HULL FC head coach Peter Gentle admits the club’s half-back crisis is threatening to ruin their Super League season.
The Airlie Birds were handed a sobering 23-10 home defeat by fierce rivals Hull KR in yesterday’s city derby at KC Stadium and are now languishing in 10th place.
They were touted as potential Grand Finalists this term yet currently look anything but.
Gentle’s side were missing six first-team regulars, but it is principally the blatant lack of any half-backs that is costing them so dear.
Major winter signing Daniel Holdsworth is out indefinitely as he battles problems stemming from a recent concussion while fellow Australian scrum-half Brett Seymour is being treated for depression.
“We only had five backs playing and I think it was obvious what was going on out there,” explained Gentle. “We just had no direction whatsoever. We tried to simplify it as best we could to get through, but we’ve just got no available halves at the club at the moment to steer us around and I think it looked like that.
“Playing two back-rowers in the halves like we did (yesterday) is not ideal but shows where we’re at. With the poor execution and unforced errors we showed on the back of that lack of direction you’re not going to get a win.”
Big-spending Hull have secured just one victory in seven now and face a crucial game at Wakefield Trinity Wildcats on Monday.
Gentle insists he has scoured the market for replacements and one potential target, St Helens’ Lee Gaskell, made a loan move to Salford City Reds on Thursday.
But, having failed in a bid for Castleford’s Rangi Chase and Australian Test star Scott Prince last autumn, he insisted: “We’ve been looking for just over 12 months and it’s proving very difficult.
“Our eyes and ears are always open, but we’ve exhausted every avenue.
“Clubs are reluctant to free up anyone for Easter so we just have to dig in and try to get through it.”
He insists he is unconcerned about that lowly league position.
“I’m more concerned about getting these guys playing a brand (of football) that they can fall into playing,” he said.
“We are struggling, but you can’t just put a seven on someone’s back and say ‘go and steer us around’. We haven’t got that luxury of having a seven to do that.
“We’ve got Wakefield again on Monday and we’ve got to come up with some answers pretty quickly.
“All clubs go through it (injuries). It’s just our turn at the moment. It’s unfortunate it’s a derby and the time of year when we’re desperate to get a win and we’re just light on troops.
“Unfortunately the players we brought in to fill the holes from last year are the ones out injured.” When asked where it all went wrong yesterday, Gentle said: “Probably when Andy Lynch rang in (yesterday morning).
“I got the wake-up call from him saying he’d been vomiting all night and he wasn’t able to play so the day didn’t start terrific. We lacked a bit of experience.”
The ex-England prop had been enjoying the competition’s third highest run of consecutive appearances, 76 games, a run that stretches back more than three years to his time at Bradford Bulls.
Rovers, though, overcame their own half-back problems to force a memorable win.
Captain Michael Dobson, their gifted scrum-half who had played and scored in all 13 of the Robins’ derby meetings with Hull since joining in May 2008, was a late withdrawal. The Australian had been nursing a hamstring strain, but trained all week.
“He was flying and then in the last set of training (on Thursday) he pulled up with that hamstring again,” said Sandercock. “It was obviously disappointing, but these things happen. It was very good to get a win without Michael Dobson.”
It was all the more impressive given Australian stand-off Travis Burns came off with a shoulder injury after just 45 minutes which will rule him out of Monday’s visit from Wigan Warriors.
Dave Hodgson scored twice, though, bringing back memories of last May’s Magic Weekend win over Hull when the winger scored the winner in the last minute.
Sandercock added: “This win is up there with that. It was a pretty special performance. To come through a lot of adversity and get a result like that is very pleasing.
“Everything was going against us, but we managed to come through the other side. It makes me obviously very, very pleased and the boys should be very proud of their performance.
“I think our supporters got us through as well.”
Rovers produced an outstanding defensive effort to repel four successive sets on their line just before the break and hold onto a 12-0 interval lead.
“I feel that really set the platform for winning the game,” said Sandercock, who has seen his side win four of their last five matches to ease pressure on his own shoulders.
“They got four or five penalties on the bounce and seemed to be forever attacking, but we held firm and the resolve was excellent.”
Rovers now sit seventh, with Bradford directly above, but have also, importantly, opened a four-point lead over Hull.
Match report: Page 7.