Betts remaining positive despite injuries to Cross, Mellor and Pickersgill (From Runcorn and Widnes World)
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Widnes Vikings head coach Denis Betts remaining positive despite injuries to Ben Cross, Joe Mellor and Steve Pickersgill
HEAD coach Denis Betts is feeling positive about the remainder of Widnes Vikings’ season despite another spurt of injuries.
Vikings, dogged with selection inconsistency due to player losses throughout their first campaign in Super League, will be without powerhouse prop Ben Cross (knee strain) and key half back Joe Mellor (sprained ankle) for their trip to Bradford Bulls on Sunday, kick off 3pm.
They are expected to be on the sidelines for at least three weeks with the injuries sustained in the narrow home defeat to Hull Kingston Rovers at the weekend, while another casualty of that game, front rower Steve Pickersgill (sprained ankle), is also a doubt for the Odsal trip.
Full back Shaun Briscoe and utility Cameron Phelps are close to returns, but skipper Jon Clarke looks likely to miss another week.
The problem for Vikings, though, is not having the big men to contend with a physical Bradford pack that welcomed back internationals Craig Kopczak and Nick Scruton in their defeat at Warrington Wolves on Sunday.
Betts said: “Three weeks ago we had loads of bodies. Two weeks down the line we’ve lost Eamon O’Carroll for the rest of the year, could lose Ben Cross for the rest of the year and we’re not sure how Steve Pickersgill’s going to recover this week.
“They’ve been laying some good foundations for us and doing the work that we wanted, giving us some punch.
“Pickersgill has probably got the best chance of playing out of everybody with injuries but I’m not really hopeful.
“The swelling’s not too bad and he does have a pretty good recovery rate in his ankle from previous injuries so we’ll have to wait and see.”
However, the way Vikings have grown in recent weeks with some selection consistency and the fact that the players have a better understanding of each other six months into the season, leaves him feeling optimistic about the remaining five games.
Betts has praised the character of his men for giving top eight team Hull KR a fight to the death despite only having 14 of his 17 players for 70 minutes of the game.
“We’re working really hard for each other and there were two points in Sunday’s game until the try at the end kicked Hull KR away.
“But we’re showing we’re in with a shout of winning games against top eight sides and I think that’s where we’ve wanted to be.
“We didn’t execute in certain areas where we had been doing really well in the last month and lost our way a touch.
“But to be in the game after having lost three players to injury showed a lot of character in the side and hopefully everyone can see what I see every day in that there is really good character in this team.
“They are starting to buy into wanting to work for each other.
“Now it’s just that we have to use our energy better and how to get the most out of it.”
He added: “For the rest of the season I just want us to keep getting better.
“We’d like to think there’s another couple of wins in us and we’d like to think there’s five really solid performances.
“And then you have to think about the side changing so dramatically this weekend from what it was last weekend and the weekend before, so you’re not really sure what’s going to happen.
“But I’m hopeful this weekend will be really positive. We won’t be far off.
“We’ve got a greater understanding this week that we didn’t perform well so we know what we need to do better.
“Although it was disappointing at the weekend from the aspect of the result, people should be able to appreciate how far this group has come.
“It’s nice when you talk to other coaches and when the lads are talking to players of other clubs and saying that it is good here.
“We are generating a feelgood factor in the league.
“Last year we couldn’t get players. People weren’t answering phone calls because they knew what we were after. Or the question was if we got some more signings they would consider signing too.
“Now, we’re getting plenty of people knocking on our door. In fact, we’re actually telling people that we’ll get back to them.
“That’s where we’ve wanted to put ourselves – in that window where people want to come here and be part of this three-year plan that was set out at the start.”