IT IS a case of so far, so good for Castleford Tigers, but boss Daryl Powell predicts his team will have a blip at some stage.
Tigers are top of Betfred Super League and boast one of only two remaining 100 per cent winning records, along with defending champions Wigan Warriors.
Powell reckons his men can – and will – travel to Salford Red Devils in good spirits on Sunday and deserve the all praise they are getting, but insists the real challenge is to maintain their form during the whole campaign.
“Without question you are going to have tough times throughout the year,” Powell admitted. “I don’t think anybody would expect to go through a season without having a difficult period.
“We’ve just got to be consistent and mindful of the challenge ahead of us every week. I think we’ve done that so far and I suppose time will tell how we go in the future.
“I tend to just see how we go this week, make sure that’s right and then look forward. We are enjoying ourselves at the moment, we’ve started really well, there’s a bit of confidence about us, but we need to recognise there’s some tough games coming up.”
Sunday’s match marks the start of a crucial run for Tigers, leading up to Easter.
“We’ve just got through our first block of games and we’ve done really well in those, but it’s about putting those behind us now and moving on,” Powell added.
“It’s easy to say, but the actual reality of it is we have to make sure our performances are good on a week-to-week basis – which they have been so far. Our pre-season was really good and we’ve carried that into the season so we’ve got to be pleased with what we’ve done so far.”
The target on Sunday, Powell said, is to maintain this season’s defensive improvement. Of last year’s top-eight teams, only Wakefield Trinity conceded more points than Tigers. That is something Powell and his players have focused on since training resumed in November and it paid off last week when they whitewashed Widnes Vikings.
“It was one of our challenges, to improve as a defensive team,” Powell confirmed.“We’ve worked hard at it and the players’ attitude has been really good. Last week was the first time in eight years a Cas team has been able to nil the opposition so that’s great for us confidence-wise.
“I think the players’ belief, individually and collectively as a defensive unit, is really growing.
“That is important for us. We’ve got a really tough block of games coming and we know we’re going to have to steel up and continue to be good defensively.”
Powell expects Salford to test Tigers this weekend, with and without the ball.
“They are a good side, their coach Ian Watson has done a great job there,” he said. “They are well-coached and they challenge you, they shift the ball wherever they are on the field, so there’s some similarities between them and us. They will be a threat, absolutely.”
Meanwhile, Powell says Tigers could offer a contract to trialist Alex Foster, despite his continuing bad luck with injuries. Foster played for Kingstone Press League One club Oxford in last Sunday’s defeat by Workington Town, but suffered pectoral muscle damage.