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Saints wary of threat posed by Gareth Hock ahead of Vikings clash
SAINTS will be hoping that there will be no more breaking of long-standing records against them when they travel to their former temporary Stobart Stadium abode on Sunday, 3pm.
It is April 1994 when Saints last lost to Widnes – although that record came mightily close to ending last term when they needed a last-gasp Josh Jones try to save their bacon.
Fans should expect a similar line up to the one that lost the opener to run out after coach Nathan Brown announced: “I am not into making mass changes after one bad result.
“I was confident in that 19 or 20-man squad last week and there is no reason why that same squad cannot do the job next week regardless of who we are playing.”
What is growing into an increasingly tricky tie against their near neighbours has a little more edge to it this time around since the Vikings signing of Gareth Hock on a year-long loan.
The powerhouse second rower is something of a bogeyman in St Helens and he played a key part in the first two of Wigan’s wins over Saints last term, even though he blotted his copy book by lobbing the ball in the crowd on the Good Friday clash.
And that manuscript had a few more black blotches after Magic, when he was one of three players sent off after a melee.
After all that has gone on in his acrimonious departure from Wigan, Hock will be relishing the prospect of making his debut against his old enemy.
Saints boss Nathan Brown is keenly aware of the threat posed by the aggressive backrower.
He said: “Gaz Hock is a handful and will add a new dimension to the team.
“Hock was a very impressive player for Wigan last year so they lose another important player while Widnes gain one.
“With Hock and Kevin Brown, their left side of the field will be potent when they get their act together.”
Widnes chalked up an opening day win at London – albeit achieved at the cost of losing promising half back Danny Craven with a broken collarbone.
With the Vikings front row containing Ben Cross, Eamon O’Carroll, Ben Kavanagh and now off season recruit Phil Joseph off, Saints cannot afford to take this one lightly.
“Widnes have started this year like they finished last.
“Their last third of the year was quite impressive and to go to London, who finished last year impressively too, and get a win is a good,” Brown said.
Another factor in the game is the Stobart Stadium ipitch,, which makes for a fast track. Widnes have fast men, in Rhys Hanbury and Paddy Flynn, who can take advantage of that given half a chance.
Some teams have had issues with the pitch, but not Brown who commented: “The ipitch is definitely a fast track. I am confident there is no scientific proof that there is any greater risk of injury on that than grass “Generally you get a fast game, but if it does freeze the blokes will be grazed up afterwards, so let’s hope it doesn’t freeze."