequently usurped their West Yorkshire rivals at the top, in another enticing televised game.
Castleford do have a wretched record against the Merseyside club having lost 15 successive matches since their last win in 2008 and not prospering in a league away fixture for a quarter-of-a-century.
They defeated Tigers 21-14 in February when Powell’s side lost their opening three games but Cas’ will move up to fourth if they succeed this evening.
He recalled: “We had a tough start and I thought we were pretty unlucky to lose the first three games, including that one at St Helens.
“But we’ve stabilised a fair bit since and look a good side now.
“Obviously this is a significant challenge, like last week – both sides are on the back of big wins so it should be a great game and they have probably got Luke Walsh back who’s a smart player.
“But it would be real good if we can knock off the leaders for the second week running.
“We’ve a bit of consistency, won our last three and got quite a few players who are playing close to the top of their game.
“We’re in a different place, but I still don’t think we’re at our best; there’s lots to come from us and hopefully it will show Thursday.”
Powell is unfussed by that poor record against Saints, too.
“I can’t remember when we last beat them, but it was a while (2010) since we beat Leeds at Headingley,” he said.
“We were pretty unlucky against Saints last year, as we were against Leeds, but none of that really matters; it’s about what happens now.
“For us, we need to perform well individually. We’ve got a lot of players who are getting a bit of a groove about the way that they play and if we can put all that together as a team then we can really challenge St Helens.”
Indeed, Castleford are seeking a fourth successive win after a bitty start to the year. Their hopes are bolstered by the return to fitness of main strike player Justin Carney, the robust Australian winger who endured a painful dislocated elbow against Hull KR 10 weeks ago.
Matt Cook, the experienced second-row also in good form before being injured on Easter Monday, is back in the 19-man squad, too, providing Powell with an unusual selection issue.
“A couple of games ago we only had 19 players so this is great,” he admitted.
“Since Justin’s been out the guys have stepped in and done a good job.
“Denny Solomona’s just come back into the team and he’s scoring tries at the moment. Ash Gibson’s done a really good job and they’ve both played pretty well, as has James Clare when he’s been out there.
“We’ve managed a pretty tough situation but I keep saying Justin’s one of our elite players and he was playing outstandingly well before he got that injury.
“It’s been a fair while him out of the squad and he’s a nightmare when he’s injured so it will just be great to have him back.
“He’s a high-quality player and, hopefully, he can kick off from where he finished.”