THE NEXT eight games are all about securing a home semi-final, Castleford Tigers coach Daryl Powell says.
Tigers began the final weekend of the regular Betfred Super League season in fourth place with a seven-point advantage over their nearest challengers Hull.
It would take a dramatic collapse for them to drop out of the play-off spots, but the top-two after the Super-8s will gain home advantage and Powell said that is the target now.
“The top-four can change, if you don’t keep picking up points,” warned Powell whose side visit bottom club Widnes Vikings tomorrow.
“We want to be in the top-four, but we are striving for second. Saints have got first place – they are similar to us last year, 10 points clear – but we are a point off Wigan.
“We are aiming for second, we are in a battle and that is where we need to be focusing our attention.”
Tigers had the opportunity to go above Wigan last week, but suffered a shock 32-18 home defeat to Huddersfield Giants.
“We’ll have to improve from last week to win at Widnes,” Powell said. “We were poor, but the game before we went pretty well and that’s what we’re looking for this week.
“We haven’t got a lot of competition for places and when that happens players’ form can waiver a bit. We haven’t been as consistent as we would like to have been, but hopefully we’ll get some people back over the next few weeks and that will give us a good chance.”
Peter Mata’utia, signed this week from Leigh Centurions on a three-year contract, is poised to make his Tigers debut.
Mike McMeeken is back in contention after injury and Calum Turner and Jacques O’Neill have been called into the squad. Matt Cook (biceps) and Grant Millington (hamstring) drop out from last week’s team, along with Jake Webster.
Liam Finn, signed on loan from Wakefield Trinity, will make his debut for Widnes and new signing from Leigh Harrison Hansen is also included.
Widnes Vikings: from Ah Van, Albert, J Chapelhow, T Chapelhow, Craven, Dean, Farnworth, Finn, Hanbury, Hansen, Hauraki, Ince, Inu, Leuluai, Mellor, Olbison, Walker, Whitley, Wilde.
Castleford Tigers: from Clare, Clark, Eden, Ellis, Gill, Holmes, Laulu-Togaga’e, Massey, Mata’utia, McMeeken, McShane, Milner, Moors, O’Neill, Sene-Lefao, Shenton, Trueman, Turner, Watts.
Referee: Liam Moore (Wigan).
Kick-off: Tomorrow, 3pm.