Leigh look for the mental advantage

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The Independent Online

The balance of power between the finalists in the Arriva Trains Cup this afternoon has been heavily tilted in Salford's direction so far, but both they and Leigh know that it is what happens at the end of the season that really matters.

Salford have drawn once with Leigh and twice beaten them convincingly, but it is when they meet, as they almost certainly will, in the National League One play-offs that the immediate futures of the two clubs will be decided.

But, if promotion to Super League is the main issue, lifting the season's first piece of silverware at Rochdale today would be an important psychological boost.

Salford, relegated last year, are the obvious favourites, although they showed last week, as they could only draw at home with Whitehaven, that they are far from impregnable. "I can't foresee many changes, even though it wasn't one of our better performances," said their coach, Karl Harrison. "They showed strong resistance and we perhaps had one eye on the final."

Harrison has only Neil Lowe and Andy Gorski on the injured list, but one change will be forced on him, because Wes Davies, signed from Orrell last week, is cup-tied. Either Jason Flowers or Alan Hunte should play full-back in his absence.

The Leigh coach, Paul Terzis, and his new assistant, Tommy Martyn, have a few more uncertainties. The England World Cup hooker, Paul Rowley, has not been named in the side, but if he can possibly make a comeback from his broken hand then he could be a late inclusion.

Terzis also hopes that Neil Turley, a prolific scorer for Leigh over the past three seasons, remains fit after his recent return from a back injury. As for Martyn, he is still several weeks away from making his debut for his home-town club after arriving from St Helens with a broken arm, but he could easily be a major factor for Leigh in the play-offs.

That is why Leigh might not be too dissatisfied with an honourable defeat at Spotland. Terzis has promised at least one more major signing before the business end of the season. They will believe that, even if they should fail to beat Salford at the fourth attempt, they could be a much stronger side when the chips are down.

It is unfortunate that what is meant to be a major occasion for the National Leagues should be in competition with an unusually heavy Sunday programme in Super League. The pick of the four games is at Headingley, where the leaders, Leeds, take on Warrington.