COACH Daryl Powell wants Castleford Tigers to be “close to our best for longer’ in tomorrow’s (Sunday) Betfred Super League against Wigan Warriors at the Mend-A-Hose Jungle (3.30pm).
Tigers have won their last three matches and face their biggest test tomorrow since their round one defeat at St Helens
They led 20-0 at half-time against Salford Red Devils last Sunday but were outscored 8-2 in the second period and Powell is calling for an improved performance from his team against one of their main rivals in the top-four race.
The coach described last Sunday’s second-half display as “not great” and admitted: “We were pretty good for about 25 minutes of the game and the rest was neither here nor there.
“We have just got to put it behind us and have a positivity about us.
“It was doom and gloom after the game, but we are up there knocking at the top of the table so we’ve just got to keep going.
“In every game bar [the one against] St Helens we’ve had some really good bits and there’s been signs of getting some fluidity.”
Ben Roberts had a shaky start to the season at full-back, but Powell believes his performances are improving and that will help the team.
“He has been much better,” Powell said.
“He looks fit, he’s getting around the field better and his understanding of combinations is getting better.
“There’s a lot of positives, but when you’ve got 13 blokes on the field you’re never going to get everything right.
“That’s impossible, we just want to be at it for longer and close to our best for longer.
“We are not at our best at the moment, but I don’t think anybody would expect us to be.”
Wigan have also lost only once but have played a game more.
The Warriors ended Wakefield Trinity’s 100 per cent record last weekend and Powell said: “They are going well. It will be a tough challenge, they are a pretty physical team and they are playing all right with the ball.
“The last couple of games they have started slowly –they were 16-0 behind against Widnes – but they are playing decent stuff once they get going.
“We are mindful they have got good players.
“Thomas Leuluai is playing in the middle and they’ve changed the shape of their team a bit this year with Sam Powell on the edge and swapping it around.
“There’s been a bit of rivalry over the last couple of years between the two clubs and whether they are flying or not, the physicality of it is always very tough.”
Tigers will be without Oliver Holmes who is serving a one-match ban for a dangerous tackle in last week’s game.
Gadwin Springer made his comeback from injury playing on dual-registration for Halifax in their win over Leigh Centurions six days ago and has been drafted into the initial 19 for the first time this season.
Junior Moors and Jake Trueman, 18th and 19th man last week, retain their places in the squad. Wigan coach Shaun Wane will select from the 17 who beat Wakefield, plus Craig Mullen and Callum Field.
Castleford Tigers: from Clare, Cook, Ellis, Foster, Gale, Green, Massey, McMeeken, McShane, Millington, Milner, Minikin, Moors, Roberts, Sene-Lefao, Shenton, Springer, Trueman, Webster.
Wigan Warriors: from Bateman, Burgess, Clubb, Davies, Escare, Farrell, Flower, Field, Gildart, Isa, Leuluai, Mullen, Navarrete, O’Loughlin, Powell, Sutton, Tautai, S Tomkins, Williams.
Referee: Robert Hicks (Oldham).