STAR players Rangi Chase and Daryl Clark are set to return to action before the end of the season and will play a part in Castleford Tigers’ final two games.
Tigers boss Ian Millward told the Express that half-back Chase and hooker Clark were almost ready to return to training after injuries kept them out of recent games.
Man of Steel Chase has been out with a knee injury and missed the last three games while Clark has not played since May after also picking up a knee injury.
Both will not be back in time for tonight’s trip to St Helens, but have been earmarked for a comeback against Catalan at the start of next month.
Millward told the Express: “Rangi Chase will return against Catalan at home and so will Daryl Clark. That will be very good for our last home game to have two of our better players back.
“We want to reward the fans for their loyalty to us and give them something to cheer before the end of the season.
“There are quite a few players leaving at the end of the year, either retiring or joining another club, but we just want them for the rest of the year to do their best.”
Millward reported no new injuries from last week’s game, but Castleford will be without half-back Jamie Ellis for their first visit to St Helens’ Langtree Park after he picked up a one-match ban for making a dangerous throw on London Broncos player Kieren Dixon.
Rookie Ben Johnston is set to keep his place in the team after making his debut in the 42-20 defeat by London last Sunday.
The speedy 20-year-old came in as a surprise choice at full-back, but was substituted in the second half after a difficult senior bow, although he did enough to show head coach Millward that he is a real talent for the future.
Johnston almost scored a try in his first minute of Super League action would have had a score to his name in the fifth minute had he been able to cling onto a Richard Owen pass with the line open. However, he was later beaten to a high ball by Dixon to concede a first half try and did not last the full 80 minutes.
Millward explained his decision to take the youngster out of the firing line and confirmed that he was going to stick with Johnston for the trip to St Helens.
He said: “It was very hard for Ben on his debut. He’d been out for four months with a broken thumb and only played in the 20s the week before.
“I didn’t want to knock his confidence around.
“I thought he tried very hard. He’s very raw, but with talent and for the long term it will have been a great experience for him.
“Ben will play again this week because Jamie Ellis is out suspended for a week, which is another disappointment. He will get another opportunity and there’s a distinct possibility he might be able to play half-back, his natural role.”
Tonight’s game will be a big occasion for Millward as he takes his Cas side to his former club for the first time.
He said: “I’m really looking forward to going back to St Helens. I’ve got great memories there and it was a special part of my life.
“I look forward to shaking hands with a lot of good people there.
“I’d like us to be going there in better form, but if the players do their best I will be pleased with that.
“They’ve done a very good job since Royce (Simmons) left. They are a very professional club and will be very stung by the loss against Wakefield.
“They always struggle against Wakefield, but we’ll see a very mean and a lot more committed team when they are at home.
“We played well against them at our home earlier in the season. It was a very unlucky loss and I think a draw would have been a fair result. But that was back then and we’re probably in a different state now to what we were then.”
Millward was unhappy with the players’ performance level against London when they lost their way after a bright start.
He added: “We started full of enthusiasm and opportunities and we bombed a certain second try. Unfortunately we conceded four tries down our right side and one or two individuals came up with some poor decisions.
“We’ve really struggled in the last two games against Wakefield and London. We’ve got a total of eight players out and three players who’ve been released - Brett Ferres, Ryan McGoldrick and Rhys Williams - and that has an impact on your overall quality and also competition for spots..We’re down to the bare 17 every week.
“I don’t mind saying that I was happy with our previous three games against Warrington, Huddersfield and Wigan, but our last two we’ve been inconsistent and lacked an edge to our game.
“There are a lot of reasons we’re not going well. One is that when I got the job we let nine players go and only brought three in.
“We’ve got a lot of players off contract and we can reshape the squad for 2013. I think we’ve got 15 players off contract.
“I know we need to do better with regard to our whole rugby league department and we’re putting major things in place now to do that.
“There has been a lack of planning and a lack of structure from top to bottom in our rugby league and we’re fully getting on top of that.
“Unfortunately it won’t happen overnight, but we’ve already signed six people and it’s pretty obvious we need a couple more players in for next year.
“There’s been no progress on any more players yet, but I’m in ongoing talks with the CEO and getting him up to date where I feel we are as a club in the rugby league department.”