DARYL Powell is too wise and seasoned to think the hard work is already done for Castleford Tigers.
They may have produced an epic win at leaders Wigan Warriors last week, following on from a similarly impressive victory over Hull FC.
But for a man who has seen all the highs and lows of the sport as both player and coach, whether winning a Challenge Cup final or coming so tantalisingly close to defeating the revered Kangaroos in an Ashes Test series, he knows it is an incredibly fickle business.
Castleford are certainly making great strides under his leadership but Powell accepts such progress will be all rendered worthless if they fail to build on their recent successes with a third straight win against troubled St Helens tomorrow.
“There’s a realisation there’s still a lot of work to be done,” he said, as the West Yorkshire club prepare to host famous visitors who are currently enduring difficult times clinging onto the last crucial play-off spot of eighth.
“We’ve been a bit lighter (with training) after the Wigan game, but we’ve built up through the week and there’s an intensity about us.
“There needs to be; everyone’s talking about St Helens’ doom and gloom, but we can’t get wrapped up in that.
“We have to come up with a top-quality performance. We are at home and our run is three straight wins here, so we want to add to that, but ultimately we need to get the performance right.
“We are starting to get that. We are getting a lot of things right at the moment – but it’s that consistent effort from everybody that we are after.
“The players are aware of it and they are talking about it as much as I am.
“The key from our point of view is to come up with another consistent effort.
“That has been a pretty big challenge for us over recent times and it’s something we need to be really conscious of.”
If striving Castleford can achieve that elusive consistency then there is no reason why – despite still being sat in 12th – they cannot stage a late push for the play-offs.
They had won just a single game following round 11, a barren run which cost Ian Millward his job, but after assistant Danny Orr steadied the ship with victories over Widnes and Hull KR, they have amassed seven points from a potential 10 in Powell’s last five fixtures reinvigorating their campaign.
If they can inflict more woe on Saints tomorrow, the gap between them and the Merseysiders will be reduced to just four points with six games to go.
However, despite their opponents’ travails – a section of the St Helens support called for coach Nathan Brown to be sacked after they fell at home to Hull KR last Friday – Powell refuses to be lulled into any false sense of security.
“It’s a tough comp’,” he said. “They’ve been hampered a bit by injuries, but they’ve got a lot of good players and some of their better players back now.
“They are going to be a challenge for us, there’s no doubt about that.
“There’s no point thinking St Helens playing poorly last week or the week before is going to help us.
“It’s a game we need to focus on, not look back too much, just keep doing what we’re doing and be better in certain areas.”
It is a sign of the growing feel-good factor around Castleford, though, that they actually have some selection posers tomorrow.
Prolific winger Justin Carney is back after serving a three-game ban despite both Richard Owen and Kirk Dixon performing admirably in the Australian’s absence. Carney returns at the expense of James Clare while Ben Davies (hamstring) replaces Dan Fleming.
Powell said: “Carney is a great player to bring back. It’s tough on James Clare who misses out but he is just one of those players who you would have in your team if you have the opportunity.
“The form of the team is great and he’s coming into a confident group so we’re looking forward to seeing him back.
“Lee Gilmour is still out as he’s got a nerve problem that’s not firing properly. We need to try and get that working, but no one can give us a definitive answer on how long that will take.”
Powell is able to afford forward Charlie Martin’s move to Featherstone Rovers on a month’s loan and he is due to debut for their neighbours against Batley Bulldogs tomorrow.
“He has been sat on his backside for quite a few weeks,” said the coach, who continues to look unfavourably on the dual-registration system. “Our relationship with Keighley has not really worked from that point of view.”
Tigers yesterday completed the signing of Michael Channing on loan from London Broncos.