Heads may roll at Hull to tackle rise of Rovers

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The Independent Online

There is no such thing as an unimportant derby as far as the citizens of Kingston upon Hull are concerned, but today's ranks as something extra special. Not since the early Eighties have the city's two sides collided from as high a vantage point as fifth and sixth in the table, as they do this lunchtime.

They converge from opposite directions, Hull KR improving steadily after a slow start to the season and Hull going into decline with three defeats in a row after a most encouraging opening to their campaign. Those losses include a shock defeat by Salford in the Challenge Cup last Sunday, after which their coach, Richard Agar, hinted that heads might roll. In reality, his room for manoeuvre is limited, although Jamie Thackray is restored to his squad.

Rovers have not completely given up hope of having their captain, Michael Vella, available, despite Justin Morgan leaving him out of his initial squad.

Pride of place in the other Good Friday fixtures goes to the meeting between Bradford and Leeds. If anything, it is a match that matters more to the Bulls, who have won just once this season in Super League and somehow managed to squander a 26-point lead in the cup at the Catalan Dragons on Sunday.

Steve McNamara has been re-assured that his coaching job is safe, but those sentiments will begin to ring hollow with another demoralising result. "We will turn the corner," insisted McNamara this week. "We will be a threat in this competition this season."

There would be no better time to start than today but, apart from adding Paul Deacon to their injured list, the Bulls have also had illness in their camp. Three of their young reserves – Jason Crookes, Tom Olbison and James Donaldson – are in a squad captained by Andy Lynch.

Leeds have their own readjustments to make in the rare absence of Scott Donald, but they have Luke Burgess available after winning his appeal against a one-match ban.

Two clubs who have already exceeded expectations of them for the season meet at Wakefield, where neighbours Castleford are the visitors. Salford will try to transfer their Cup form to their game with Warrington.