Talented centre Chester Butler will make a long-awaited Halifax comeback in Sunday’s Challenge Cup clash at Hunslet (3.0).
But Butler’s return after more than two months on the sidelines with a torn quadricep has been tempered by the loss of half back Ben Johnston, who has been ruled out for three months with a broken hand.
Johnston, who had only just returned to action after close season surgery on his other hand, went under the knife again after Sunday’s league loss to Toronto and is now facing another long absence.
“It’s good to have Chester back again,” said coach Richard Marshall, who is likely to move James Saltonstall to the wing, with the in-form Will Sharp rested.
“He’s a strike player, he’s trained well this week and all being well he’ll start the game on Sunday.
“He could have played against Toronto at a push, but we felt it was a lot to ask of him after so long on the sidelines.
“It’s disappointing to lose Ben, but that’s part of the game, unfortunately.
“We’ve got options in that position though, so it’s an opportunity for someone else.”
Marshall told Courier Sport that both former Leeds prospect Reece Chapman-Smith and Londoner James Woodburn-Hall would figure against Hunslet and could slot in alongside captain Scott Murrell, while full back Quentin Laulu-Togagae has also played in the halves.
Close-season signing Ben White, who made way for Johnston against the Wolfpack, is scheduled to play in this week’s reserve fixture.
After seeing a substantially weakened team humbled by another League 1 side, Oldham, at the same stage of last season’s competition, Marshall has no plans to rest anyone other than Sharp.
Loose forward Simon Grix will be absent with the stomach injury that almost ruled him out against Toronto, while France forward Kevin Larroyer has a chest problem.
Hooker Ben Kaye has been suspended for one game after being placed on report for a dangerous tackle in the closing stages of the reverse at York a fortnight ago.
Young forwards Will Calcott and Liam Cooper will both come into the squad.
“We want to progress in the competition; we want to respect the competition and we have to respect Hunslet,” said Marshall, who uses Gary Thornton’s side as an outlet for Fax’s dual-registration deals, with both Calcott and prop Harry Kidd featuring for the former Hawks this season.
“They’ve got the makings of a solid Championship there; Gary’s a shrewd coach and they’ve a good mix of senior players and young players that haven’t quite cracked it at clubs like Leeds and Castleford.
“There’s a few of our former players there too, so it’s going to be a tough one, that’s for sure.”
With Fax’s form currently at arguably the lowest ebb since Marshall took charge four seasons ago, the two-time Coach of the Year nominee admitted he was taking a back-to-basics approach this week.
“Where we are, we need to strip it back a bit,” said Marshall.
“It’s nothing revolutionary, it’s getting back to the things that have worked for us before and can work for us again.”