Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Sunday's Coming: Halifax

Harrison invites his trainer to 'pull my finger'

Back in January when the restructure of the game was announced, Karl Harrison was in bullish mood. He said: “One day soon, I intend being back in Super League as a head coach. This is my aim with Halifax. The changes coming into operation finally provide me with a realistic opportunity of fulfilling this goal. I plan to take this opportunity. As a club, Halifax are just as big as Castleford…"

Fast forward to May and it's not been the most convincing of seasons for Halifax thus far. With only one win more than Hornets (their league position - bolstered by a surfeit of bonus points - keeps them just two points off second place), the last couple of weeks have seen a nadir: coughing up a draw at Workington then, last week, somehow contriving to lose embarassingly at home to a 'Big-Spending North Wales Crusaders™' side brutally dicked by Hornets on Good Friday.

Given their lofty Super League ambitions, its the sort of form that will undoubtedly have Harrison under pressure to improve. Quickly.

After the Workington game, Harrison identified the back of the scrum as his problem area: "We didn’t ask enough questions of Town when we had the ball," he said.

This was a recurring theme last week: “Our half backs didn’t click. We had ball movement, but it was slow and too many passes were going a bit high, a bit low or slightly behind the players they were intended for… we were way off the mark in that department; we never created any space.”

Given the problems at half back, Harrison, is considering recalling playmaker Simon Brown who is currently on loan at Batley (given their recent form, we think that's an excellent idea).

The Halifax Evening Courier seems to think Halifax's stumbling start is as much in the head as it is in their inability to run, pass and tackle. It said: "Karl Harrison’s side were crushingly dominant early on, but seemed to fall apart mentally as much as physically once the visitors had registered two opportunist scores to go 12-0 ahead…"

Interestingly, Crusaders didn't even carry the ball into the Halifax half until the 25th minute!

In writing our previews, we usually have to scratch around for an insight into Hornets forthcoming opponents, but it seems that in the wake of the Crusaders defeat, poor Karl Harrison has been using the press as a channel for catharsis.

“I think disappointing is an understatement, we were way off where we need to be,” said Harrison. “It was a slow, horrible pitch but that’s not an excuse."

“We didn’t create enough in their part of the field and when we did have them cut open, we didn’t take the opportunity. They got in our quarter twice in the first half and scored two tries…"

“We put substitutes on to change games on in that first half and they certainly did that. Luke Adamson’s first involvement was to force a pass, Ben Heaton’s first involvement was to concede a penalty and his second was to miss a tackle for a try.

“We trained well, we prepared well, but we couldn’t crack them. It seems to be the way we are this year, we just can’t find any consistency.”

“We have a small squad, because we have restrictions off the field that some other clubs in the competition do not, so our options are limited." 

Blimey - a litany of despair. But when you look at last week's 'Fax line-up, they're no mugs. What it does show is that with enthusiasm, application and the right attitude any team in this division is there for the taking. So let's take 'em while they're wobbling.

Last Week's Halifax side was:

Ryan Fieldhouse, Tommy Saxton, Steven Tyrer, Danny Cowling, Gareth Potts, Ben Kaye, Luke Ambler, Ben Johnston, Scott Murrell, Andy Bracek, Dane Manning, Ross Divorty, Tony Tonks. Luke Adamson, Ben Heaton, Keith Holden, Ben Davies

RFL Match Preview

Rochdale Hornets v Halifax (3.00pm)
Alex Trumper could return to action for Rochdale Hornets in Sunday’s Kingstone Press Championship clash with Halifax, but Gareth Langley is expected to miss out with an ongoing ankle injury.
Hornets could climb out of the bottom five with victory over Halifax, but coach Ian Talbot insists his side need to make major improvements from last week’s defeat against Workington Town.
Talbot said: “Some of the boys underestimated Workington and we got caught.
“This week it’s about sticking to the plan we lay out and working as a collective rather than individuals.
“Halifax have had a draw and a loss in their last two games, so I’m sure (coach) Karl Harrison will be winding them up to try to get a response.”
Halifax now face a run of four consecutive away games after last week’s home defeat against North Wales Crusaders.
Harrison said: “We were way off the mark. We couldn’t capitalise on the field position we got.
“People expect this club to be up there challenging, and that’s where want to be. We’ve just got to work harder than everybody else, and that’s what we intend to do.
“We need to create some confidence. We need to put our house in order.”