Reds eye Saints upset
Having had their own house-warming ruined on the opening weekend of the Stobart Super League season, Salford City Reds will be aiming to turn party poopers at St Helens tomorrow.
The Reds are the first visitors to Langtree Park, Saints’ new £30million state-of-the-art stadium, hoping it will prove more productive for them than Knowsley Road.
Salford never won at Knowsley Road in Super League and they have lost 27 consecutive away matches against St Helens since triumphing 18-17 in 1980.
After spending the whole of his first campaign ground-sharing Widnes’ Stobart Stadium, Saints coach Royce Simmons is looking forward to his first ‘home’ game.
“It worried everyone else more than it worried me,” he said. “In Australia, you get in the habit of playing at different venues.
“We haven’t spoken too much about the new stadium just yet but a bit closer to the game we’ll probably talk about how important it is to set a good standard here.
“I’m looking forward to a good atmosphere. The crowd will certainly bring us home if we turn up in the right frame of mind to start with.
“The atmosphere over here is a lot better than the atmosphere in Australia - 18,000 St Helens supporters can make more noise than 40,000 supporters in Australia.
“It was a difference I didn’t probably see.”
While Saints made a winning start to the season at London Broncos, the Reds suffered a disappointing 24-10 defeat by Castleford Tigers at their new Salford City Stadium in their first Super League match under new coaches Phil Veivers and Sean Long, both former St Helens players.
Simmons admits the snowy conditions at Barton made it difficult to read anything into Salford’s opening league game, but he was impressed by their performance in a pre-season friendly against Wigan Warriors.
“They’ve a new coach, a new assistant coach and a new pattern of how they’re going to play,” he said.
“We’re not going to learn a lot from the snow but I saw a good performance from them against Wigan.”
Salford have lost hooker Wayne Godwin and centre Sean Gleeson and have other players carrying knocks from their opening defeat.
Utility player Stuart Howarth is set to deputise at hooker while Australian forward Shannon McPherson is hoping to make his Super League debut.
St Helens are without goalkicking winger Jamie Foster and new signing Mark Flanagan but forwards Tony Puletua and Chris Flannery are available as Simmons rings the changes early in the season.
“I’m rotating my players around a little bit,” he said. “We’re not going to go round with the same side very week.
“I don’t want someone sitting on the sidelines for three weeks with no footie and suddenly expect him to play a full game. Short term we might have a few minor hiccups but in the long run we will benefit.”
Club legends Tom Van Vollenhoven (St Helens) and David Watkins (Salford) will lead the teams out in front of what is expected to be a capacity 17,200 crowd.