Coach Jon Sharp wants Featherstone Rovers to “stay positive” as they go in search of their first win in the Super 8s Qualfiers at Salford Red Devils.
Rovers are at the foot of the Middle Eights table after four straight defeats but Sharp believes all the pressure will be on Super League club Salford in Sunday’s clash at the AJ Bell Stadium.
The Red Devils won their opening Qualifier against Huddersfield but have lost their last three against Leigh Centurions, Hull KR and Leeds Rhinos.
“You wouldn’t have thought Salford would have been in this position,” said Sharp.
“You’d have thought they would be dead set safe and home and hosed but they got off to a good win and then had some poor losses.
“There will be anxious players there thinking about their futures and we need to put them into a position where the anxiety increases.
“We need to complete our sets and we need to put them under pressure.
“I want us to be attacking minded and execute better and I want us to stay positive.
“We have three more opportunities to win games and we should be looking forward to playing against a Super League team. We should enjoy that challenge and see where we are at.
“We’ve got to play for 80 minutes. We are not stringing together the full 80 minutes at the high intense level we need to.”
John Davies returns after completing a two-match suspension for Sunday’s game.
He will replace Bradley Tagg who was handed a one-match ban and fined £100 on Tuesday for a dangerous throw in last weekend’s defeat at Batley Bulldogs.
Half-back Kyle Briggs will have a late fitness test.
Sharp said: “It will be touch and go with Briggs. He is more likely to play against Hull KR the following week.”
Centre Michael Channing is seeking a second opinion on the neck injury that has forced him to miss the last three games.
“We are going to have a second opinion on a scan,” added Sharp.
Featherstone missed a golden chance to achieve their first Super 8s win when they were pipped 11-10 at Batley.
Sharp was annoyed his team twice turned down kickable penalties in the second-half when they had the chance to go five points ahead, despite him sending on the kicking cone on both occasions.
“We threw it away. It was infuriating and really disappointing. There were poor decisions by the team on a couple of instances,” he said.
“We were leading 10-7 and it would have put us five points ahead. Batley needed to score and kick the goal and I was proved right by sending the cone on twice.
“Twice the players were proved wrong by sending it back off. It’s a real tough lesson that they are going to have to learn.
“We were playing uphill in the second-half and there had been some rain so the ball was slippy. They weren’t good conditions to play in and to nudge a bit further ahead would have put a bit more pressure on the opposition and maybe affected the way they played. They would maybe have pushed passes and made more errors.
“They were monumentally bad decisions that cost us the game and our first win in the Qualifiers.
“We had given ourselves an opportunnity to win the game and then we handed it back over to them.
“Batley are a good team who are hard to beat on their own ground and we handed it back to them on more than one occasion.”
Sharp was also disappointed with his side’s early errors.
“Early on, playing downhill, we made too many mistakes,” he said.
“There were two poor kicks and two handling errors in the first 20 minutes which is too much. You’ve got to take advantage of playing downhill.”
The Rovers boss was pleased with the performances of winger James Duckworth and centre Luke Briscoe.
“Duckworth looks like he’s going to have an absolutely outstanding career. I can see him being a Super League player in the next 12 months to two years. He has the potential to be outstanding,” he said.
“I was really pleased with Luke Briscoe.
“I thought he was outstanding at centre defensively.
“He added some steel in there and his carries were really good. I’ve been impressed with him since he’s been here.”