Rovers ‘down to bare bones’ ahead of first Shield game

Featherstone host Whitehaven in the opening Championship Shield fixture on August 9.
Featherstone host Whitehaven in the opening Championship Shield fixture on August 9.

Featherstone have injury problems ahead of their opening Championship Shield game against Whitehaven at Big Fellas Stadium on Sunday, August 9.

Rovers finished fifth in the table and, with points already accrued carried forward into the new competition, they need just one win in the bottom-eights to qualify for the Shield semi-finals.

But they could be without a handful of injured players for their second home fixture against Whitehaven in three weeks.

Thomas Minns faces a four to six week lay-off with a hamstring injury while Ben Blackmore damaged his A/C shoulder joint in Saturday’s 29-0 defeat against Whitehaven in the final match of the regular season.

“We are down to the bare bones,” said Rovers coach Jon Sharp.

“There are eight players on the injured list who couldn’t train on Tuesday night. Fortunately, we have a bit of time to get them ready but at the minute there are eight blokes unavailable if we had to play this week.

“I might be forced to throw in a couple of youngsters.

“Ideally, I’d like to give young players an opportunity when the team is winning and playing well but we are in a situation where it’s out of my control and they’ll have to play because of the injuries.”

After four successive defeats, Rovers will look to return to winning ways when they meet Whitehaven again in the first Shield game.

“It’s a fresh start. Because of the weekend off, there’s a visible line drawn from the regular season to the play-off system,” said Sharp.

“We need to mentally adjust to the new competition. It’s a brand new league that we are in and we need to start with a fresh attitude and not carry in baggage from last weekend.

“The remaining games we have this season are absolutely massive. They will be for each individual at the club and their contracts for next year and where they will be playing and whether they stay here or not. As a team and as a group, you want to win things and have memorable times you can look back on and this is an opportunity for this group to make history before it breaks up.”

Sharp described Saturday’s performance against Whitehaven as “unacceptable” as Rovers slumped to their seventh defeat in 10 home matches this season.

“It was very disappointing especially considering the strides we had made the week before against Sheffield from the Leigh game,” he added.

“We completed at 55 per cent and Whitehaven were at 92 per cent and you can’t win a game without the ball.

“The opposition played well and were almost error free. We lacked patience and a poor completion rate put us under a lot of pressure.

“We were just loose with the ball, we didn’t complete and we didn’t kick well. We can’t play like that again - it’s just unacceptable.

“There seems to be an inability at the minute to be consistent from one week to the next. I doubt whether that’s because of the expectancy of the home crowd because the fans have been great and they’ve been supportive both at home and away.”

Sharp was pleased with Steve Snitch’s performance on his debut against Whitehaven after the forward joined Rovers on loan from Doncaster for the rest of the season.

“I thought Steve Snitch was the best player on the field. He looked sharp and threatening in attack and got through the line a few times,” he added.

“Defensively I thought he made the side look a lot stronger.

“I had Steve for four years at Huddersfield and he understands the systems that we’ll be using. He understands how to play the game and I think that will rub off on others.

“It is a new group of players I’ve got and I haven’t had much time with them at all.

“You can’t change things and rip things apart the minute you walk in. It’s got to be steady progress.

“I’m still finding out about the players and assessing them and looking at the staff as well and what they can and can’t do.”

Sharp is already planning for next season and has drawn up a list of potential recruits

”We’ve put a extensive list together and we are working down that list and speaking to a whole raft of players,” he said.

“We’ve also got players here that decisions need to be made on and those decisions will be made during the play-off schedule.”

Featherstone’s 2015 season ticket holders will be able to watch the first Championship Shield fixture against Whitehaven onn August 9 for free by using voucher L in their season ticket booklet.

In a special offer for all Shield fixtures, the cost of admission for adults and concessions is only £10 with under 16s free.

Rovers chief executive Pat Cluskey said: “We would like to thank supporters for their loyalty throughout the season so far and hope that support continues in to the Championship Shield.

“We wanted to show our appreciation by rewarding season ticket holders with free admission to the game against Whitehaven.

“We also want to recognise those who paid on a match by match by basis by reducing the admission price to just £10 and we hope supporters will take advantage of this offer.”

Latest Rovers £500 lottery winners are M Waters (B1959), J Stevenson (J4799), M Hird (R4825), D Walton (I5972), D Cox (P5595). £5 cons0olation prizes: L Cranswick (W6564), P Rayner (V2112).