Wakefield Trinity v Castleford Tigers: Daryl Powell admits defensive improvement needed as Challenge Cup finalists aim to get back on track in Super League
Castleford Tigers will need a big improvement, particularly defensively, on recent league form to maintain their stranglehold over Wakefield Trinity on Wednesday, coach Daryl Powell admits.
Tigers have not not lost to this week's hosts since February 8, 2015, a run of 14 straight wins, but their last four games in Betfred Super League have all ended in defeat.
Having started the campaign with four victories, Challenge Cup finalists Castleford’s league form is heading in the opposite direction to Trinity’s, who were beaten at Warrington Wolves last Friday, but are on a three-gmae winning run at home.
That sequence at Mobile Rocket Stadium, Belle Vue, came after nine successive defeats, but Powell insisted: “I still think they were playing well with the ball before that.”
He warned: “They had some close games they lost and they are dangerous.
“Look at the way they play, there’s a lot of ball movement. [Mason] Lino has added to them, he’s a threat with his kicking game and he’s prepared to run.
“They’ve got good players across the field, [Tom] Johnstone’s back in this week and we know what he can do.
“We don’t want to give him much space and [Joe] Westerman’s probably in the form of his life, he is a real handful.
“They are a talented team, across the board they are all playing with a bit of confidence.
“Last week they got rattled by Warrington, but they are very dangerous with the ball - you have to defend well across your team. You can’t give them any space.”
Tigers have leaked 154 points in their last four Super League games and Powell accepted: “We are conceding points at the moment, we want to sort that out.
“There’s no better team at the moment, I don’t think, to put yourself up against to see where you’re at defensively.
“You are going to have to make a lot of one-on-one tackles and that challenges individuals’ mentality, so we have to be in a good place from a toughness perspective.”
Adam Milner drops out from the team beaten by Hull last Thursday, but Niall Evalds, Suaia Matagi, Jordan Turner and Gareth O’Brien could all return to Tigers’ side and Daniel Smith is also in the initial squad.
Powell said: “We pushed some of those boys back for the Cup semi’ so it would have been a bit of a risk last week, particularly Gaz and Niall.
“I am hoping they will play.”
Alex Foster - who made his comeback from injury last week, but was stretchered off in the second half - is also included in Tigers’ squad.
“He’s okay,” Powell confirmed.
“He didn’t look great, it was a bit of a scary one, but I am hoping he’ll play as well.”
Powell is confident the return of pivotal players will have a positive impact on Tigers’ form.
“We started [the season] great,” he recalled.
“In our first run of games we were pretty good, but a couple of things have happened to us since and we haven’t been able to put a consistent team on the field at any point since the first four or five games.
“That obviously has an impact, both in quality and quality of performance, so what we are trying to do at the moment is get our form back and get some fluency in our game.
“We’ve had that at sporadic times, but we haven’t really been consistent this year and we want to sort that out as soon as we can.”