HAVING HAD their fingers burned last week, Castleford Tigers will be on red alert for this evening’s visit of relegation-threatened London Broncos.
Castleford’s assistant-coach Ryan Sheridan feels they should have been on the back of three successive wins, secure in Super League’s top-five and pushing for at least third spot. Instead, they are having to rebuild following a costly golden-point defeat at second-bottom Hull Kingston Rovers six days ago.
Tigers were unable to hang on to a 12-point lead in the second half and that was a warning of the danger posed by teams fighting for their top-flight lives.
Having already lost to lowly Huddersfield Giants and Leeds Rhinos – twice – this year, Sheridan insists there is no risk of complacency on the home side’s part today, despite a big home win over London less than two months ago.
“You can see there is a steely focus from the players and we have trained with an intensity and a purpose,” said Sheridan. “We know we shouldn’t really be responding to a defeat, we should be coming off a scrappy victory, but we’re not.
“Now we have got London who are fighting for survival and we know it is going to be a tough and challenging game. We have to be ready, physically and mentally, to combat their desperation.”
The end goal may be different, but Castleford’s need for points is just as urgent after they slipped to seventh on the ladder following last week’s loss.
“If you look at the table, it is tight in there,” Sheridan observed. “We have to go out and win every game to be in with a shout of being in and around the top-five.
“It is in our own hands and it starts against a London team who are desperate to stay up.
“They have been great all year, they are a challenging team who throw the ball around and they have got some good players in there. We have to make sure we put in a performance.”
The big lesson from last week, Sheridan says, was how to close out a game from a winning position.
Having battled back from 12-0 down early on, Castleford, whose influential prop Liam Watts suffered finger and ankle injuries which could sideline him for a month, led 26-14 midway through the second period, but were unable to hang on.
They are likely to face more close, hard-fought contests if they do make it into the play-offs and Sheridan feels last week could prove a valuable, if painful, experience.
He reflected: “We were in positions to win the game; we threw away a 12-point lead and we missed a kick for goal, then we missed opportunities to go for a couple of drop goals.
“That’s through our game management and being able to deal with pressure. We felt we should not have been in that position. We didn’t play great, but we were in a position to win the game and we threw it away.
“We have got to keep practicing and make sure if we are in that position again we come out on top, with a victory. We have to keep learning lessons.”