Pressure is on as rivals race to catch last train

THREE games in and it is already what Sir Alex Ferguson would refer to as ‘squeaky bum time’ for Halifax and Whitehaven.

The equation will be simple enough when the two teams meet at the Recreation Ground tonight with a place in the last eight of the Northern Rail Cup up for grabs.

Whitehaven need a win to book their place in the competition’s knockout stages; Halifax will scrape past Hunslet into fourth place on the Pool B ladder with a losing bonus point.

That said, Matt Calland and his players will surely not want to be left clinging to that tenuous lifeline as they attempt to redeem themselves after Sunday’s home defeat by Batley.

Paradoxically, while the importance of this game cannot be under-estimated, nor should it be over-stated.

The NRC’s showpiece final at Bloomfield Road is a big day out.

And the knockout stages represent a rich seam of revenue in a sport where clubs’ bank accounts are rarely over flowing.

For those reasons, both sets of players - and their directors - will be desperate for success on what promises to be a cold, muddy night on the Cumbrian coast.

But in the context of a 10 month season the failure to qualify is hardly damning, given that neither Fax nor Featherstone made it through the round robin phase in 2010 on their way to contesting the Championship Grand Final.

Not that that will be much consolation if one of these two fails tonight.

The pressure is on.