Fax’s Johnston back in action, chasing new deal

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Ben Johnston hit the comeback trail for Halifax last week knowing he is fighting for a chance to stay with the club next year after a nightmare 2019 season.

Johnston played the final quarter of the 24-20 Championship loss at Bradford at hooker as Fax slipped further off the pace set by the play off pack.

It was a timely return to action for the former Castleford player, who missed the start of the season after close season surgery before being hit with another 12 week lay off almost immediately.

“Personally it’s been a frustrating year, so it was just good to be back on the field,” said Johnston.

“I had my thumb op in the winter, came back for two weeks and then found myself out for another 12 weeks, so I’ve not been right since November, really.

“I watch Brandon (Moore) and Ben (Kaye) at hooker when I’m playing scrum half and I’ve always had a lot of respect for them.

“Brandon in particular plays the game at 100 miles per hour, full on, for big minutes.

“Having been in there for 20 minutes on Sunday, I respect him even more because it is hard work.

“It was an eye opener; the coaching staff wanted me to defend a bit wider, but it’s sometimes hard not to get involved because you feel you’re letting your mates down.

“I was just want to stay fit now and get myself in the team.

“Ultimately, I want to sign a new contract to stay here.

“I’m out of contract in November and I just need to keep my head down and earn a new one.

“There is no beating around the bush, we’re playing for our jobs next year and we can’t keep dishing performances like that up.”

Last weekend’s reverse, largely the consequence of a mistake-ridden opening 40 minutes, saw Fax stay six points behind Sunday’s Shay opponent’s Featherstone, who sit fifth after suffering a shock of their own as lowly Barrow won at Post Office Road.

Johnston is well aware of the decreasing likelihood of Fax scraping together the wins they need to grab a top five finish, but knows victory on Sunday is a necessity.

“We’ll keep scrapping until it’s mathematically impossible, we can’t just throw it in,” he said.

“You don’t like talking about must win games, but Sunday is probably one of those.

“The pressure is definitely on.

“It’s a really disappointing season if we don’t make the five, regardless of the Challenge Cup.

“That’s just not good enough for the standards we set ourselves.

“We just need a win at the moment, we’re in a bit of a rut and a bit low on confidence.

“It’s easy to say now, but if we started the game at Bradford like we started the second half, we would probably go on and win it.

“But we never gave ourselves a chance, just error after error.

“When you’re putting those mistakes back to back repeatedly like we were, you’ll nearly always leave yourselves with too much to do.

“When we got back into it, there was plenty of time on the clock and we felt like we’d given ourselves a good chance going into the last 10 minutes.

“But those errors took their toll and it probably boiled down to that in the end.

“We’ll stick together, keep turning up for one another and see what happens.”