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ESL Preview - Round 11 -
Salford have the chance to consolidate their top-six place when they take on bottom-of-the-table Leigh at the Willows.
The Reds have won three of their last four matches and triumphed 32-6 at Hilton Park in the third game of the season but coach Karl Harrison is wary of the recent improvements shown by the Centurions.
Darren Abram?s men have taken three points from their last three matches and they have Warrington prop Warren Stevens, who had a loan spell with Salford in 2001, making his debut for them.
?Leigh have improved over the last four or five weeks and they were really unlucky against Hull last week,? said Harrison.
?We found out last year that it takes a while to get used to the pace of Super League. We?ve played 10 rounds now and some of their players are getting into the pace of it.
?They have a lot of dangerous players and they?ve got Robbie Mears coming in next week and Warren Stevens coming in this week. It just seem to have given them a bit of lift.
?It?s a big local derby. We have played them a lot recently when we?ve been on the winning side but I?m sure Darren Abram has targeted this as a must-win game for them. We?re expecting a battle royal.?
Salford keep the same starting line-up for the third successive match but make one change on the bench, where back row forwards Tim Jonkers and Simon Baldwin are vying to take over from reserve hooker John Clough.
Leigh give a debut to prop forward Warren Stevens, their loan signing from Warrington, and also have goalkicking stand-off Phil Jones back from a month?s lay-off with a hamstring injury.
Salford v Leigh, The Willows, Friday April 22
Salford 18-man: Hodgson, Langi, Littler, McGuinness, Stewart, Beverley, Robinson, Rutgerson, Stringer, Sibbit, Coley, Charles, Haggerty, Dickens, Shipway, Jonkers, Baldwin, Alker.
Leigh 18-man: Cooper, Fleary, Jackson, Jones, Leafa, Maden, Marshall, McCurrie, Rowley, Smyth, Stapleton, Sturm, Knott, Wilshere, Owen, Taylor, J. Duffy, Stevens.
Referee: R Laughton ______________________
Betts? men take on Bradford at Odsal tomorrow night in danger of suffering a third successive defeat, a feat that last befell them in 1997 when they finished fourth in the table.
Bradford themselves halted a three-match losing run in emphatic fashion against Huddersfield last Sunday and will be looking to complete their first double of the season following their dramatic 28-27 win at the JJB Stadium in February.
The Bulls looked down and out when they trailed 27-12 with 11 minutes to go but scored three late tries to register their first win of the campaign.
Wigan-born and bred scrum-half Paul Deacon converted Michael Withers? last-gasp try to seal the victory but Betts puts the result down to the non-stop efforts of new captain Peacock.
?Bradford got a win here because of our inability to stop Peacock basically,? he said. ?He?s a big, strong forward who kept punching holes in us and offloading.?
The 2003 Man of Steel has been back to his best in an inconsistent Bradford side so far this year and the second rower found himself propelled into the front row for the start of the Huddersfield match.
?I?m not really surprised,? said Betts. ?He?s great going forward and you want him to get his hands on the ball. It?s not like he can?t handle it from a physical point of view.
?He?s been one of their better players this year. He?s been their shining light, been taking the ball forward and making breaks.?
Betts? views are echoed by Peacock?s Bradford and Great Britain team-mate Stuart Fielden, who believes the player is thriving on the added responsibilities of captaincy.
?I give JP a bit of stick, saying he?s a prop playing in the second row,? said Fielden.
?He?s the re-incarnation of Brian McDermott.
?We threw him in at prop because Joe (Vagana) was a bit ill earlier in the week but he can play anywhere in the forwards.
?We both started in the first team together in ?97 so I know him pretty well. He is one of those players who never lets you down. He never takes a backward step and never stops chasing.
?World-class is the best way to sum him up and the captaincy has helped him, he?s grown a bit more with the responsibility. He?s doing a great job.?
Both Bradford and Wigan can boast only a 50% record so far this season and the losers on Friday could find themselves in the bottom half of the table by the end of the weekend.
The Bulls are set to be unchanged, with Deacon and centre Karl Pryce both shaking off ankle injuries sustained in Sunday?s 54-10 win over Huddersfield.
Wigan are missing Kris Radlinski due to a shoulder injury but have prop Danny Sculthorpe back from a four-match absence with a rib cartilage injury and teenage forward Bob Beswick is also recalled after sitting out last week?s 38-14 defeat by Leeds.
Bradford 18-man: Ferres, Deacon, Fielden, Harris, Withers, Langley, Lynch, Meyers, Parker, Paul, Peacock, Pratt, K. Pryce, L. Pryce, Radford, Reardon, Vagana, Vainikolo.
Wigan 18-man: Dallas, Vaealiki, Wild, Aspinwall, Moran, Seu Seu, Newton, Guisset, Hansen, Tickle, Brown, Beswick, Allen, Sculthorpe, Godwin, Colbon, Melling.
Referee: S P Ganson
Thanks to: http://www.superleague.co.uk for another excellent article.