VIKINGS face their most traditional looking Easter double header for many a season – but one that presents a formidable challenge to their bright start to the campaign.
And as if Good Friday’s trip to Warrington, followed by Easter Monday’s visit of unbeaten league leaders St Helens was not tough enough, Vikings will have to back up the following weekend for the Challenge Cup trip to Salford.
With injuries taking their toll on the backline, Denis Betts will have to manage his scarce resources carefully over this period – particularly with the cup being such a priority.
Betts hopes that centre Cameron Phelps is fit to play and that Declan Hulme, twisted ankle, will not be out for too long. Joe Mellor and Tom Gilmore are out for another four weeks, but Stef Marsh is not far off playing.
Betts said: “We have had a really tough Challenge Cup round, followed by a trip to France. Since our return we only really have one day of real preparation for Warrington and then no preparation for Saints and then we go to Salford.
“That is four games inside two weeks. I know next year will be a bit different, but we ask too much of the players at times – and a lot of teams that suffer at this time are those with no real depth to their squads.
“It is going to be a tough weekend for us.”
Betts expects the Easter format to change next year – and believes that will be better all round for players and the fans.
“I know it is a weekend where fans want to watch games but the quality of the second games is not going to be as high as the first game,” he said.
“I will be thinking about Salford as soon as we are done on Friday because that is a massive game for us.”
However, before that the trip to Warrington is a big one – and fifth-placed Vikings will be able to emulate the double they pulled off over their neighbours last term.
Betts said: “Last year doing the double over them gave the fans a real boost and made them proud of this team again. Those local bragging rights against our neighbours are important to us.
“Having watched Warrington’s weekend loss – they will be coming out looking for a response to their second half performance, just as we will be looking for a response from our lads as well.
“It has the markings of one side having to find their feet quickly.”
Friday’s game at Warrington kicks off at 2.45pm, with Monday’s home clash against Saints having a 3pm start.