Big Northern Rail cup clash ‘won’t distract Featherstone Rovers’

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FEATHERSTONE Rovers are strong enough to do battle on two fronts, coach Daryl Powell believes.

Rovers are third in the Co-op Championship – with two games in hand on the sides above them – and take on visitors Halifax tonight in the first Northern Rail Cup semi-final.

Powell insisted that he does not see the knock-out competition, which culminates in a final at Blackpool next month, as a distraction from Rovers’ league campaign.

“It is an important game for us,” Powell said of tonight’s clash – a rematch of last year’s Championship Grand Final.

“You get a couple of opportunities to get to a final at Championship level and this is one of them.

“We want to get there, we have put an emphasis on this competition. It is important for the club and we need to perform well.”

Fax are seventh in the Championship table, but Powell warned: “As a group we should feel pretty confident, but we know Halifax are a tough proposition.

“They had an outstanding win against Leigh a couple of weeks back and have improved. We will be looking to play as well as we can and I think we will need to.

“The players are aware of that. We know we will be facing the best Halifax side, not the one that played Hunslet last week.

“We will have to be on our game.”

Nathan Chappell (knee) drops out from the side which beat York last time out. Tom Hemingway (jaw) remains on the casualty list, but Powell will otherwise select from strength, with Tommy Saxton and Tony Tonks available after injury and Mufaro Mvududu also coming into contention.

Tonight’s victors will face the winners of Sunday’s second semi-final between Leigh Centurions and Dewsbury Rams.

Featherstone Rovers (v Halifax): from Hardman, Powell, Smeaton, Bostock, Saxton, Hepworth, Finn, Haley, Kaye, Dickens, Grayshon, Spears, Divorty, Tonks, Morrison, Kain, Mvududu, Worthington, Welham.

Referee: Gareth Hewer (Whitehaven).

Kick-off: Tonight, 7.30pm.

Dewsbury's Paul Sykes. PIC: Jonathan Gawthorpe

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