FEATHERSTONE coach Daryl Powell is looking for an improved performance in tonight’s televised Co-operative Championship game against Barrow Raiders at Bigfellas Stadium (7.30pm kick-off).
Rovers, who are seeking their fifth straight win, have hammered Toulouse Olympique 56-18 and Hunslet Hawks 50-12 in their last two games but Powell believes they can play better.
“We are doing a lot of things right but we can improve,” he said.
“We are looking for improvement with and without the ball. We are scoring points at the moment which is obviously what you want to be doing and that gives you a great chance to win games. We just need to tidy up some areas a little bit.
“We’ve got players playing well which is good. There are quite a number of our blokes who are on form and we need to take that into Thursday’s game and build consistency in what we are doing.
“We need to come up with a quality performance against Barrow. We need to improve our defence a little bit and tidy up our attacking play when we get into the opposition ‘20.’ I think we’ve been fantastic coming off our own line but there are areas we need to be tweaking and we’ve been working hard on that this week.”
Rovers won 28-22 at Barrow in the Northern Rail Cup group stages in February. Since then, the Raiders have replaced head coach Garry Schofield with his assistant Nigel Wright.
Powell is expecting a tough challenge against the Cumbrians who achieved their first victory under new boss Wright when they won 42-16 at York at the end of last month.
Powell said: “Barrow change their team consistently by signing different loan players from different places. The last time we played them they had signed three players during the week on dual registration so you go a little bit into the unknown when you play against Barrow because they throw different players at you.
“Obviously, they have also changed their coach since the last time we played them. It looks like they’ve now got some different structure to them so we will have to be aware of that and we will need to play well.”
Featherstone’s next fixture after tonight is against high-flying Leigh Centurions in a mouth-watering clash at Bigfellas Stadium on Easter Monday.
Said Powell: “After Thursday’s game we have a pretty long turn around leading into Easter Monday but there’s no point looking too far ahead. After we’ve played Barrow we can turn our attention to what is in front of us but for now it’s making sure we get the job done. It’s important we maintain continuity in the way we go about things and get into a winning habit so this is a tough challenge against Barrow but a good opportunity for us to do that.”
Full-back Ian Hardman is rated 50-50 for tonight after he sustained a knee injury in the second-half of Friday’s win at Hunslet.
Greg Worthington is also doubtful with a shoulder injury.
If Hardman is ruled out, Powell has the option of switching Tommy Saxton or Jonny Hepworth to full-back.
The Rovers boss is pleased with the way Hepworth has slotted in since he switched from Rotherham Titans RUFC.
He said: “I think Jonny is still adapting to rugby league and the way that we play and that will take a month or so but I think he’s done pretty well. He’ll be fine. He had to go to full-back at Hunslet and he came up with a try-saving tackle.”
Liam Finn was placed on report for an incident in Friday’s game.
Powell said: “I haven’t heard anything from that. I’m presuming there’s not an issue but you never know. I need to speak to the RFL and see what they decided to do. Personally, I didn’t think there was much in it. Liam picked a player up and put him on his back.”
Ross Divorty made a successful comeback at Hunslet after being out for 11 weeks with knee ligament trouble.
“Ross is fine and he played pretty well against Hunslet. I was pleased with the way he went and he will be available again for Thursday night,” said Powell.
“The injury situtation has now eased, particularly in the front row. We now have Iain Morrison and Ross Divorty back and that’s been significant for us.”
Mick Haley, who has been out for eight weeks with a groin injury, and Tom Hemingway, who has been sidelined with a broken jaw, will both play in Saturday’s reserves under 23 championship match at Whitehaven.
Centre Liam Welham (knee injury) is a couple of weeks away from returning to action.
Powell was pleased with Featherstone’s first-half display at Hunslet.
He said: “I thought we were outstanding in the first-half. We stuck to what we’d talked about and we isolated some items of their game with the ball and we put them under a lot of pressure. Defensively we were pretty strong.
“I thought we came out with a sloppy attitude in the second-half. We talked about it as a group on Monday night night. We got to grips with it a couple of times but never really put a performance together in the second-half which is obviously an area we are looking to improve in terms of putting 80 minutes of quality rugby league together.
“We allowed Hunslet to get a couple of things. I don’t think they should have got their try just after half-time. We should have dealt with the kick a little bit better. The other try they got came after we’d made a line break and Ian Hardman got injured and on the back of it they scored a try that we probably won’t concede again this year in that sort of way.”
Powell is happy with the form of Jon Grayshon who grabbed three tries as Rovers reached the Northern Rail Cup semi-finals on Friday.
“Jon is playing well and the try he scored at Hunslet off Tommy Saxton’s off-load was outstanding. He is running hard and he is making things happen for himself. His fitness levels have improved significantly from last season and he’s playing 80 minutes consistently which is what you want from a back rower,” he said.