Proud Underbank Rangers coach Richard Knight is ready to keep faith with the inexperienced Cup side that battled so well at Leigh Miners Rangers for tomorrow’s National Conference League Second Division trip to Castleford Panthers.
It’s a complete contrast in challenges for Rangers, with the men from The Cross having faced unbeaten Premier Division leaders Leigh in the Conference Challenge Trophy a week ago and now preparing to face a Panthers side who have lost their opening five League encounters.
Knight does have vastly-experienced quartet Kris Harrop, Mick Murphy, James Usher and Paul Horsfall available again after missing the 40-6 Trophy defeat in Lancashire.
But with the head coach full of praise for the way his makeshift side performed six days ago – their hosts admitted the final scoreline greatly flattered them – he feels it would be wrong to cast any of those players aside this weekend, although the fact Courtney Allette (injury) and Ramone Notman (illness) means two changes will be forced.
“Had these two been fit, we’d have run with the same side this week, because every player who played at Leigh deserved to keep hold of their place,” said Knight, who was also lacking the services of longer-term injury victims Neil Barrett, Alan Boothroyd and Sam Hendrick.
“I really was full of admiration for what the boys did a week ago.
“We started with an inexperienced side, lost scrum half Chris Druett with a head knock in the opening stages and ended up with about six or seven players playing out of position.
“But we still gave it a really good go. In fact, after conceding two early tries, there was a 50-minute spell when we were 6-0 to the good, before we gave away several late tries when we took off man-of-the-match Stephen Berry, Dave Valentine and Luke Karolczuk, who had led the way for us defensively.
“It wouldn’t be right to make changes for the sake of it.”
And Knight expects the same 17 to adopt the same approach to facing the struggling Panthers as they did to facing the best amateur team in the country.
“We’re not yet a good enough side to treat any opponent lightly,” added Knight.
“The challenge this week may be a completely different one, because we faced the top of the Premier Division last weekend and back that up by playing the team that’s bottom of the Second Division tomorrow.
“But our approach has to be exactly the same.
“If we do that, then I fully expect us to get a win which would keep us in the top half of the table. I’d be bitterly disappointed if we didn’t.”
Knight, meanwhile, will be at the Keighley v Coventry Bears League I clash on Sunday to offer his support to the family of Danny Jones, who died from a suspected cardiac arrest during last week’s Cougars’ game at London Skolars.
“Danny was a good friend of mine,” revealed Knight.
“We’re the same age and played against each other in the junior ranks before we teamed up as the half-back pairing for the West Riding representative side as 16 and 17-year-olds.
“We then went on to be teammates at Keighley Cougars.
“Obviously, the news has come as a massive shock, and I feel it’s important for me to be there on Sunday to pay my respects and try and do my bit to help the fund that’s ben set up for Danny’s family.”
Slaithwaite Saracens will be hoping to make it two Yorkshire Men’s League Third Division triumphs on the trot tomorrow.
The Huddersfield club opened their first summer campaign with a 26-16 home victory over Ossett Trinity a week ago and will be looking to back that up with another home success over Keighley Albion this weekend.