FEATHERSTONE Rovers have the chance to grab top spot in the Co-operative Championship in tonight’s clash against title rivals Halifax at The Shay (7.30pm).
Defending champions Rovers, aiming to lift the League Leaders’ Shield for the third successive season, are just one point behind leaders Halifax after they stretched their winning league run to five matches with last Friday’s 22-16 victory at Leigh.
It will be the third time the sides have met this season. Featherstone’s last defeat was a 60-12 hammering against Halifax at Bigfellas Stadium early last month but they snatched a last gasp 34-32 win at The Shay in the Northern Rail Cup group stages in February.
Rovers coach Daryl Powell says his side are in good shape ahead of tonight’s showdown which will be televised live on Premier Sports.
“I think we are going well and we are getting the job done which is pretty important for us,” he said.
“Obviously, we have another tough challenge this week and we’ll need to do well with that but I think we are developing all the time and getting better.
“We are playing big games at the moment and we need to perform every week. We are aware of what we need to do.
“If we get our game right and we are focused and are aggressive defensively then we feel we have a strong chance of coming away with the points on Thursday.
“It’s a case of not letting things distract you and focusing on the things we need to do - all the things that we have worked on consistently over the last four or five months. Hopefully, it will help us come away with the result.
“There is a still a fair way to go but whoever wins Thursday’s game you would say were in the box seat.
“However, you don’t want to count your chickens and you wouldn’t discount teams like Leigh who have a game in hand. Sheffield are doing pretty well and Batley are not far behind either and they’ve got to play most of the top teams yet.
“It’s a pretty tough league and there’s plenty of water still to go under the bridge.”
Tonight’s match is the latest in a series of big clashes between Rovers and Halifax over the last few seasons.
Powell believes Halifax, who have won their last four league games, are a much improved team this year under coach Karl Harrison and will go into the game as favourites.
“Halifax have raised their levels considerably and we are going to need to play exceptionally well. They have stepped up a fair bit this season and they are a formidable challenge,” he said.
“We’ve had two games against Halifax this year and I think they will start the favourites on Thursday. They are at home and unbeaten for a fair while.
“We’ve got to go there and prove we can stand up to them after our last match against them.”
Powell felt that last Friday’s keenly-fought game at Leigh was just what his side needed
Rovers recovered from 6-0 down early on to beat the Centurions in wet conditions in a rehearsal for next Thursday’s Northern Rail Cup semi-final at Bigfellas Stadium.
“We needed a tough game. We got that and I was pretty pleased we did. They are never good on the heart rate but we got the job done in the end and it has set us up for this week,” he said
“We are getting better, there’s no doubt about that. Last week was a slightly different game and I think is one that we needed.
“We had a good look at Leigh the other night. They are a pretty good team and a big set in the middle of the field. They came after us and we were good enough to hold them off so it was a pretty pleasing effort.”
Powell says there is a “strong chance” Jack Briscoe and Mick Haley will play at Halifax after missing the trip to Leigh Sports Village.
Haley has recovered from a quad injury and Briscoe is likely to replace Nathan Chappell who sustained a rib injury at Leigh.
Rovers will again be checking on Johnny Hepworth who did not play at Leigh because of a back injury.
Samoan international Tangi Ropati remains on course to return to action next month after being sidelined with a broken jaw.
“Obviously, Tangi needs to get his confidence back and get checked out but he is looking good,” said Powell.
Tonight’s game against Halifax will be shown live on the big screens in the Rovers clubhouse.
Featherstone have organised a hospitality package for next Thursday’s NRC semi final against Leigh.
The gallery private bar will be open from 5.15pm. A two course meal will be served just after 6pm with complimentary wine on each table.
The package costs £40 which includes a match ticket. Tables of eight or 10 or smaller parties are available. To book contact Paul Taylor on 01977 702386 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Featherstone Rovers reserves host Sheffield Eagles tomorrow (8pm). Admission is £1 for adults and concessions. There is free admission for juniors.
Latest £500 Rovers lottery winners are J Gill (D3041), C Brown (R6647), G Wilson (K6150), H Hunter (A0444), D Crosland (F1945). £5 consolation prizes: J Maeer (V4144), I Cracknell (W3422), J Cox (V0211), J Jarvis (V2541).