Hull v Salford preview.
Noble eyes boost from Hock return
Salford coach Brian Noble is hoping the return of England forward Gareth Hock can help his side turn the tables on Hull when the Red Devils return to the KC Stadium on Thursday night, six days after suffering a 30-8 mauling there.
This time the teams clash in the fourth round of the Tetley's Challenge Cup and Noble is delighted his mis-firing Red Devils get an early opportunity to redeem themselves for their latest Super League flop.
"That was the only positive we could take from the game," said Noble, whose expensively-assembled side are currently outside the top eight after winning just one of their last five league matches.
It is 76 years since Salford enjoyed their solitary Wembley triumph and Noble, who won the cup with Bradford in 2003, knows it will take a remarkable turn-around if they are to make it into the hat for Sunday's fifth-round draw following last Friday's heavy loss to last year's beaten finalists.
"They will be cock-a-hoop," Noble admitted. "They turned the corner clearly last week. Their players looked on top of their game and I'm expecting more of the same.
"The challenge for us is to match their enthusiasm. We looked off the pace in many areas and we can't afford for that to happen again.
"There are different dynamics this week, it's a different competition. In Super League you can afford to make a slip and still be there or thereabouts at the end of it but there's no second chance with the cup and that adds to the pressure."
The Devils are likely to be boosted by the considerable presence of Hock, who has missed the last four matches with an ankle injury but is set to take the place of Andrew Dixon, who is facing a month on the sidelines after damaging knee ligaments in the League defeat at the KC Stadium.
"We haven't the latitude to change too much but Gareth Hock is in our 19 and we'll make a decision on him nearer the time," Noble said.
"He's been sadly missed. I think everybody in the game wants to see him out on the pitch. On his day, he can be one of the best rowers in the game.
"But for the whole team it will be a different focus this week. Collectively we were disappointed with what we dished up last week."
Hull, too, will have atonement on their minds. They have fond memories of their 2013 cup run but are still hurting from their inability to make an impact on the big day as they lost 16-0 to Wigan to leave themselves still searching for a first Wembley triumph.
"It's knock-out rugby," said Hull vice-captain Danny Houghton. "There are no second chances and you only get one shot to do it right.
"That's all part of the magic of the Challenge Cup for me and it's something that brought the best out of us as a squad at times last season.
"For the players who were here on our run to Wembley last year, I think it's also fair to say there's added motivation to get back to the final and make amends."
Houghton will lead the side in the absence of Gareth Ellis, who has one match left of a two-game ban to serve, and long-serving half-back Richard Horne sits out the tie after picking up a knock last Friday.
That is likely to mean a recall for Australian stand-off Jordan Rankin while coach Lee Radford brings in centre Joe Arundel in place of Ben Crooks and is boosted by the return of prop forwards Garreth Carvell and Mickey Paea from injury and suspension respectively.
The tie at the KC Stadium in one of five all-Super League clashes in the last 32. London Broncos set off on Wednesday for their game against Catalan Dragons in Perpignan on Friday while on Sunday, Huddersfield host St Helens, 2012 winners Warrington go to Hull KR and Leeds visit Wakefield.
The fifth-round draw will be made by all-time greats Alex Murphy and Gary Schofield after the televised tie at Huddersfield.