CASTLEFORD TIGERS are at the start of a “crucial” run of fixtures which could make or break their season.
Tigers are second from bottom in First Utility Super League with just one win – at home to Wigan two weeks ago – from their five games so far, but tonight’s clash with Salford Red Devils begins a key sequence of three successive home matches.
“It will be pretty crucial for us,” said coach Daryl Powell, whose team take on Hull, who are currently bottom, a week today, followed by a Good Friday derby against Leeds Rhinos.
Tigers are on the back of a 22-0 drubbing at Huddersfield Giants eight days ago and Powell admitted they need a good performance tonight to put that shocking display behind them and get the wheels turning as they attempt to climb the table.
“Motivation is going to be pretty high,” Powell stated.
“We were all disappointed with the way we performed last week and this is a big game for us.
“We have got to put last week behind us and move on.”
Improving Salford are unbeaten in three games – with wins over Hull and Wakefield Trinity Wildcats and a draw at Catalans – since a 50-point home loss to St Helens.
Australia coach Tim Sheens has been brought in to assist team boss Iestyn Harris and controversial forward Gareth Hock has left the club.
“Maybe what they did with Hock has done them some good,” Powell said. “They have certainly got good players, you can’t question that. They are always going to be a threat, physically they are good and they come at you, so it will be a big challenge for us.”
Salford’s main dangerman is former Tigers hero and Man of Steel Rangi Chase, who scored one try against Wakefield last Sunday and provided the final pass for the other three.
Powell said: “He is playing exceptionally well, but they have good players across the board. They are a good team, but we have got to focus on ourselves.
“We need to play with more consistency, from game to game and within games as well.
“If we can replicate the way we played against Wigan rather than Huddersfield we are confident in ourselves.”
Ashley Gibson, Adam Milner, Mike McMeeken and Ryan Boyle are in contention for a call-up tonight, with centre Michael Channing and prop Andy Lynch (groin injury) dropping out from last week’s team.
Harris will select from the 17 who beat Wakefield, plus Cory Paterson and Niall Evalds.
Castleford Tigers: from Dorn, Clare, Gibson, Webster, Carney, Finn, Gale, Cook, Moore, Millington, Holmes, Moors, Massey, Roberts, Wheeldon, Crossley, Boyle, McMeeken, Milner.
Salford Red Devils: from Locke, Jones-Bishop, J Griffin, Sa’u, Johnson, Chase, Dobson, Taylor, Lee, Morley, Hansen, Hauraki, J Walne, Tasi, Fages, D Griffin, Walton, Paterson, Evalds.
Referee: Robert Hicks.
Kick-off: Tonight, 8pm.