Featherstone Rovers will aim to stay hard on the heels of Kingstone Press Championship leaders Sheffield Eagles in tonight’s match against Whitehaven at Big Fellas Stadium (7.30pm kick-off).
Rovers, aiming to lift the League Leaders’ Shield for a fourth successive season, are three points behind Sheffield, who host Hunslet Hawks tonight.
Sheffield visit Featherstone in a top-of-the-table match next Wednesday evening (7.30pm). It will be televised live on Premier Sports.
Interim coach Danny Evans says Rovers need to concentrate on beating Whitehaven before they face Sheffield.
“We are concentrating solely on Whitehaven this week. We then have a short turn round before we play Sheffield but the focus is massively on playing Whitehaven first,” he said.
“If we don’t get that job done, we don’t even get to talk about the Sheffield game
“Whitehaven will be desperate for the points as well because it’s now getting to the business end of the season where teams are clambering to get into the top eight.
“There are no easy games and it already feels like we are in cup final mode. We can’t afford to slip up because if we do we’ll hand Sheffield the title.”
If, as expected, Featherstone and Sheffield both win tonight, next Wednesday’s showdown is likely to decide who lifts League Leaders’ Shield, with Rovers almost certainly needing to prevent the Eagles collecting a bonus point.
“I think next Wednesday’s game will decide who finishes top,” added Evans.
“It is Sheffield’s to lose but we’ve just got to keep our momentum going leading into the play offs.
“Sheffield have been pretty consistent all season and they are top through their hard work but we are confident in our own ability. We are capable of beating them by more than 12 points and preventing them getting a bonus point.
“After next Wednesday’s game, both us and Sheffield have potential banana skins in our final league fixtures.
“Sheffield have got a tricky last fixture at Doncaster and we’ve also got a tricky one at Hunslet. It’s a tight pitch and the Hawks can call on dual registered players from Leeds.”
Rovers are likely to be without second-rower Tim Spears (groin injury) this evening but they are set to welcome back prop Matt James who missed last Sunday’s 24-12 win at Keighley Cougars with a slight calf strain.
Rovers are still without hooker Ben Kaye (shoulder) while Hull Kingston Rovers have recalled on-loan prop James Green. He played for the Robins in Friday’s shock victory at Leeds Rhinos.
Evans said: “We lost Tim Spears early on at Keighley with a groin injury. He was smart enough to take himself off the field straight away.
“We’ll look at him this week and see how he responds to treatment but I think he might be struggling for Thursday.
“Matt James should be back in contention for Thursday but Ben Kaye is probably a couple of weeks away.
“I am pleased for James Green getting his chance at Hull KR. With him moving on it has given an opportunity to someone else in our team to come through and shine.
“We have called up some of the reserve team players into the first-team squad to train with us.”
Featherstone have released Tom Hodson. The 23-year-old, signed from Doncaster on a one-year contract, scored nine tries in 12 first-team appearances for Rovers.