THEY MAY have suffered successive defeats inside a week, but centre Ashley Gibson is adamant Castleford Tigers aren’t in a slump.
Tigers were pipped 29-28 at the 2013 Super League leaders Huddersfield Giants last Sunday and then went down 22-14 to current table-toppers Leeds Rhinos at MAH Jungle just four days later.
But Gibson reckons there are plenty of positives for Tigers to take from both setbacks and he remains convinced they are on course for a top-four finish this year.
It took a late Danny Brough drop goal to inflict only Cas’ third defeat of the year and they led Leeds by eight points early on – something no other team has done this year – before their tough schedule caught up with them in the second half.
Tigers are the only side so far to lead at half-time against Leeds and their 14 points equalled the highest total conceded by Rhinos in 2014, factors which have fueled Gibson’s confidence for the rest of the campaign.
“I think we can stay in the top-four,” Gibson insisted. “We have shown we can compete with the top teams.
“We have lost a few games, but there hasn’t been that many points in any of them.”
Gibson began his career at Leeds, coming through the academy ranks before making his senior debut in 2005. He joined then-Salford City Reds ahead of the 2010 season and returned across the Pennines to Castleford at the end of last year.
When he signed Tigers were heading for a third-bottom finish in Super League and the 27-year-old admitted he did not expect to be joining a team who were about to become genuine title contenders.
“It has been Daryl’s quality coaching,” Gibson said of team boss Daryl Powell. “He is getting the best out of everyone. Everyone’s doing their job. We have lost a couple of games, but there’s been nothing in it and we’ll learn from those.”
The short turnaround contributed to Cas’ defeat by Leeds, who had an extra two days to prepare. Gibson refused to use that as an excuse, but he conceded: “It is a bit like Easter, a Sunday to Thursday turnaround.
“The boys put the effort in, but we just lost our way in the second half.
“There was too much dropped ball, we made something like nine errors and you can’t give Leeds that much quality ball in your own half or they are going to capitalise on it. We did well to keep them out as much as we did.
“They had a lot of ball and we were in our own half for most of the game after half-time and they have got quality boys all over the park.
“They put us under a lot of pressure, but I think we defended well to say how much ball they had. We will learn from our mistakes and come back strong.”
Tigers’ next match is a week tomorrow, when they face Wakefield Trinity Wildcats at Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium in the opening game of the Magic Weekend’s second day.
It will be Gibson’s first Tigers-Wildcats derby after he sat out Castleford’s 43-20 win at Rapid Solicitors Stadium on Good Friday.
With Wakefield scrapping to avoid relegation and Castleford desperate to get back to winning ways, Gibson predicted: “It will be a big game.
“I played in the Magic Weekend last year, for Salford and it is an awesome event. It will be good to play against Wakefield, if selected.”