HULL FC coach Lee Radford has described today’s game with St Helens as “huge” for their hopes of reaching the top eight, but still doubts whether his side will perform.
This brutal honesty is perhaps a sign of how desperate things have become at the KC Stadium with the big-spending East Yorkshire club joint-bottom of Super League after an embarrassing home defeat to Hull KR.
Radford was damning of his under-performing squad after they lost 20-6 on Thursday, their sixth defeat of the year already.
They are already four points – or two wins – away from the play-off places and, therefore, with just 23 regular rounds this term, another loss this afternoon could be catastrophic.
“Monday is huge for us,” admitted Radford, with champions St Helens having lost themselves, 12-4 at Wigan, on Good Friday.
“We have got a 24-hour jump on them, which is good, and they have got some injuries, which is good. But unless we toughen up mentally between the ears the outcome won’t change.
“We have got to get better, get tougher on each other and not accept the three times they (Rovers) came down the field and we opened the gates for them.”
Radford is still missing captain Gareth Ellis, scrum-half Marc Sneyd plus centres Setaimata Sa and Kirk Yeaman to injuries while Liam Watts has joined fellow prop Chris Green on the sidelines after he limped off against Hull KR.
Teenage half-back Jordan Abdull is called up to the 19-man squad – he could come in after Radford was left disappointed by Jordan Rankin’s efforts as Sneyd’s replacement – and 20-year-old Curtis Naughton, the former Bradford Bulls three-quarter signed from Sydney Roosters, may make his debut.
Such youthful energy might enliven Hull, but their task will be difficult even given Saints’ own selection problems.
That defeat to Wigan was only their second of the year and the visitors will need to raise their game significantly if they are to succeed.
Admittedly, sorting a player’s mentality is one area a head coach cannot really influence.
Radford said: “You try and make the environment better, bring more professional players in to the group, and we have had some assistance with development of that toughness in pre-season and within the season itself.
“It is something we really tried to address hard but, at the moment, it’s not transpiring and that is a frustration.
“The owner has put his hand in his pocket in all departments and we have to see that transfer onto the green stuff or, if not, we will miss out on the eight.”
Hull will look to Leon Pryce, their former Great Britain stand-off, to lead from the front today at one of his former clubs.
The former St Helens star, 33, admitted: “It was disappointing against Rovers and it’s back to the drawing board for us, back to square one.
“It doesn’t get any easier and will be a big challenge at Saints, but we have to listen to the coach and put things right.”