CASTLEFORD TIGERS will go into tomorrow’s Coral Challenge Cup tie at Hull on the back of three successive defeats, but coach Daryl Powell insists they are not in poor form.
The current sequence of results is Tigers’ longest losing run since four straight setbacks in June and July 2016 and Powell’s men have won only three of their last 10 games.
But they will get some key players back from injury tomorrow evening and Powell feels there are positive signs as his team aim to repeat the 28-18 victory they recorded at KCOM Stadium in Befred Super League three months ago.
“We’re showing a lot of courage and spirit at the moment under a fair bit of adversity,” he insisted. “I think we’re doing great, we’re doing exceptionally well under a fair bit of pressure and the boys have got to be applauded for that.
“Obviously we want to be winning games, that’s what we are after, but the effort is there.”
The situation has changed since Tigers inflicted Hull’s 13th successive defeat back in May.
Though they were crushed 37-6 at home by Catalans Dragons a week ago, the black and whites have climbed to fifth in the league table, two places above Tigers.
Powell said his side can take “a little bit of confidence” from the previous meeting, but warned: “I don’t think it helps too much. It’s a different game, different circumstances and slightly different players on both sides. We’ve just got to play well and it will be the best team on the day.
“A little bit of luck counts as well, but I don’t think past results count too much.”
With St Helens and Warrington Wolves having opened a gap at the top of the table, the Challenge Cup could be Tigers’ best chance of silverware this year.
Powell stressed: “This is a big game, a really important game as the Challenge Cup is massive.
“It’s one game at a time. The only teams we play in the Challenge Cup seem to be Hull away and St Helens at home.
“Hull did beat us a couple of years ago when we were going well and it is a tough draw.
“When you go there you know it’s going to be a difficult game. They are usually good at home.”
Mike McMeeken took over as Tigers’ captain during last week’s defeat by Warrington after Paul McShane went off with a rib injury.
He is also refusing to be daunted by a difficult task.
“It’s still a massive competition and it’s important to players and the fans,” McMeeken stressed. “You’ve got to beat the best to be the best.”
James Clare, Jesse Sene-Lefao, Matt Cook and Jordan Rankin have all been named in Tigers’ initial 19-man squad after a spell on the casualty list, but McShane and Daniel Smith (hip) drop out and Greg Eden is omitted from the side on duty six days ago.
Jacques O’Neill is included after being an unused member of last week’s 19.
Half-backs Albert Kelly and Marc Sneyd will return for Hull along with Ratu Naulago, Dean Hadley and Cameron Scott. Connor Wynne, Kieran Buchanan and Jordan Thompson drop out of the early-selection process.
Hull: from Faraimo, Griffin, Kelly, Sneyd, Taylor, Houghton, Hadley, Minichiello, Westerman, Connor, Green, Matongo, Fash, Manu, Paea, Logan, Scott, Naulago, Ellis.
Castleford Tigers: from Aston, Blair, Clare, Clark, Clarkson, Cook, Egodo, Maher, Massey, Mata’utia, McMeeken, Milner, Minikin, O’Neill, Rankin, Sene-Lefao. Trueman, Turner, Watts.
Referee: Robert Hicks (Oldham).
Kick-off: Tomorrow, 7.35pm.