Sheffield Eagles boss admits his team is "in a hole"
Mark Aston admits his Sheffield Eagles side are in a ‘rut’ as he looks to plot a course for a return to form with two games in quick succession.
Aston, the Eagles director of rugby, has guided his side into top five contenders in 2019 after back-to-back relegation battles, but there have been cracks appearing in recent weeks following defeats to the likes of Halifax, Leigh, Toronto and most recently Widnes.
Eagles are back in action again tomorrow in the 1895 Cup against Challenge Cup semi-finalists Halifax, but Aston can be forgiven for having one eye on Sunday’s crucial Championship showdown against Featherstone at the OLP.
The recent slump is the first severe bump in what has been a largely impressive campaign, with Aston now seeking a route back to form ahead of Sunday.
He told The Star: “We are in a bit of a hole now. We are in a rut. We have seen it coming. It isn't something we didn't know could happen. It is backs against the wall, and now we need people who have a bit of steel about them.”
The Eagles’ cause has been severely dented by losing James Glover and Matty James through long-term injury, with Aston not only missing two of his top performers, but also vital experience and leadership at a crucial time.
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Aston has a clutch of youngsters to call upon to help fill the gaps, but determining when to bring them up to the firing line - and for how long - will be a topic for debate as he plots team selection for the next two games.
He added: “We have lost a couple of characters in the last month or so who are influential in the squad, and we need other people to stand up now. Let's say some of the younger players might be doing that, and some of the others aren't.
“They will be judged by the games, and there are plenty of them coming. It starts Wednesday against Halifax. We were in Sunday, we're in Tuesday, we'll play Wednesday, we're in Friday and we'll play Sunday. Two big games coming up now, and if we have anything about us we'll need to stand up.”
The Eagles will feature in the 1895 Cup for the first time, with the game against Halifax taking place at Keighley’s Cougar Park tomorrow, kick-off 8pm.