FOR the second successive week Leigh Centurions are set to be under manned as the Northern Rail Cup holders face a gruelling semi final against form side Featherstone Rovers.
Three weeks ago, Leigh were flying and knocked Batley out of the cup but successive league defeats plus a clutch of injuries and unavailabilities mean that Centurions travel to the BigFellas Stadium tonight, Thursday, as underdogs.
Despite this, and a heavy defeat at Batley at the weekend, head coach Paul Rowley says his squad are in determined mood.
“We’ve done really well to get here and we don’t want our journey to end,” he said.
“Broken or not, we go there determined to secure a final spot, albeit as massive underdogs.”
Centurions are exploring all options at the moment to see if they can bring additional troops into their squad before the semi final.
Star hooker Bob Beswick will miss the game and is a doubt over the next month which could allow Anthony Nicholson an extended chance to impress.
“Beswick will be out for several weeks. No-one will come back into team reckoning apart from Tom Spencer. It is what it is. Tommy Goulden had an illness but he’s also got a groin problem, so he will miss too.”
Centurions turned to Leigh East forward Alex Robson at the weekend but Rowley is unable to use the amateur this time out.
“Unless you have played in a previous round, you can’t play in the semi finals,” said Rowley.
That is a rule that could also rule Andy Thornley out, despite a hard-working performance that impressed Rowley at the weekend.
“There were some individual pluses at Batley in Adam Clay and Andy Thornley. It was Andy’s second debut and he played 80 minutes and looked pretty solid.”
There is light on the horizon with the imminent arrival of another Warrington Wolves youngster in James Mendeika, who recently represented Ireland and comes from the same stock as James Laithwaite.
“It’s important that we don't think James Mendeika is a straight replacement for Laithwaite,” said Rowley, who has lost the services of Laithwaite while Warrington have agreed his loan to Hull Kingston Rovers “Laithwaite is who he is and James is a totally different player. He adds more utility value rather than being an out and out strike second row. James comes to us with no pressure and we’ll see what opportunities arise for him over the coming weeks.”
Looking back at the weekend’s 42-20 loss at Batley, Rowley said: “Batley got a couple of silly tries from our mistakes right at the death where we’d probably clicked off and gone for the shower.
“The game could have been very different. We had one dragged back for a forward pass.
“There were some dubious refereeing decisions involved, I thought, but there was a lack of finishing.
“We went there and played very individually, it was not our usual team effort.
“People were trying to solve things on their own but that's what you get with a lack of preparation and continuity.
“We always said we’d come up on a tough patch and this is it. We’ll soldier on, regroup and kick on after this game for the remainder of the season.”
Leigh have announced that their outstanding game with Keighley has been arranged for a mutually convenient date of Thursday, August 23.