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Salford chase play-off place

24th of July 2014
Salford chase play-off place

Salford Red Devils are facing a make-or-break seven days which will provide the acid test of their late-season resurgence in Super League.

Salford Red Devils are facing a make-or-break seven days which will provide the acid test of their late-season resurgence in the First Utility Super League.


Three consecutive wins have transformed the fortunes of Iestyn Harris' men, lifting them well clear of the relegation zone and reigniting their outside play-off hopes.


The big test comes with the visit of Leeds Rhinos to the AJ Bell Stadium tomorrow night, while next Thursday's trip to Wigan Warriors will provide another useful gauge to measure their improvement ahead of a run-in which includes three home games in a month.


"This will be a good opportunity to show just how far we've come over recent weeks," Harris said.


It is 14 years since Salford last put together a run of four consecutive Super League victories and Leeds coach Brian McDermott is expecting a difficult test as he looks to burst their bubble.


"They've been improving for a number of weeks and they've had a couple of big wins recently," McDermott said. "It's no surprise to us. We struggled against them at our place and were fortunate to get the result really.


"I really rate their pack, they have a couple of exciting fellas at the back and everything goes through Rangi Chase. There's no secret about that and, while you can plan for it and try to stop that, it's a big task to physically do it.


"It's the way they are defending as well. They've got a fair amount of energy and aggression so we need to be good."


Salford's aggressive tactics have been reflected in several appearances in front of the judiciary, with Tommy Lee joining Gareth Hock on the sidelines this week, although Lama Tasi is available after completing a two-match ban.


Harris has recalled hooker Gareth Owen from his loan stint with Sheffield Eagles to help cover the absence of Lee while New Zealand full-back Kevin Locke is expected to make his home debut after recovering from a groin strain.


Leeds have recalled Liam Sutcliffe to fill the gap caused by the suspension of Kevin Sinfield, who pays the price for his uncharacteristic head-butt, and Danny McGuire will captain the side in his absence.


Leaders St Helens are boosted by the return of influential Australian scrum-half Luke Walsh for the visit of Widnes Vikings, which helps offset the loss of his half-back partner Lance Hohaia after he was injured in last Saturday's win over London Broncos.


"We'll be missing Lance for the next eight to 10 weeks," Saints coach Nathan Brown said. "He has damaged the muscle on the bottom of his foot which is a shame.


"I really feel for Lance. He has copped some stick but he's had a consistent year and I think the fans have recognised that. Injures are part of the game so we will have to just get on with it.


"The upside is that Gary Wheeler will get an opportunity and Walshy is back which means Jon Wilkin can go into the back row. We just hope that Gary can maintain some field time - that is the key for him. He has a good skill set and we are confident he will do well for us."


While Saints need the points to maintain pole position, Widnes are battling to hold on to eighth spot as they seek a first-ever tilt at the play-offs.


The Vikings emerged from a depressing run of one win in eight with a derby triumph over Warrington Wolves a week ago and demonstrated their capabilities with a 40-26 win over Saints on Easter Monday.


"Widnes have shown how well they can play and in Kevin Brown and Rhys Hanbury they have creative players who can score points," Brown said.

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