ST HELENS boss Justin Holbrook expects his side to face a fired-up Leeds Rhinos team at Headingley tonight.
Rhinos are smarting from last week’s 38-6 drubbing at Wakefield Trinity and will be keen to put on a show in the final game before Headingley’s South Stand is demolished.
Those factors will give the hosts extra motivation, and Holbrook admitted: “It definitely makes it a bit harder.”
He said: “There’s some challenges for us.
“The South Stand will make it a big occasion for them, but probably more important will be their loss last week to Wakefield.
“They will be disappointed with that and by how much. That makes them so much more dangerous so we need to be at our best.”
Saints are also looking to bounce back, after an 8-6 home defeat by Hull last Friday ended their four-game winning run.
Their previous loss was 24-22 at Leeds in June and Holbrook is expecting another close battle.
“It is a great atmosphere there and they are a very difficult team to play against,” he said.
“That’s a big combination and they are a really big challenge for us, but we had a really big challenge the other week at Castleford and got the job done so this is another one of those for us.
“We have just got to continue with how we’ve been playing. We’ve been playing great for a while now.
“We need to play really well to beat them, but we are looking forward to it.”
Holbrook identified ball-handling prop Adam Cuthbertson among Leeds’ dangermen.
“I think he is head and shoulders above the second person in the comp in the number of off-loads he gets,” Holbrook observed.
“That’s the strength of his game and something we’ve definitely got to be aware of.”
Holbrook confirmed half-back Matty Smith is set to start for the first time since suffering a serious eye injury in Saints’ previous visit to Leeds.
He has come off the bench in his two comeback games, with Danny Richardson starting, but the coach said: “With his experience, Matt will probably look to come back in.”
Holbrook explained: “He [Smith] has done everything right to get his job back and Danny has done everything to keep it.
“It is a win-win situation whoever starts. I don’t think it affects our team at all.”