HUNSLET HAWKS are walking the play-offs tightrope without a safety net following their home defeat by Oldham last week.
Hawks are back in action at South Leeds Stadium, for the final time this year, when they take on Gateshead Thunder in a Kingstone Press Championship One elimination semi-final tomorrow (3pm).
The winners will travel to the losers of tomorrow’s other tie – between York City Knights and Oldham – in eight days’ time, but the season will be over for the beaten team.
Thunder finished fourth on the league ladder, two places and 13 points adrift of Hawks, but Hunslet coach Barry Eaton knows the visitors will travel with all guns blazing.
“We beat them with two good performances in the league games,” Eaton recalled.
“But they made a big improvement over the last third of the season, they brought a few players in and they’ll have nothing to lose.
“We need to be prepared and we have to play well.”
Despite the 25-24 setback eight days ago, Eaton feels Hawks are in good form.
He said: “We played really well for large parts of the game, but we had a poor 15 minute spell when we were really sloppy and we allowed Oldham to play too quick on us.
“We were jumping off tackles and missing tackles on kick-returns and we know this week when times get tough and we are under the pump we have got to dig in a bit harder.”
Reaching the Grand Final, at Headingley on October 5, is now a tall order for Hawks, who lost at both York and Oldham in the regular season.
But Eaton insisted: “There are four teams left in the competition and York play Oldham this week, but that is totally irrelevant to us.
“All our focus at the moment is on Gateshead on Sunday.
“There is no point thinking about what might happen after that, we have got to deal with the job at hand.
“That is to put in a good perforance this weekend and come away with a win.
“The mood in the camp is really good, but also frustrated because we know we dominated the game for 60-65 minutes last week. Hopefully that feeling of frustration will carry us forward.”
Hawks have already begun preparations for next season, despite not knowing which division they will be in. Utility-back Marcus Elliott, hooker Matthew Tebb, front-rowers Michael Haley and Lewis Reed and half-back Danny Grimshaw have all re-signed for 2015.