Martin the only plus for Fax: Murrell

Joe Martin
Joe Martin

Halifax player-coach singled out the performance of teenage full back Joe Martin as “the only positive” to emerge from Sunday’s season-ending play off loss to Dewsbury.

Fax crashed 25-0 at the Shay, bringing the curtain down on a season that, despite a third-place league finish, will be largely memorable for all the wrong reasons.

Martin, a former Siddal junior, made his senior debut in place of regular number one Ryan Fieldhouse, ironically a Dewsbury player in 2015, who is facing a six-month lay off after damaging knee ligaments in the play off defeat at Featherstone.

The 19 year old looked at ease throughout, using the ball well and comfortably dealing with the Rams’ kicking game.

“I think Joe was the only positive,” said Murrell, who recalled Martin from a loan deal at Championship One Gateshead to pick him ahead of former England winger Peter Fox and utility back Ben Heaton.

“A few people wondered about the decision to play him, but if you’ve got a young full back who you think is ready, why not put him in?

“The result didn’t go for him, but he didn’t look out of place at all.

“He’s a homegrown player, he’s come through from juniors with us, and I think in the next couple of years people will see something special from him.”

Martin aside, Murrell was left to analyse a performance that, once again, saw a blunt attacking game scupper Fax’s chances.

“I thought we dominated the first part of the game, then they got a breakaway try and it went to pot after that,” said Murrell, who took over when head coach Karl Harrison left the club a month ago.

“We needed to finish our chances and come away with something when we had that long spell of pressure, but we gave a forward pass and let them off the hook.

“We’ve a devastated group of players in that dressing room who’ve dealt with a lot of things in the last few weeks.

“Personally, I’m pleased how they responded and bought into training after Karl left, even if it’s not worked out how we wanted it to work out.

“I’m sorry it ended like that for the fans, but I’d like to thank everyone who’s helped me over the last few weeks and wish all the boys who are moving on the best of luck.”

Sunday’s defeat heralds a winter of change at the Shay, with a new coach - Courier Sport understands a clear favourite has now emerged, although the former Bradford boss Francis Cummins appears to have distanced himself from the role - and a raft of new playing talent arriving.

Fieldhouse will join the Rams, back rower Luke Adamson heads to London, centre Danny Cowling to Doncaster, while props Ben Davies and Tony Tonks and wingers Rob Worrincy and Peter Fox will also move on.

Several other players - utility Callum Casey and prop Sam Brooks, who both started yesterday’s game, among them - are currently unsigned.

Fax have signed Cook Islands prop Adam Tangata and Whitehaven’s former Wigan back Chris Taylor, with at least two more overseas recruits - the first since 2010 - expected.

“We don’t know what players are coming, what coach is coming in; we’ve got six weeks now to refresh and come back ready to go,” said Murrell, who expressed a desire to work alongside whoever replaces Harrison.

“It’s alright finishing third in the competition, but then playing like in the play offs?

“That last 30 minutes was terrible.

“We need to work on our shape in attack and our mentality.

“You know me, I’ll do whatever the club asks me to do.

“I’m here for another two years and if they want me to be involved in the coaching, I’d like to.

“If the chance isn’t there, I’ll just go back to playing.”