THATTO Heath Crusaders will experience the magic of the Challenge Cup today (Sunday) 2pm -  when they host two-time winners Featherstone Rovers at their Close Street home for arguably the biggest date in the club’s history.

The St Helens community club turned down offers from Saints and their opponents to switch the venue – opting to play the massive third round tie on home turf.

Heath know they will be up against it playing the team that topped last year’s Championship by some distance – but their reasoning for playing at Crusader Park is twofold.

Playing wise it is an arena where the players are comfortable, and off the field a big pay-day could help them finance a costly year on the road in the NCL.

Coach Mike Woods, who has been involved at Thatto Heath for a quarter of a century, explained: “As soon as our name came out with Featherstone I was shocked but I got excited straight away.

“I have followed rugby for a long time and Featherstone were always a big team. But this is the magic of the cup.

“I really wanted this game at home. Although we appreciated the kind offer from Saints, we wanted a big day at the club.

“We know we are up against the best team in the Championship last year and so we need as much in our favour as we can, like the closeness of the fans on the touchline and the comfort of the lads playing here on their home ground.

“Off the field there is another reason. In the NCL this year we have got three Cumbrian teams, Heworth, York Acorn and Hull Dockers – and our closest team is Rochdale Mayfield - so we are looking at spending £12,000 in coach travel.

“Playing this game here at the weekend could put that debt out of the way and then there is other stuff with the kids rugby that we could then prioritise.

“If we get the 1,500 around that pitch it is going to be a very noisy afternoon and that gate will be good for the club.”

Woods said the team is training as normal as possible in the build-up, although they did do some pre-arranged work with Widnes.

Woods is realistic about the scale of the task his side faces against a team that has players like last year’s Wembley winner Ben Reynolds in the ranks and a tough pack of forwards.

“They have some absolutely storming players in their side, but it is how we turn up.

“It could be a cricket score or we could run them close.

"I am realistic and the chances of winning are very low, but I just know we have lads in this team who have played in that level and this could be the last year or two for some of those.

“We are not going to win the Challenge Cup so all I want is a reasonable score and 100 per cent effort and the crowd are happy when they come off.

“I just want us to have a good go where we do our best," he said.

It is pay on the gate at Crusader Park, Close Street, with prices of £10 for adults, £5 under 16s and free for under 5s.

The game is on Sunday 11 February with a 2pm kick off.