The Red Devils host Castleford Tigers at the AJ Bell Stadium this coming Friday as Ian Watson’s men look to return to winning ways following last week’s disappointing defeat at Hull Kingston Rovers.
Last time out
Salford dominated the early stages at KCOM Craven Park and raced into a 6-0 lead as Greg Johnson bulldozed his way over the whitewash. Ed Chamberlain marked his first start for the club with three goals, but Johnson’s effort proved to be the visitors’ sole score in the first period.
After the break, Junior Sa’u managed to claim two well worked tries before Jake Bibby crossed in the dying minutes of the contest.
Unfortunately for Salford though, the hosts proved too hot to handle. Danny McGuire claimed a sublime hat-trick, Will Oakes crossed for a double, whilst Ryan Shaw, Adam Quinlan, James Greenwood and Joel Tomkins also touched down to condemn the Devils to defeat.
Castleford meanwhile, head into the showdown in fine form after pummelling Leeds Rhinos at the Mend-A-Hose Jungle in their last fixture. Highly-rated youngster Jake Trueman scored twice whilst Jesse Sene-Lefao also crossed for a brace of his own.
Leeds – who were under the stewardship of new management team Kevin Sinfield and James Lowes for the very first time – did manage to conjure up 10 points thanks to Tom Briscoe’s double and a goal from Liam Sutcliffe but Cas proved too superior.
Daryl Powell’s side were in a ruthless mood and found themselves over on three further occasions as the recently injured Greg Eden, Quentin Laulu-Togaga’e and Matt Cook all touched down. Leeds did lose captain Stevie Ward to injury early in the second half, but by then, the damage has already been done.
Salford have endured mixed fortunes in recent weeks, first the Red Devils returned to winning ways in emphatic fashion after triumphing 26-12 over Widnes Vikings to earn a crucial victory at the AJ Bell Stadium.
Two weeks later, Watson’s side travelled to nearby Warrington and competed with the Wolves for the majority of the fixture. Jack Littlejohn had arguably his best performance in a Salford shirt, after crossing for two tries, but the Australian’s night would end in disaster after rupturing his bicep.
Jake Bibby finished off a stunning team move by diving over in front of the travelling Salford faithful, but Warrington struck five times in the final 30 minutes to put the game to bed. Salford then conceded 9 tries at Hull KR just over a week later.
Castleford on the other hand, have lost just two of their last eight fixtures. The Tigers ran riot over Leeds at the Magic Weekend, secured further victories over Hull KR, Warrington, Wigan Warriors, before sentencing the Rhinos to another defeat last weekend.
The Tigers are an unpredictable side though, Powell’s men have been heavily beaten by both St Helens and the Catalans Dragons over the last two months, with each racking up 40 points or more against last year’s League Leaders Shield winners. Cas also drew 24-all with Hull KR four weeks ago and will be wary of the various threats Salford could potentially impose on Friday Evening.
In this week’s head-to-head we pit forwards Mark Flanagan and Grant Millington against each other as we take a closer look into the pair’s impact within their respective sides.
Flanagan – who joined the Red Devils in 2016 from St Helens – has heavily impressed during his time at the AJ Bell Stadium. Despite missing the majority of the Super 8s last season through a shoulder injury, ‘Flash’ is a highly influential player within the squad and his ball-playing style sees him act as a third half-back in the majority of the Red Devils’ plays.
The 30-year-old is a creative player who brings a level of class and experience to the team’s attack and defence, which has seen him emerge as a consistent performer for yet another season.
Millington joined the Tigers from the Canterbury Bulldogs in 2012, the 31-year-old is of a similar mould to Flanagan and despite not always featuring at loose-forward, the Aussie is always involved in his side’s plays.
Both Flanagan and Millington are highly experienced veterans and whichever side comes out on top on Friday evening, it is almost a certainty that one of the duo will have been heavily involved throughout.
Greg Johnson – who opened the scoring for Salford during last week’s defeat to the Robins – misses out on this week’s squad after being leaving the field prematurely last time out. Hooker Logan Tomkins also leaves the 19-man squad after picking up an injury in the same clash.
The duo are replaced by Luke Burgess – who has been out of action since the 30-0 defeat to Wigan in early May – and Craig Kopczak.
As for the visitors, Jamie Ellis is replaced in the Tigers’ 19-man squad and is replaced by promising back-rower Kieran Gill. Gill, 22, has spent time on-loan at League One side Oldham in recent times and impressed enough to earn a recall. In other news, Joe Wardle returns to the fold at the expense of Nathan Massey.
Salford: Junior Sa’u, Robert Lui, Craig Kopczak, Josh Jones, Mark Flanagan, Lama Tasi, Ryan Lannon, Luke Burgess, Tyrone McCarthy, Ben Nakubuwai, Josh Wood, Derrell Olpherts, Lee Mossop, Jake Bibby, Levy Nzoungou, Daniel Murray, Jake Shorrocks, Ed Chamberlain, Greg Burke.
Castleford: James Clare, Mitch Clark, Matt Cook, Greg Eden, Tuoyo Egodo, Kieran Gill, Oliver Holmes, Quentin Laulu-Togaga’e, Paul McShane, Grant Millington, Adam Milner, Junior Moors, Jesse Sene-Lefao, Michael Shenton, Gadwin Springer, Jake Trueman, Liam Watts, Joe Wardle, Jake Webster.
A Salford Red Devils victory could see them climb a place to 10th in the Betfred Super League table, providing Hull KR fail to secure any points at Widnes. 9th place Leeds entertain local rivals Wakefield Trinity at the Emerald Headingley Stadium – and alongside a Red Devils win – a Trinity victory could see Salford move to within a point of the Rhinos.
Castleford currently occupy third spot in the table, three points adrift of Wigan. However, a win for Powell’s side could see them reduce the gap between the sides to a single point, if the Warriors lose at Huddersfield.