CASTLEFORD Tigers coach Terry Matterson (pictured) admits to having one or two selection headaches ahead of tonight’s top eight four-pointer at Salford City Reds.
Matterson, back in full charge after his successful week with the Exiles, was delighted with the Tigers’ second half display as they fought back from 22-4 down to draw with Super League title favourites Wigan and there is a temptation to start with the side that finished that game minus injury absentee Richard Owen.
But several players not involved against the champions are pushing for a recall and several more are touch and go to be fit in time for Castleford’s likely last visit to The Willows ground.
Matterson explained: “There’s going to be a few late calls and it’s hard to prepare to be honest. Because we’ve got so many who can play different positions it’s getting the balance right that’s going to be important.
“We’ve had a look at Richie Owen, but he picked up a hamstring injury against Wigan and they’re not usually ones you can recover from in five days.
“Willie Isa definitely won’t be available, but we’ll monitor Nick Youngquest. It’s been frustrating for him, but injuries take time and we’ve just got to be patient. If we bring him back too early a recurrence may happen.
“Even though we didn’t bring Jonny Walker in too early that’s the sort of thing we wouldn’t like to happen again and be without Nick for a long time. We want to make sure we get him as right as we possibly can before he plays.
“But there are others left out last week who are in contention. Ollie Holmes and Steve Snitch played in the nines on Tuesday, but that hasn’t ruled them out. We just feel they need a bit of rugby and they’re an important part of the team with a role to play. Daryl Clark was left out last weekend so he’ll come into the reckoning as well.”
Castleford played some sparkling rugby and ran out easy 52-20 winners over Salford in the first meeting between the sides this season at the Probiz Coliseum in April, but Matterson is preparing his team for a much tougher test this time, especially after Salford shocked Super League leaders Warrington last Sunday.
He said: “It’s another big game. They had a great result last week and won the week before as well so they’ll be buoyed and confident with their eye on a top eight position.
“They bought big in the off-season and up until the last few weeks they’ve been a bit disappointed with how they’ve been going. But momentum’s a funny thing and they are on the back of two wins now and they’re at home so they’ll feel pretty confident.
“But we’re in a good frame of mind. We’re under no illusions, it’s a really tough place to go to The Willows, but we’re confident we can play well and get the job done. We want to get back to winning ways away from home in the league.
“I’m not too sure if the result from earlier in the season when we beat them at home will have too much significance. They are a bit of a different side now, they’ve probably got used to each other with their combinations.
“This is a new game and anyone who beats Warrington must be going all right so we know we’re in for a test. If we’re not good we’re not going to win this game.”
Matterson will be looking for his players to show the same never say die attitude on display against Wigan when he felt his senior players really stood up.
He added: “Ryan Hudson added some steel to our defence and I thought Danny Orr was our best player, getting us around the park with Rangi Chase on the bench.
“His kicking was good and he came up with a two or three big defensive plays for us. A couple that turned the game and the last defensive set of the day when he came up with a big hit and Chris Tuson lost the ball. We ended up scoring off the next set so it was real important.
“He’s been really good since he came back to the club and he showed again that he’s a leader.
“I thought our front rowers were really good and Brett Ferres as well, he was really direct. If he keeps playing the way he has the last two or three weeks he’s going to be really hard to keep out of rep footy.
“His performances before that hadn’t been where we wanted them to be, but he’s worked really hard on a few things in his game. Defensively he was really good and carrying the ball as well.
“I was really pleased with Ryan McGoldrick’s return and his attitude to defence.
“That’s where he’s come up short, but I knew was on right from the first two tackles he did. I knew then he was going to be solid for us and he was, both at half-back and when he switched to do a good job for us at full-back.
“Richie Mathers just had a bad day at the office in the first half and I thought it was a credit to his professionalism the way he handled that and came back. He came up with two big plays in the second half, one a kick-chase play and the other one obviously scoring the try at the end.
“He copped a lot from the Wigan fans so it was an emotional reaction and try celebration when he scored the try. Good on him. Richie wears his heart on his sleeve and he was as disappointed as anyone for the way things went in the first half. It was a tough thing to be pulled off, but what you do next is important. He got the opportunity when Richie Owen went off with an injury and he did a great job on the wing for us.
“It’s given me another headache with selection, but it’s a good one. We’ve certainly got some options. Ryan McGoldrick can play quite a few positions and we’ve got a lot of people who can rotate around. Getting the right combination isn’t easy at the moment.
“We are light on centres so that’s an area that’s still a little bit of a concern for us, but the guys are mucking in.
“There was some adversity we had to get through, but they handled it really well and it should help us in the games to come.”
Tigers’ 19-man squad: Arundel, Chase, Clark, Dixon, Emmitt, Ferres, Fozzard, Holmes Hudson, Jackson, Massey, Mathers, McGoldrick, Milner, Orr, Snitch, Thompson, Widders, Youngquest.