Powell expects tough encounter
Castleford Tigers coach Daryl Powell is predicting another feisty affair against Widnes Vikings in the battle of First Utility Super League's surprise packets.
Tigers winger Justin Carney and Vikings counterpart Paddy Flynn were sin-binned during Castleford’s 34-22 home win in May after coming to blows and subsequently handed two-match bans after being found guilty of sustained punching.
Thursday night's match at the Select Security Stadium is a dress rehearsal for the Tetley's Challenge Cup semi-final at Leigh Sports Village on August 10 but the teams will be more concerned with gaining vital league points, with Castleford eyeing a first-ever top-four finish in Super League and Widnes looking to reach the play-offs for the first time.
"The semi-final is still a few weeks away," Powell said. "We need to focus on what's in front of us and that's this game. It's Super League points we're after.
"We need to ensure that we get some consistency back in our performances which have slipped a bit of late.
"It will be a tough game. We beat them last time and it was a little bit of a fiery affair. They will be highly motivated. It's a game we need to play exceptionally well in to get over the top of them.
"They played pretty well when we beat them. We just had a purple patch which got us away from them so there's not much between the teams to be honest."
Both clubs go into the fixture buoyed by much-needed victories. Castleford recovered from heavy back-to-back defeats with a last-gasp win over Salford Red Devils while Widnes ended a run of three straight losses by running in seven tries against London Broncos.
"We come into this one with a good win at London under our belts," Vikings coach Denis Betts said. "We have players back and fit after long spells out and we are looking forward to it."
Betts has the luxury of being able to select from virtually a full-strength squad.
The return to fitness of former Wigan hooker Liam Carberry, who could make his Super League debut after recovering from a broken leg and ankle damage sustained in a pre-season trial game, leaves only prop Eamon O'Carroll on the sidelines.
Powell has recalled centre Michael Channing in place of Jake Webster, who scored the match-winning try against Salford but whose minor knee injury will not be risked on the artificial pitch at Widnes.
Most eyes will be on the stand-off duel between Kevin Brown, the Widnes vice-captain, and Marc Sneyd, whose future was clarified on Tuesday when Hull FC announced his capture on a three-year deal.
Powell says he is close to securing a replacement after also losing out to Hull in a bid for Leon Pryce but, in the meantime, is hoping Sneyd can now focus on regaining his spark for the Tigers.
"It's been on his mind but whether it's affected his performances, I'm not so sure," Powell said. "He's still been playing okay to be honest but he can just put that to the back of his mind now and focus on playing well for the rest of the year.
"It's disappointing to lose him but Salford put a price on him which Hull were prepared to pay. We didn't think that was the right valuation so we'll work hard on our recruitment to replace Marc and we're well down the track on that."
Powell admits Sneyd's battle with Brown could go a long way to determining the outcome of Thursday's televised game.
"When you look at most teams, there's a pivotal player who makes them tick and Kevin Brown is theirs," Powell said. "He's a real threat and we've got to defend against him well.
"I thought we did a really good job last week on Rangi Chase for the main part and we'll need to do a similar job this week on Kevin Brown, who can open you up with his running game or his passing game."