Ben Johnston could make Halifax return against Swinton Lions

Halifax half-back Ben Johnston could make an immediate return to Championship action when Swinton visit the Shay on Sunday (3.0).

Friday, 1st March 2019, 10:00 am
Updated Friday, 1st March 2019, 10:57 am
Halifax's Ben Johnston.

Johnston, last season’s regular number seven, has yet to lace a boot in 2019 after undergoing hand surgery during the winter.

The former Castleford player had been pencilled in for a comeback in Friday night’s reserve fixture at Keighley, but with Fax under pressure for a result against the Lions in the wake of last weekend’s 46-16 hammering at Featherstone that plan looks likely to change.

How coach Richard Marshall would accommodate Johnston in the side is less clear, with close-season signing Ben White and captain-coach Scott Murrell starting the last four games.

Kevin Larroyer. PIC: Simon Hall.

“Ben may be around the 17,” confirmed Marshall, who said France back rower Kevin Larroyer was expected to be fit after leaving the field at Post Office Road with a head injury.

“He trained last week and he offers us something a bit different with the ball.

“There will be some changes to the team; Ben may be one of them, but Reece Chapman-Smith is fit, James Woodburn-Hall was 18th man last weekend and Elliot Morris and Sion Jones are in contention.

“Kevin’s got to pass his concussion protocol on Saturday, but we’re expecting him to play.

Richard Marshall. PIC: Simon Hall.

“Chester Butler trained last week and broke down again with his quad, so he’s probably slipped back a week or two now, which is unfortunate.

“We’ll see how we train this week; the manner in which we went down last weekend was pretty poor.

“That’s not something that’s happened too many times to us over the last few years and it’s not something we want to get used to.

“Physically, Featherstone were better than us, which is not something teams like to have to admit and we’ve spoken about that this week.”

Fax have been dogged over the first month of the season by ill discipline and errors, issues Marshall says are the root causes of their indifferent defensive form.

“We’re just doing too much defending, which is really hurting us,” he said.

“We’ve looked okay with the ball at times, but we’ve just not had enough of it to be consistent, which comes down to penalties and mistakes.

“I’ve spoken to Phil Bentham, who runs the Championship referees, about what referees are looking for this season and we’ve been through some clips and discussed all that, but discipline is not really something you can practice on the training field.

“I’ll take responsibility for our preparation and our game plan, but the players as individuals have to take responsibility for the decisions they make on the field.

“Sunday will be a good test for us; Featherstone really gave it to us and Swinton will be coming to do the same.

“I’ve watched their last few games and they’re playing very well, both Bradford and Toulouse only just scraped through against them.

“They constantly put you under pressure when they have the ball; they don’t look for high completions or to stay in the game, they’re always looking to test you.

“It’s high risk, and it doesn’t always come off for them, but they will challenge you defensively and we need to be ready for that.”