Uncertainty heightens tension at Widnes

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The Independent Online

Suddenly, the future looks more uncertain than ever for Widnes. Still without a coach, the round of matches last week that could have seen them virtually ensure Super League survival has instead left them looking nervously over their shoulders.

While Castleford were securing their second win of the season and the London Broncos were gaining an unlikely draw with Leeds, Widnes's one-point loss to Salford left them some way from safety.

They are now just one point ahead of the Broncos and four in front of Cas, who, thanks to Super League's eccentric fixture format, they still have to play twice more.

It is a situation in which some unambiguous leadership would be welcome but it will be the end of this week at the earliest before the club makes a decision regarding their new coach. The 20 serious applicants were whittled down to a shortlist last week, but it could be August before a new man is at the helm.

In the meantime, Widnes are missing out on the sort of player who could strengthen their squad next season - always assuming they are still in Super League.

They were at one stage in pole position to sign the Brisbane and Australia centre, Michael De Vere, but Hull nipped ahead of them. They were also offered the Cronulla and New South Wales full-back, David Peachey, but hesitated and saw him re-sign with his Australian club.

Widnes, who play much improved Wakefield today, may survive this year but, with two teams going down from Super League next season, there is little in their preparation for that campaign to suggest they will not be in trouble again in 2005.

Today's opponents have shown this season how much can be achieved with a little stability in administration and coaching and some judicious recruitment.

Wakefield have emerged as the strongest candidates to grab sixth spot and a play-off place. With Super League working towards a new fixture formula that will not penalise a club for doing that, they can look forward to the prospect with unmixed satisfaction.

Widnes's thin squad is stretched further by the absence against his old club of their prop, Julian O'Neill, with a shoulder injury. His team-mates must guard against any tailing off in effort if they want to be sure of being in Super League next season.

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