WATCH: Hull KR v Hull FC – Lee Radford wary of backlash from struggling Robins

HULL FC head coach Lee Radford has urged his side to make sure they are not “ambushed” by relegation-threatened derby rivals Hull KR tonight.

The Black and Whites are arguably Super League’s form team with six wins in their last seven outings and just 80 minutes from another Challenge Cup final.

They have played some outstanding football in recent weeks, not least during Saturday’s 50-10 victory at Catalans Dragons who they also vanquished by a similar scoreline in the Cup quarter-final. Certainly, there is a growing belief that Hull could push on and challenge for a first league title in more than 35 years.

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If they win again tonight they will move to within two points of second-placed Warrington Wolves who they also face next month for a place at Wembley.

WARY: Hull FC coach Lee Radford. Picture: Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com

By contrast, after losing at bottom-placed London Broncos last Thursday, concerned Rovers are now bottom of the table and recently sacked head coach Tim Sheens. Furthermore, Hull inflicted a record derby defeat on them the last time they met on Good Friday with a 56-12 success.

Still, Radford knows only too well what can happen when the fierce rivals come together.

He said: “We’re in good spirits and good form but we have to make sure this isn’t an ambush.

“If I have another person tell me ‘I can’t see anything else other than a Hull FC victory’ I’ll smack them in the chin. It’s going to be tough; it’s their Grand Final, it’s the last time we’ll play them this year, they know the importance of this game and it’s at their ground.

Hull KR head coach, Tony Smith.

“They throw some stuff at you and we must turn up and win all the energy battles because we have some quality on the field but the energy battles and attitude is where this is going to be won.

“That is our key focus. It’s going to be tough.”

What will also be pressing on Radford’s mind is that his side have gained a reputation for randomly losing in spectacular fashion this term such as the 55-2 rout by struggling Huddersfield Giants at Magic Weekend.

Their doubters might suggest another of those displays is lingering just around the corner but Hull – who must give a late fitness test to in-form stand-off Albert Kelly this morning – are keen to make sure that label can no longer be attached to them and instead showcase their double-chasing potential.

Hull FC's Mark Minichiello. Picture: Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com

Radford spoke yesterday about how pure ‘desire’ can be critical in these situations.

“In these games in particular it’s hugely important,” he added.

“Kick-chase, kick pressure, quality support, scramble… all those areas. You can’t really train for that; that’s your individuals turning up with want and desire.

“We know how important it is for them given where they are sat in the table but we have to make sure we get there and aren’t ambushed.”

Rovers have shown signs of improvement under Tony Smith since he replaced Sheens three weeks ago and they strengthened their side yesterday by signing Leeds Rhinos’ Australian hooker Matt Parcell who is set to debut at KCOM Craven Park tonight.

Ex-England hooker Shaun Lunt went the other way and the Robins also sent Will Dagger on a month’s loan to Featherstone.

Radford is relishing going up against Smith once more.

The former Great Britain coach was in charge of Warrington when Hull won the 2016 Challenge Cup but has been out of the game for 18 months before joining Rovers.

However, the FC coach revealed Smith has been privy to their inner sanctum.

He said: “I get along with Tony great. He’s been in and around here (Hull’s training ground).

“Last year I invited him in for the day and I wanted a little bit of feedback from him on the environment here. He’s a very astute coach. His track record speaks for itself.

“It’s funny. When he came in we were on that (13-match) losing run and I remember him saying to me ‘You’ll never beat my record!’

“I think he lost 15 on the bounce when at Huddersfield which is a Super League record so I’m glad I never knocked that one off!

“When they got rid of Tim I said they’d want that Solskjaer effect – that spike that a new coach can sometimes bring – and they’ll be hoping Tony brings it.”

Meanwhile, Radford hailed the “incredible” achievement of Mark Minichiello, the 37-year-old Australian second-row who is set to play his 400th career game.

“It’s possibly his last derby, too, so it’s important to send him off on a good note,” he said.