Catalans v Hull FC: Relaxed Radford happy for Airlie Birds to slip under radar

Hull FC coach Lee Radford.
Hull FC coach Lee Radford.
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HULL FC head coach Lee Radford loves the fact that “pundits” still do not rate them this season.

The Black and Whites will rack up a ninth win in just 11 games if they can complete a double over Catalans Dragons in Perpignan this evening.

Undoubtedly, they are one of the form teams in Super League and, with a Challenge Cup quarter-final against Leeds Rhinos to also look forward to, there is plenty of positivity around the KC Stadium – even if not in other quarters.

“The pundits are still talking us down – which I am really comfortable with,” said Radford, who is mindful that his side are still not the finished product given they remain in seventh spot on the edge of the play-off positions.

“If you look at the fixtures this weekend in and around us there are some other key battles too.

“All we can concentrate on is getting our preparation right and continuing to pick up the two points.

“Every week the two points are becoming more valuable.

“We started out the year and from day one the goal was to make the top eight.

“To win the comp’ you have to be in the top eight. the higher we finish in the eight the better chance we give ourselves.

“So we won’t be shouting from the rooftops and we’ll keep our focus on making sure we are in the eight.”

Victory over Catalans would go a long way to achieving that; their rivals are just below them in the final play-off berth but only due to an inferior points difference.

Above them, fifth-placed Huddersfield Giants host Warrington Wolves, who sit in sixth, tomorrow afternoon with both on 18 points, just two above Hull.

However, similarly below them, ninth-placed Widnes Vikings are just a point behind the Airlie Birds, and they visit 10th-placed Hull KR tomorrow with Rovers themselves – four adrift of their city rivals – desperate to keep their own chase alive.

Radford, therefore, is fully aware of the importance of his side’s fixture – and equally of his opponent’s’ strength at Stade Gilbert Brutus where Wigan Warriors, St Helens and Warrington have all fallen this term.

“Catalans find an extra 15 per cent in energy and skill set playing on their home turf so we have to find that as well,” he said, the French side having lost just once there all season.

“The start we got off to last week against Widnes cannot be allowed to happen again and we have to be better with our decision-making and skill set.

“We have to build a foundation to put them under pressure.”

They were 12-0 down in as many minutues at Widnes but recoevered to win 25-12.

Radford had no fresh injuries from that game and welcomes back Setaimata Sa, Feluti Talanoa and Curtis Naughton tonight with Josh Bowden fit again, too.

“It makes my team selection very difficult,” he said.

“The key is to maintain how we are going but with a crazy fixture schedule coming up because of the rearranged Wakefield game we’ll need everybody fit and everybody firing; some selections will have one eye on what is coming in the next couple of weeks.”