Halifax boss Richard Marshall has challenged his players to deliver the club’s first home win over Featherstone for 10 years when the two sides meet in a crucial Championship game at the Shay on Sunday (3.0).
Marshall has steered his team home successfully four times against Rovers in his four years in charge, winning twice at Post Office Road and twice at Bloomfield Road in Summer Bash fixtures, most recently in May this year.
But Fax, who could go as high as second in the table with three games remaining if they win and London beat Toulouse in the weekend’s other big game, have toiled on home soil under a succession of coaches and have to go back to September 2009, when Matt Calland’s side won in the play offs on their to the Grand Final, to find a victory.
“We need to do something we’ve not done for a while,” said Marshall, who played down the idea of the match being decisive in the race for the top four.
“We’ve had some close, tight games against Featherstone while I’ve been here and they’ve not gone our way at the Shay.
“There’s never much in these matches and I’m sure this one will be no different.
“Over the last month, we’ve won those three games we had to win and we were expected to win to get to this point, against Batley, Swinton and Barrow, and now we’ve got the three games we need to win but we’re probably not expected to win, against Featherstone, London and Toulouse.
“I don’t think the team that loses this weekend is out of it, but it’s obviously a very important fixture.
“They’ve changed the way they play since we last saw them; the injuries to Holmes and Ridyard mean they’re taking on teams more down the middle rather than shifting the ball, which brings a different set of challenges.
“Our first-up contact certainly needs to be better than it was at Barrow, because they ran through us a few times, which I wasn’t too happy about.
“Although it wasn’t our best performance, we took plenty of lessons from last weekend; it’s certainly stopped us falling in love with ourselves.
“We’ve got difficiences and we know we need to fix them up for 80 minutes on Sunday.”
Marshall said he expects to select from a virtually fully fit squad, with prop Elliot Morris and threequarter Ben Heaton, both in good form in recent weeks, missing out at Craven Park to underline Fax’s current depth.
Castleford forward Will Maher is expected to be available, while his teammate James Green could also be an option.
Featherstone’s dual-registration resources - Leeds hooker Brad Dwyer scored six tries in last weekend’s battering of Rochdale - remain unknown following the sacking of Rhinos coach Brian McDermott.
“We’ve a few bumps and bruises, but nothing too serious,” said Marshall.
“I can’t see the team changing a great deal, if I’m honest.”
Marshall also scotched suggestions Fax have signed Wakefield’s 20 year old half back Christian Ackroyd, a Calderdale junior who has been released by Trinity.
“I spoke to Wakefield and I’ve had a chat with Christian, but we’ve not signed him,” said Marshall.
“He’s going to come down to the game on Thursday to have a look around and we’ll go from there.
“He’s highly rated and if we think he can add something to us, and he wants an opportunity, then we’d be interested.”