JAMES DONALDSON was ‘cone boy’ the last time Hull KR faced Widnes Vikings yet has never been so excited to be on the duty which normally nobody wants.
For all he wasn’t playing, still making his recovery from a third knee reconstruction, the Rovers back-row could at least savour the celebrations first hand and soak up a memorable afternoon.
It was September 9 last year when Rovers defeated Denis Betts’ side 12-6 at KCOM Craven Park, the Qualifiers victory which crucially confirmed their promotion back to Super League, sparking jubilant scenes.
Fast forward to tomorrow, however, and when Widnes return to East Hull, things aren’t quite as rosy.
The Robins have lost five of their last six games and won just twice since their top-flight return, prompting fears they could quickly be involved in the worry of the Qualifiers again.
Widnes only have one more victory, however, and have lost four of their previous five outings, making this evening’s contest all the more critical for both sides.
We need this to get us back on track. We haven’t got what we wanted over Easter but we have to keep moving forward and there’s no better time than this weekend.Hull KR’s James Donaldson
Donaldson – who thankfully made his comeback last month –admitted: “It’s a must-win.
“We need this to get us back on track. We haven’t got what we wanted over Easter but we have to keep moving forward and there’s no better time than this weekend.
“I was still coming back from the knee op when we played Widnes last year.
“I was desperate to be out there but was just delighted to be able to see the boys do what they did.
“It is a reminder going into Saturday’s game that we can do it (in Super League) and, especially against Widnes there’s no reason why we can’t do the same as what we did back then.”
Cumbrian Donaldson, 26, hopes to make his fifth appearance since returning to action last month.
The industrious forward, now in his fourth campaign with Rovers since leaving Bradford Bulls, is pleased with his progress.
“The knee’s held up fine,” he said, having played in the 30-22 Good Friday derby loss to Hull FC and also the rather less competitive 44-6 Easter Monday defeat at Wigan Warriors.
“It’s important I just take it game by game but I do feel I’m improving with each match and getting better each time, adding more to the side.”
Meanwhile, Rovers have won their last three home meetings with Widnes who have not win at Craven Park since 2014.
Hull KR hope to be boosted, too, by the return of captain Shaun Lunt (knee) plus half-back Danny McGuire, centre Andrew Heffernan and forward Jordan Walne after concussions.
With Robbie Mulhern and former Widnes and Great Britain second-row Danny Tickle also in contention, coach Tim Sheens has plenty of options to freshen up his squad.
Widnes coach Betts has made five changes to his side that lost to St Helens on Monday.
Rhys Hanbury, Gil Dudson, Matt Whitley, Keanan Brand and Chris Houston come in for Tom Gilmore, Ted Chapelhow, Chris Dean, Danny Walker and Brad Walker while Danny Craven, the Vikings scrum-half, has signed a new two-year deal at the club.