This Thursday’s home game against St Helens sees the start of a run of a number of quite high profile fixtures for Salford fans to savour, with it being followed by a visit to the DW Stadium to take on Wigan, then our first appearance in this season’s Challenge Cup at Leigh, before making the trip up to Newcastle to take on Les Catalans Dragons, in the Magic Weekend.
Indeed, the first of these also has a notoriety of its own with the television cameras being in attendance at the A J Bell, for what will be their third consecutive year of screening our home encounter with the Saints.
They have, in the past two years, been rewarded with two great, giant killing performances by the Red Devils, and clearly are anticipating yet another keenly fought match.
Against a Saints side, clearly still smarting from that reversal at the Mobile Rocket Stadium, two weeks ago, there will be few opportunities of scoring and none can be scorned, nor thoughts allowed to drift ahead to those games coming up behind, as Assistant Coach, Willie Poching, insists.
“Every match you play in is extremely important, and no sooner has one match finished than the next one takes over your focus, so, at this point in time, the St Helens game is where our attention lies. We are doing as much preparation as we can, in the short turn around, to get the players ready to go again.”
Certainly, no-one could have asked for a better performance of our players than the one they produced in last Friday’s onslaught of Wakefield Trinity, who, high in confidence after their defeat of the Saints the previous week, must have really fancied their chances of turning that victory into back-to-back wins.
No-one within our coaching and playing staff, however, is getting carried away with that victory, despite the comprehensive nature of it.
“It wasn’t all one-way traffic, and we are still a little way off what we want to produce, because we hadn’t quite executed our plays in the first half as well as we would have liked, and at 8-0 at half time, the game was still in the balance. The boys responded well in the second half though, but there are still things for us to work on and improve upon.”
Nevertheless, the players, on the back of that victory, will be taking the field in a much more buoyant and confident mood than might otherwise have been the case.
“No matter what they are, when your systems and plays positively influence the scoreboard, it brings players the self-belief and confidence that they can achieve their objectives. They have a lot of belief in one another already, which brings with it a trust in each other, so we have just got to keep all that going in order to retain each of those intangibles which enable you to win your games.”
The trust, to which he refers, had, last Friday, also to incorporate a number of unexpected replacements with a half of the first-choice pack withdrawing through injury or illness. In the event, those replacements slotted in seamlessly.
“That’s the result of having a good squad. We may not have the biggest, but they are all of fantastic quality, and are a tight knit group, so we can go a little deeper into it than we have had to over recent weeks, and when called upon the players brought in can really put their hand up.
“It’s been some while since George Griffin and Daniel Murray have played, but they both really gave it their best shot, and there wasn’t a player for us who didn’t have a good game. It’s important that, when we go out there each week, we get the top performance from everybody, and whenever that happens we will come close to getting the result we are after.”
Those recent performances, and two home results, against the visiting Saints in recent years are surely testament enough to inspire all the players to produce their best, on Thursday.
“Even in the away match, last season, at Saints, we deserved at least a draw, but circumstances were such that this wasn’t to be. We did some things, which, on reflection, showed that to some extent we threw the game away.
“St Helens are a quality club with a team, and players, of that same quality, and we shall have to be on our guard against them, regardless of past results. Even looking back to our game against them, in March, we had our moments then, and we shall be wanting to take those into this coming match.”
In addition to this, I am sure that most people would appreciate that we are a much better team now than we were back then – something with which Willie undoubtedly concurs.
“That is the key. You can put in the odd really good performance, but it is being able to back it up over the weeks that is important, and we have just won back to back games, which now has the boys really keen and looking forward to this match.”
With the possibility of at least a couple of last week’s absentees in line for returning, the problem for the coaches will be deciding on team selection.
“That’s a great problem to have, and this is what we want – everyone on form and competing for a place in the seventeen. It’s a good time of year to be in this position.”