CASTLEFORD Tigers boss Terry Matterson is targeting a home play-off for his side if they can win their remaining two games in the regular Super League season (writes Tony Harber).
One more win over either Hull at home on Saturday week or away to Hull KR the following weekend will clinch a top eight place for the Tigers and ensure their season is extended into the play-offs. But the head coach also has his eyes on finishing in sixth, which would guarantee a first round knockout match at the Probiz Coliseum.
Matterson told the Express: “Really our semi-finals start now.
“I know it’s not do or die for us next week against Hull, but we feel that if we win our last two games we can maybe have a home semi-final. Leeds would have to lose, but they play Huddersfield away in their last one.
“There’s a whole lot of of things still possible. If we lose our last two we’re going to miss out. But what we’ve done is to put ourselves into a position where it’s in our own hands. It’s going to be a very exciting finish to the season. It’s all there for us, the last home game, we’re on Sky, and I’m told the Hull KR game will be on Sky as well, so we’ll be right in the spotlight and it’s where you want to be.”
Matterson hopes his players will be refreshed for the final two games after being given time off this week to recharge their bodies and get mentally tuned in for the challenges left this season.
He said: “We’d like to be playing this week and preparing now for Wembley, but the break will do us good.
“We can get a few people back and can rest up the bodies. It’s been a long, hard season and we’ve done it with quite a bit of adversity with all the injuries.
“We’ve had people playing who probably shouldn’t have been playing in the last few weeks and they can have a well earned rest and then get ready for the last two weeks of the regular season.
“We’ve had two good days training this week and the players will get the rest of the week off and be back in on Monday. I’ve been really pleased with the way they’ve come in. We’ve got a bit of work into them on Monday and Tuesday and they can now get a bit of a rest and get away from it.
“We’re looking a bit healthier. We didn’t pick up any new injuries at Wakefield and we’re confident Paul Jackson, Nick Fozzard and Joe Arundel will all be available for the next game after injuries.”
To achieve their play-off aim, Matterson admits his side will have to improve on their performance in the 34-30 win at Wakefield last Saturday.
He said: “We made it hard for ourselves. Defensively we weren’t great and with the ball we created a whole heap of chances that we didn’t make the most of. But in the end we found a way to win the game and that was the most important thing.
“We came out really soft and it was 12-0 before we knew it. It was credit to our guys that they didn’t let that worry them.
“We got back and should have gone in with a lead at half-time, but we came up with a poor play at the back end to put us under pressure again.
“We should have put the game to bed in the second half. At 28-24 we had three genuine huge try scoring chances. They weren’t even close, they were ones you had to score.
“We had four “tries” justifiably disallowed. We’ve got to come up with better plays and make sure we get in nice and low and score the tries.
“We’ve got to brush up on our skills. A couple of those forward passes were poor skill that we’ve got to get better at.
“Wakefield had been preparing for the game for a couple of weeks – their coach said that. This was the one they had identified as the most important one left for them this season. But we knew that and they were always going to be hard to beat so we were disappointed with a lot of our defence.”
There were some positives to come out of the display.
Matterson added: “We held it together when Nick Youngquest was in the sin-bin in the second half. They scored a try and a penalty goal, but we didn’t let it bother us being a man down and found a way to score the winning try.
“Rangi Chase looked fairly sharp and came up with some good plays for tries. It was good to have him back and he’ll be better for the next game.
“There was some good stuff on the edges and we created a lot of opportunities for Willie Isa and Richie Mathers in the centres. They looked really strong carrying the ball, it was just their finishing that was a bit down.
“I thought Richie made a good fist of playing at centre. He made a few errors, but I thought he could have scored a hat-trick. He should have scored a hat-trick, but I thought he looked very strong defensively and every time he got the ball he looked dangerous. That was a real positive for us.
“It’s given me some food for thought for the rest of the season.
“We’re hoping Joe Arundel should be all right for the next game, but Richie has given us another option at centre, which is good, especially with Kirk Dixon and Brett Ferres out for the season.
“Joe had a hamstring strain. He couldn’t have played, but we’re hoping he will be all right to train next week and be ready to play.
“Dean Widders showed up well in the second half. He only played 30 minutes and every time we’ve done that with him this year he’s done well for us.
“Danny Orr’s kicking was great. We’ve got our first choice goalkicker out, but he stepped up and was fantastic, kicking two from the sideline.
“In the end that was the difference in the game.”