The Salford City Reds travel to Widnes this weekend as they look to register their first win of Super League 2012.
The Reds face the Vikings on the revolutionary, and controversial, ‘i’ pitch with both sides coming off the back of two straight losses.
After leading St. Helens at half-time last weekend the Reds faded in the second period eventually losing the match 34-10. Conversely the Vikings were thoroughly outplayed from start to finish by Huddersfield on Sunday with the Giants fully deserving to win 66-6.
The main concern for Reds coach Phil Veivers is the news that Australian centre Joel Moon has been ruled out for up to two months with a broken bone in his hand, sustained in last weekend’s loss. The popular new-signing is only just returning from an ankle knock and Veivers admits it’s disappointing for him and his side to lose such a key man for the foreseeable future.
Veivers said: “His hand is currently in a cast and he’s seeing a specialist today. We expect he could be out for up to two months. It’s obviously a big blow for us and for Joel so soon after his ankle break.”
Moon joins first-choice hooker Wayne Godwin on the long-term injury list who himself is out with rib cartilage damage.
Veivers will be boosted by the return of Vinnie Anderson from illness, along with props Jordan James and Iafeta Palea’asina also returning after all three missed the St. Helens clash last week.
Utility-man Stuart Howarth and second-row Shannan McPherson are expected to feature after both were forced off against Saints with a broken nose and head wound respectively.
Widnes Vikings have problems of their own with the club choosing to suspend three members of the first team squad for breaches of club discipline. Hooker Scott Moore and second rowers Hep Cahill and former-Red Simon Finnigan will all be missing for the visit of the Reds with the club choosing not divulge any further details of the rule breach.
The main talking point from the season so far for the Vikings, aside from the consecutive losses, is the state of the pitch at the Stobart Stadium. The ‘i’ pitch, a synthetic all weather playing surface, has attracted much media attention after it was widely criticised after the match with Wakefield Trinity Wildcats on opening night.
Many of the Wildcats players reported severe cuts and grazes after the match and blamed the new surface. Reds players will hope for better luck this weekend after they themselves had to deal with a less-than-perfect playing surface after blizzard conditions severely hampered them at home in round one.
Vikings’ poor start to the season is not helped with summer recruits Cameron Phelps and Brent Kite still in Australia awaiting visas. In addition fellow new signings Shaun Briscoe and Anthony Watts are also yet to play this term after both suffering injuries in pre-season.
The Vikings points difference of -78 means they prop up the table at this early stage and the Reds will certainly fancy their chances against the Super League new boys.