CASTLEFORD Tigers boss Terry Matterson has told his players to forget the Challenge Cup semi-final and what might have been at the Keepmoat Stadium if they want to achieve their aim of a top eight finish and a place in the Super League play-offs.
The head coach (pictured) understood it was always likely there would be an adverse reaction to the heartbreaking way Wembley was snatched away from them by Leeds Rhinos in extra-time when they then had to play at the home of their cup conquerors. But after losing 56-0 it was now time to “stop feeling sorry for ourselves”.
An injury crisis that saw 12 players ruled out of last Friday’s trip to Headingley Carnegie was not helping and less than a handful of those were likely to be back for this Saturday’s key derby with Wakefield Wildcats, but the Tigers had to make the best of it and get back on track to see off the late challenge of Hull FC and Hull KR for a play-off spot.
“The Challenge Cup’s gone. I understand last week that could have an effect, but we’ve got to grow up and move forward or the season’s going to be gone,” said Matterson.
“The players need to have a hard look at themselves and see that the position they’ve put us in is a good one in the league. It would be a tragedy, to be honest, if we let it go because of some major disappointment in the Challenge Cup. We can’t feel sorry for ourselves, we’ve got to learn from this and move on.
“In the context of where we are and what we’ve got left to come then it’s not a a win at all costs game at Wakefield, but we feel we need to get back and win. If we don’t we’re still in there, but it’s going to be a hell of a lot more difficult because we have to play the two sides just below us.
“We just want to go over to Wakefield and get the job done. It’s still in the memory banks what happened at our ground earlier in the season when we capitulated so there’s a lot of reasons to play well.
“We’re not going to have too many more players available, so we are going to have to deal with a similar squad to last week. Hopefully there will be a few back, but we can’t be looking at who’s coming back. We’ve got to have a hard look at ourselves.”
Matterson expects another tough test for his team despite recent bad results for Wakefield, which have seen them drop to the bottom of the table.
He said: “Like us, Wakefield had a heap of points put on them last weekend, but this is their one. They always raise their game for Castleford, they’ll set themselves for this one and they are always tough at home.
“We did come out on top in the cup match and we’ve got no fears about going there, but what we’ve got to do is concentrate on ourselves and get our performance right. We were way off against Leeds. We’d built some momentum and to come back down like that was disappointing. But we’ve got the opportunity to get straight back on now.”
Castleford endured a tough night in last Friday’s return game against the Rhinos and Matterson he knows he will have to engineer a quick turnaround in form if Cas are to return to winning ways.
He added: “It looks like we’ve played Leeds into some form and they looked a very good side.
“They were back to the Leeds of old, I suppose, but we were poor. The week before we were in their face, we were aggressive, were working together and were holding the ball. We were kicking better and doing everything better.
“Obviously the game the week before took a lot out of us and we weren’t able to back it up.
“It didn’t make it any easier having so many men missing. We had 12 out, we had 11 initially and then our 18th man, Greg Eden, got injured in the reserve grade, so we basically had 17 to pick from.
“We are missing some size. We were missing some go forward and we played a big side.They hammered all over the park physically and we weren’t able to go with them. They were just too big, too strong and too fast and we were way off our game.
“They had a couple of chances when they should have got a try and didn’t in the first few minutes, but we did hang in there and got back into it before we gifted them the first try with an error from Richie Owen that was bizarre.
“It’s one of those things he’s got to learn from. Everyone was probably shellshocked with what happened - he was and he’s got to make sure that doesn’t happen again.
“Our kicking game was poor, we didn’t apply any pressure and that led to to the second try from a 20-metre tap.
“We had a lot of youngsters out there and they were physically knocked about by a big side so it was difficult for them.
“It was tough for some of the senior guys as well and there were at least three players who shouldn’t have been out there. But they were and that’s all you can be judged on. Those three players were really poor. I’m not going to name them, that doesn’t help us, they are pretty vital to what we do in the team.
“But the players have had a few days off and are back in training now. We’ve got to build some confidence and get back to where we were.”
Castleford are close to confirming the name of their new coach to succeed Terry Matterson. Chief executive Richard Wright told the Express that after interviews and negotiations the board was close to agreement with the new man, but legal details were still ongoing.
Australians Peter Gentle, Justin Morgan and Ian Millward have been linked with the post in recent weeks along with former Great Britain coach Brian Noble.