Castleford Tigers are capable of fighting on two fronts this season, coach Daryl Powell says.
Tigers take a break from First Utility Super League action tomorrow when they face Sheffield Eagles in the Tetley’s Challenge Cup fifth round.
A home tie against Kingstone Press Championship opposition offers Tigers a golden opportunity to reach the Cup quarter-finals, but they are also eyeing a top-four finish on the league ladder after coming through the first 10 rounds in second place.
“We managed Easter pretty well,” said Powell, whose side recorded back-to-back holiday wins over Wakefield Trinity Wildcats and last year’s beaten Grand Finalists Warrington Wolves. “We didn’t play the same team, we mixed things up and gave different players opportunities.
“People at the moment look at us and think when is the drop off going to come? But I don’t see any reason why it should. We are going to have some tough games here and there, when we don’t get it our own way and don’t get the result we want, but the team has responded really well when that has happened so far.
“The Saints game [a last-gasp defeat] was a pretty tough one to take, because everybody could see we should have won that game.
“But the team responded with two really good wins over Easter and we scored 40 points in both.
“We were way too good for Warrington in the second half on Monday, so I don’t see any reason why we should be dropping off.
“I think we can compete in both competitions this year. Some squads are deeper than ours, but I think we are okay.”
Eagles – who won at The Jungle in 1998 on their way to a Challenge Cup final victory over Wigan Warriors – haven’t faced Castleford since Tigers won a home National League One fixture 52-26 in 2007.
Powell, though, is a former Eagles team-mate of Sheffield coach Mark Aston and knows plenty about them from his time in charge of Featherstone Rovers.
Eagles have won the last two Championship Grand Finals, including a victory over Rovers two years ago and Powell said: “I know their coach pretty well and I know a lot of their players.
“I have a lot of respect for the Championship, so we aren’t going to go into it thinking we will just roll them over.
“They have got some strike players and some guys who can be a real threat, but having said that, it is about us.
“Our focus is on being on our own game.
“We are confident at the moment if we are on our game we will take a bit of beating and we can come out on top on the scoreboard.
“But if we aren’t, we will find life difficult. We can’t just expect things to happen for us.
“I think it will be a good game and a tough one, but we’re confident it is one we can win.”
Kirk Dixon has recovered from a broken jaw and is set to return tomorrow along with Justin Carney, Oliver Holmes and Liam Finn, who were rested against Warrington. Ben Reynolds is also in contention, with Richard Owen, Andy Lynch and Weller Hauraki dropping out.
Castleford Tigers from: Tansey, Dixon, Shenton, Webster, Carney, Sneyd, Milner, Huby, Milington, Massey, Clark, Holmes, Mariano, Wheeldon, Ellis, Gibson, Clare, Finn, Reynolds.
Sheffield Eagles from: Togagae, Burke, Hanson, Straugheir, Turner, Walker, Brambani, Lillycrop, Henderson, Stringer, Aspinall, Garside, Taulapapa, Owen, Green, Davey, Tagaloa, Palmer, Ashton.
Referee: Robert Hicks (Oldham).
Kick-off: Tomorrow, 3.30pm.