HUNSLET WILL be on red alert when they square up to community game neighbours Oulton Raiders in the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup third round tomorrow (3pm).
The Betfred League One club have home advantage, but coach Gary Thornton admits his side are taking a leap into the unknown and he reckons they need to be strong mentally as well as physically to avoid what would be a major upset.
“I don’t know too much about them,” Thornton admitted of Oulton.
“I’ve not had chance to see them because they didn’t have a game last week, but we know they will come with loads of enthusiasm and aggression.
“They beat Siddal in the last round, which is no mean feat and they were promoted [to National Conference Division One] last year so they’ll be full of confidence because they are in a winning streak.
“This is like their cup final and they will be up for it and we have to be right mentally to handle that.
“We will just concentrate on our mental approach. We have to be mentally tough for a tricky challenge.
“Professionalism and mentality are as important as anything this week.”
Hunslet began their league campaign with a 28-14 win at Hemel Stags six days ago.
“We had a few issues from last week we need to try and address and this is an opportunity to put them right, certainly in attack,” Thornton said.
“Whoever we are playing we just need to improve week by week.”
The draw was ideal for both sides.
Hunslet wanted home advantage, Raiders have avoided a long trip and the tie is set to attract a bumper gate.
Over the years around 25 players have turned out for both clubs and Raiders assistant-coaches Danny Burton and Darren Robinson both had spells at Hunslet.
“It’s a great draw,” Oulton coach Steve Gill said. “There’s a lot of interest and a lot of links between the clubs. We wanted to draw a semi-pro’ club and one close to home and this is ideal for us.”
Gill added: “Gary is an accomplished coach and he has made some really good signings, but they will still be creating partnerships and hopefully we can catch them on the hop.
“We have 17 lads who will go out and give it their all. Going up against a semi-professional club you are always going to be underdogs, but it’s not unheard of and we will give it our best shot.”
Meanwhile, Thornton has confirmed Duane Straugheir as Hunslet’s new skipper following his co-captain George Flanagan’s defection to Bradford Bulls.
Thornton admitted Flanagan’s exit – for an undisclosed fee – was “disappointing” and he stressed: “We did everything in our power to keep him, but at the end of the day it was the player’s decision. We’re now searcing to replace him and we will be everything possible to find a suitable replacement.”