Wakefield Trinity Wildcats head coach Richard Agar says tonight’s trip to Salford City Reds is his side’s most important of the season so far (kick-off 7.45pm).
Wildcats make a first-ever trip to the Salford City Stadium needing a win to keep in-touch with the Super League play-off spots after three straight league losses left their top-eight hopes hanging in the balance.
Agar admits the crucial nature of the contest against Brian Noble’s side has been brought about by his side’s below-par performances of late, but says his troops are desperate to end their losing run and maintain their play-off ambitions.
“It’s turned that way over the last month,” said Agar in response to being asked whether tonight’s match was a ‘must win’.
“We’ve put ourselves in a position where this game becomes a very, very vital one for us. It’s the most important game that we’ve had this season and we’re very much treating it that way. We’ve got a desperate bunch of players.
“Last week [against Wigan] gave us some food for thought. I thought we had some really good performances from our younger guys, notably Matty Wildie, I thought he was outstanding to say he’s had such a limited amount of football this year. I thought to get through the 80 minutes alone was an achievement considering the amount of work he did, I thought he had some good bits of quality in there as well.
“Woody showed some glimpses for us at scrum-half, including his try and Lucas, to say it was his first game as well, got through some solid defence at times.”
Wood, Wildie and Walshaw have all been included in Agar’s 19-man squad and are joined by Paul Aiton, Ali Lauitiiti, Tim Smith and Paul Sykes, who all return from injury, although Andy Raleigh misses out and Taulima Tautai is out with a broken thumb. Frankie Mariano has been recalled from his loan at Featherstone Rovers, with Vince Mellars going in the opposite direction.
Wildcats drew 23-23 at home against Salford in March but Agar believes the Reds are an improved side since then.
“Watching Salford over the past four, five or six weeks, I’ve seen some improvements in there.” he commented. “The line’s a lot straighter, defensively they look organised and controlling some tackles. They’re carrying the ball hard and playing some high percentages and kicking and chasing.
“They’re a team that has been around the lower reaches. I wouldn’t say confidence is a problem but they lack the strike of some teams in the top half of the table, but I think they’ve turned themselves into a very honest side that look quite determined to finish the season off as strong as they possibly can.
“Their home form has been ok and we feel it’s going to be a tough game and it’s one that we’ve got to be as desperate as possible to win.”
Wildcats’ 19-man squad: Mathers, Fox, Collis, L Smith, Cockayne, Sykes, T Smith, Poore, Aiton, Lauitiiti, Kirmond, Washbrook, Wood, Amor, Wilkes, Mariano, Lyne, Wildie, Walshaw.