Marshall remains upbeat as Fax just miss out on early win

Fax's Scott Murrell heads for the tryline
Fax's Scott Murrell heads for the tryline

Halifax coach Richard Marshall was disappointed but far from despairing after his side were denied victory in a frantic Championship contest against top four rivals Featherstone at the Shay.

Rovers snatched a 32-26 win with a late Kyle Briggs try after a rollercoaster game that showcased both the strengths and weaknesses of Marshall’s squad.

Fax spent long periods of the first half going backwards as Jon Sharp’s Rovers, who have now won on their last nine visits to the Shay, subjected them to a torrid first 30 minutes.

But the home side limited the damage to 16-10 at the break, before blasting out of the blocks in the second period to put themselves in what looked like a winning position.

“It was a fantastic game, which had everything you would want to see in the Championship, but we just came out on the wrong side of it,” said Marshall, who had to play utility forward Ed Barber at hooker in the second half after Ben Kaye, who was only cleared to play on Friday afternoon after concussion, sustained a shoulder injury.

“We put ourselves in a position to lose the game, draw the game, then win the game, then lose it again.

“I’m not too despondent though, we improved again against a very good Featherstone side.

“They were just a bit smarter, I thought Anthony Thackeray controlled the game in the first half with his kicking game.

“We had plenty of opportunities towards the end of the game and I thought the effort was fantastic, but we didn’t win and if we want to do what we’ve set out to do this year then we need to be winning those games at home.

“Possibly our skills let us down at times, but the skill level was great to get us back into the game just before half time and it was great to create Steve Tyrer’s try that put us back in front.

“We had a great attacking spell early in that second half, but we couldn’t sustain it.

“They were dominant in the opening half hour, and all the stats from the game reflect that.

“It didn’t help that we lost Ben Heaton so early on with a dead leg because he’s such a strong player for us.

“We had Mitch Cahalane sin binned, Ben Kaye hurt his shoulder and couldn’t go back on, Tyrer hurt his shoulder; we played busted up.

“They’re not excuses, they’re the reality of what happens in the Championship and you have to adjust and adapt and we didn’t do that well enough.”

Marshall sprang a surprise before kick off, omitting half back Gareth Moore in favour of Ben Johnston, although Moore had apparently struggled with illness during the week.

Nor did Fax field any Salford players on dual registration, a contrast to Rovers, who had Leeds quartet Ash Handley, Jack Ormondroyd, Josh Walters and Jordan Baldwinson in their 17.

“Gareth could have played,” said Marshall.

“He’s not done as many minutes in the friendlies as I would have liked and he’s been a bit under the weather during the week.

“I thought Ben Johnston did some good things, I thought Scott Murrell was good as well and I was really pleased with Shane Grady; he looks like he’s been wearing the blue and white for a few years.

“We could have had a couple of Salford’s younger players this week, but we didn’t pursue that.

“Featherstone had four Leeds players in there and it probably made a difference; we went down a different path and it probably didn’t work for us on this occasion.

“We weren’t offered Michael Dobson and Robert Lui, it was young players and my judgement was that we had enough to win.”