‘Be ready for a backlash’ is the message from coach Mark Aston as Sheffield Eagles resume their Championship Shield campaign against Swinton Lions tomorrow (3pm).
With Bradford Bulls now condemned to play in League One next season, the fight to see who will join them looks set to be a close run race.
Tomorrow’s opponents Swinton currently hold a one point advantage over last weekend’s opposition Oldham, with both sides taking a heavy defeat in week one of the Shield.
With time running out for both to save their Championship status, Aston has warned that his side could potentially face an onslaught from Stuart Littler’s strugglers.
“When teams are fighting for their lives there will be some desperation about them, and when teams are desperate, that usually fetches the best out of them,” Aston told The Star.
“We need to make sure we are more desperate than they are. It was Oldham last week, and it is Swinton this week. They are second and third bottom of the table, there’s a point between them, and the number of games are ticking down.
“They will be aware of that, and they will be fighting tooth and nail to keep themselves away from the trap door. They will be fighting to stay alive.”
If we are not up for it then we know what we can expect,” he added.
“When we come up against the teams like Oldham and Swinton, every week is like a Grand Final for them because of their situation. It will be nip and tuck from week to week, so we have to be on our mettle for that. We have to improve but also we need to take confidence. We can play, we have shown it.”
Like the Eagles last season, Swinton’s Championship Shield campaign is being played out with uncertainty off the field, with the club being hit with financial difficulties.
Fundraising efforts from supporters have stabilised the situation in the interim, but their plight was further disrupted by former coach John Duffy’s departure to Featherstone Rovers mid-July.
Last weekend’s 62-10 defeat to Batley was new coach Littler’s first defeat in charge after taking the reins at Heywood Road.
The Eagles could welcome back winger Ben Blackmore who is available after a two match ban, whilst Aston will also be keen to see Irish second-rower Will Hope return after missing the last two games with a shoulder problem.