HUDDERSFIELD coach Jon Sharp will be aiming to silence one of his club's biggest critics when he takes his unbeaten Giants to Widnes tonight (8.00).
Vikings coach Neil Kelly accused Huddersfield of playing negative rugby last season and was particularly outspoken after the last meeting of the two sides at the McAlpine Stadium in September, when two of his players received head injuries in a bruising encounter which Widnes lost 25-12.
"It's fair to say I'm not a big fan of the way Huddersfield play," Dewsbury-based Kelly said at the time.
"I wouldn't want to coach a team to play that way and I think they play a brand of football that shouldn't be rewarded."
Kelly's verbal onslaught was a thinly-disguised attack on Sharp's predecessor Tony Smith, now at Leeds, and Sharp says the new-look Giants will be aiming to maintain their climb up the table by playing open football.
"I've got the St Helens background, a bit of belief in playing some football, especially at the right times," said Sharp. "We've scored 15 tries in two games so I think that gives an indication that we're trying to do things with the ball.
"Neil's comments were geared at what happened last year and I had no part in that. I don't read too much into them."
Kelly, though, has yet to be convinced the Giants will not be mixing it when the sides clash at the Halton Stadium.
"I watched their pre-season game at Leeds and I didn't see a lot of change," said Kelly.
"They have a different coach and I'm sure Jon Sharp is working hard with them and trying to develop them into a top football side.
"We have only had limited evidence on them so far but they've a lot of players who were there last season."
One key man missing for Huddersfield tonight is obviously chief playmaker Brandon Costin, who is taking a rest after being dogged by an ankle injury in the opening matches.
That has paved the way for former Rochdale Hornets second row Paul Smith to make his debut.
The 6ft 3in Smith gets his chance in the absence through injury of Jim Gannon (hand), Jonathan Grayshon (leg) and Iain Morrison (knee), but Sharp has admitted he is happy to fast-track the 24-year-old.
"I believe Paul is ready to play in a game of this intensity," added Sharp.
"Widnes may have lost their opening Super League match and they went down to Wigan in the Cup last weekend, but they are still a very genuine threat.
"I've now had a good chance to study that game at Wigan and I thought they played well. In the first half they made life very difficult for their opponents and threw everything at them.
"We expect the same tonight. Their forwards are aggressive and if they are allowed to get on top, Jules O'Neill will make you suffer. It's vitally important we remain alive to that threat."
Widnes Vikings: Atcheson; Hughes, Robinson, Bird, Giles; Jules O'Neill, Lawford; Relf, Millard, Julian O'Neill, McCurrie, Hay, Finnegan. Subs (from): Frame, Wozniak, Hobson, Mills, McDonald.
Huddersfield Giants: Reilly; O'Hare, Donlan, Bailey, St Hilaire; Gene, March; Slicker, Turner, Fleary, Jones, Roarty, Nero. Subs (from): Cooper, Penkywicz, Crabtree, Smith, Joseph.
Referee: Steve Ganson (St Helens).