Assistant Coach, Martin Gleeson Previews Our Return To Super League Action At St Helens, In The Company Of David Clegg
As a former St Helens player Assistant Coach, Martin Gleeson, is fully aware of the fortress mentality surrounding their then home of Knowsley Rd, which has rapidly been transferred to their new venue of the Totally Wicked Stadium.
“That attitude is still there,” he confirms, “because by far the majority of their losses, this season, have come in their away matches.  They can still be a pretty formidable side, at home, and with a new coach, Justin Holbrook, in situ, they are going to be setting themselves up for a big push towards the end of the season.”
At this time now, with only five more matches remaining, every one of them becomes absolutely crucial, for both teams, though for different reasons.  Each victory will enable the Red Devils TO consolidate their position in the top four, whilst for Saints they need to start edging up the league in order to mount a strong challenge in the Super 8s.
“Their defeat at Huddersfield, last weekend, has left them in a precarious position, within a group of four or five, all battling to avoid finishing in the bottom four,” is Martin’s assessment.  “Two of them are going to end up there, though.
“Saints are going to be desperate to turn things around, against us, and their fans will be wanting a good, home performance to ease some of the pressure on them.”
It tends to happen that, when teams find themselves in a dog fight they seem able to draw other teams into encounters of a similar nature.
“That’s why we have to concentrate totally on ourselves,” Martin insists.  “We need the win just as much as they do, and we see it as an opportunity to pick up points, particularly after our two recent losses.”
Those reversals at the hands of Wakefield and Hull have eroded completely the four point cushioning we had had beforehand, and any further defeats could see some slippage in our position within the table.
Welcome as the break from the week in, week out, rigours of Super League, the quarter final of the Challenge Cup was, a refocusing on the league is now urgently required.
“Whether it had been in the cup or the league, last week, we needed a performance after those two defeats, so we addressed a few areas, mid-week, as we hadn’t been getting the ball to where we needed to do,” he explains.
“In fact we fixed up a lot of things, and got the result on the back of that.  We now need to carry it on this week, as any visit to St Helens is going to be a tough one, and we need to finish this part of the season, strongly.
“It’s a tough competition, and you have to be at your best every week in order to stand a chance of winning.  It’s all new territory for us – semi-final and top four spot – but we’ve been tested every week and have been found to be a strong team.
“Other teams whom we have already beaten once, though, will be out for revenge, so it just gets harder and harder, but it’s something we are confident we can do.”
The result of all the work the team undertook, ahead of that quarter final, was evident in what was an absolutely top drawer performance in the cup-tie, with Wakefield being penned in their own half for extremely long periods of the game, and indeed, had it not been for a couple of penalties, it is doubtful whether the visitors would have mounted an attack at all, in the first half.
“It was a good performance, with Wakefield being forced into errors, though, in fairness, they had lost some of their squad through injury,” he concurs.  “That performance, though, is relevant to that particular game only.
“We had a couple of players back from injury, which helped us, but it was the attitude and response of the team as a whole, which was crucial.  I just knew from the first two sets that we were ‘on it’, but that is what we demand and expect of them.”
Referee – Mr S Mikalauskas
Touch Judges – N Bennett, A Martin
In Goal Judges – J McMullen, C Smith
Reserve Ref – P Marklove
Ben Murdoch-Masila
Craig Kopczak
Gareth O’Brien
Greg Johnson
Jake Bibby
James Hasson
Josh Jones
Junior Sa’u
Kris Welham
Kriss Brining
Lama Tasi
Logan Tomkins
Mark Flanagan
Michael Dobson
Niall Evalds
Rob Lui
Ryan Lannon
Todd Carney
Weller Hauraki