ESL Preview - Round 12 (Friday
night games)

Millward in determined mood

St Helens coach Ian Millward is hoping his side hit improving Warrington for six in Friday?s engage Super League derby at Knowsley Road.

Saints remain hot on the heels of leaders Leeds despite a glut of injuries that has deprived them of a host of key players in the first three months of the campaign.

They have lost just two of their first 11 matches and are at full strength for the first time following the recovery from injury of inspirational captain Paul Sculthorpe.

Millward is delighted to be just two points behind the champions, who are at home to Huddersfield on Friday, and is confident the best is yet to come from his side.

?Super League is like a cricket match,? he said. ?You are not worried if you are scratchy at the crease early on as long as you are picking off ones and twos.

?Later in the year we want to hit some real nice boundaries but at the moment I?m just happy we?ve got the scoreboard ticking.

?The players are training well and performing well. It?s my job to make sure they stay that way.?

St Helens, whose only defeats have come at Leeds and Wigan, take on a Warrington side buoyant after winning their last four matches, which equals their best ever run in Super League.

But the Wolves have beaten their local rivals just once in 22 Super League meetings and were pipped 18-16 by them in the earlier meeting at the Halliwell Jones Stadium.

A last-gasp try from acting captain Keiron Cunningham denied Warrington after they had led 16-4 with 10 minutes to go and utility back Graham Appo says his side are out for revenge.

?Definitely, especially after they beat us right on the bell last time round,? he said. ?The boys are really up for this one. It?s going to be a great game.?

Wolves coach Paul Cullen, who has included skipper Lee Briers in his 18-strong squad despite picking up a hamstring injury last Sunday, insists his side?s recent run of form will count for little against their title-chasing opponents.

?The stats are welcome the day after but they are not a part of our focus,? he said.

?We cannot afford to take our eyes off the ball in any way, shape or form whilst preparing to take on a side as good as St Helens. The goals are very simple - exploit their weak points and defend ours.?

St Helens v Warrington Wolves, Knowsley Road, Friday April 29 2005 St Helens 18-man: Wellens, Albert, Talau, Hooper, Gardner, Lyon, Long, Fozzard, Cunningham, P. Anderson, Gilmour, V. Anderson, Sculthorpe, Higham, Edmondson, Bennett, Wilkin, Mason. Warrington 18-man: Grose, Faa?fili, Mark Gleeson, Kohe-Love, Briers, N. Wood, Leikvoll, Clarke, Hilton, Swann, Wainwright, Noone, Martin Gleeson, Westwood, P. Wood, Lima, Appo, Bridge. Referee: R Silverwood

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Clayton debuts for Giants

Leeds, beaten just once in 11 matches, go into their engage Super League meeting with West Yorkshire rivals Huddersfield Giants as firm favourites.

The injury-hit Giants were beat 54-10 by Leeds at the Galpharm Stadium in March and have conceded 90 points in their last two matches. They travel to Headingley without the mercurial talents of Stanley Gene and England full-back Paul Reilly.

?You need your best team out against the best side in Super League but we?re going there on the back of a very good performance against St Helens,? said coach Jon Sharp.

Huddersfield will give a debut to former Halifax and Castleford centre Ryan Clayton, who has enjoyed a spell with French club Villefranche since the end of the last Super League season.

?I?ve been really pleased with some of the things he?s done in practice,? said Sharp. ?It?s surprised me how athletic he is and he has picked things up really well.

?It?s a massive task going to Headingley on Friday night in front of 17,000 spectators with potentially a bunch of kids.

?There is a bit of adversity but we?re also happy with how we?re playing.?

Leeds have prop Barrie McDermott back after sitting out Saturday?s 42-20 win at Widnes with a minor knee injury and coach Tony Smith also includes Scott Murrell and Chris McKenna in a 20-man squad.

Leeds Rhinos v Huddersfield Giants, Headingley, Friday April 29 2005 Leeds 20-man squad: Mathers, Calderwood, Walker, Senior, Bai, Burrow, Bailey, McDermott, Lauitiiti, McKenna, Sinfield, Dunemann, Ward, Poching, Jones-Buchanan, Ellis, Botham, Scruton, Smith, Murrell. Huddersfield 20-man squad: De Vere, Thorman, March, Slicker, Drew, Gannon, Nero, Roarty, Gene, Jones, Morrison, Smith, Crabtree, Grayshon, White, Jackson, Clayton, Hemingway, Fagborun, St Hilaire. Referee: SP Ganson

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Wigan look to end run of defeats

Wigan will be aiming to avoid a fourth successive defeat - for the first time for 20 years - when relegation-threatened Widnes visit the JJB Stadium.

Warriors coach Denis Betts is wary of the threat posed by the lowly Vikings, who made his side fight for the points at the Halton Stadium earlier this year and have four ex-Wigan regulars in their line-up in addition to former coach Frank Endacott at the helm.

?We know Widnes will be up for it, especially with the ex-Wigan players in their team,? said Betts. ?Coming back to the JJB will be a bit of inspiration for them.

?We need a win. Nobody likes losing but it?s the nature of the losses that concerns me. We know we are so much better and we can perform better.?

Widnes, who have playmaker Owen Craigie returning from a bout of mumps, will be looking to build on last week?s improved show against Leeds as they seek to repeat their 22-18 win at the JJB Stadium in 2003.

The Vikings are also planning to use a sports psychologist, who will make her first visit to the club on Monday.

?When you are in the hole we are in, we?ve got to look at everything,? said Endacott. ?If it helps just one or two of our players, it?s going to be worthwhile.?

Wigan Warriors v Widnes Vikings, JJB Stadium, Friday April 29 2005 Wigan 18-man: Hansen, Wild, Tickle, Godwin, McDonald, Sculthorpe, Beswick, Allen, Melling, Dallas, Vaealiki, Aspinwall, Carney, Brown, Moran, Seu Seu, Newton, Guisset. Widnes 18-man: Connolly, Moule, Emelio, Craigie, Myler, O?Connor, Millard, O?Neill, Cassidy, Stankevitch, Finnigan, Hulse, Frame, Mills, Fa-alogo, Smith, Viane, Barnett. Referee: K Kirkpatrick

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Thanks to http://www.superleague.co.uk for another excellent article.

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