FACING LEEDS Rhinos is just the sort of challenge Castleford Tigers need to get their season back on track, coach Daryl Powell reckons.
Tigers are on a three-match losing run and have slipped to eighth in First Utility Super League, just one point and a single place clear of tonight’s visitors.
A series of injuries to key players has added to Tigers’ problems, but Powell is confident Leeds will bring the best out of his men.
“They did that in the away games last year,” Powell said of his team’s two wins at Headingley in 2015.
“But we haven’t beaten them at home yet since I’ve been at the club. This is a perfect time to start.
“It should be a full house and a great atmosphere and it is the perfect game if we want to respond.”
After Tigers’ were thumped 56-12 at Warrington Wolves last Friday, Powell described their performance as “terrible” and “the worst since I’ve been at the club”.
It was their third straight defeat, following losses at St Helens and home to Salford Red Devils and Cas have won only two of their opening six matches.
But they were without Michael Shenton, Luke Dorn, Oliver Holmes, Ben Roberts and Junior Moors due to injury last week and Powell conceded that that is having a bearing on his team’s form.
“We’ve got two big games over Easter and we’ve got to respond,” said the former Leeds coach, who will also be without the suspended Matt Cook tonight. “There’s quite a few teams this year who have had a glut of injuries and you see the results.
“It is very tough to manage, but it is what it is and we’ve got to get on with it.
“We have got a strong squad, that’s what we believe and we have got to deliver.
“It doesn’t come any bigger than Leeds at home and we’ll be right up for this game.
“We’ve had a pretty honest chat and we’ve got to get on with it.”
Leeds have also won only twice this year and trail Tigers in the table because of Castleford’s draw at Hull KR in round one.
But last year’s treble winners showed signs of improvement in a 30-18 victory over St Helens six days ago and Powell does not expect them to be at the wrong end of the table for long.
“They are starting to get players back and you can see their form beginning to improve,” said the former Leeds player, who was in charge at Headingley from 2001-2003.
“It is not a magic formula. They are not too far away and they will be going well [soon].
“They are improving with players coming back and they are looking much stronger.”
Powell added: “It will certainly be a tough game and everybody has got to be at their best, no doubt about that. Last week it didn’t happen.
“But we know where we need to be and where the players need to be mentally and physically.
“It is a really tough period and we need to be tough in these two games.”
Tigers are away to Catalans Dragons on Monday afternoon.