Wakefield improved showing means nothing as pundit gives blunt assessment of their chances

James Gordon
Mark Applegarth

Photo by Steve Flynn/News Images

Wakefield’s search for their first win of the Super League season continues live on Sky Sports, as they host Hull on Thursday night.

It provides an opportunity for them to showcase their progress off the pitch, which sees the ongoing development of a new stand and the blossoming of their controversial new pitch, laid in the off-season.

Problems with the surface caused a previously scheduled televised clash to be taken away, but judging by photos shared by the club earlier this week, there are no longer worries with the pitch which looks up there with the best of them.

But the black cloud hanging over the long overdue off-field progress at Belle Vue is their toothless start to the Super League season that has seen 11 successive defeats.

The manner of those defeats too, particularly their extreme lack of potency in attack, has been of grave concern as coach Mark Applegarth still awaits his first win as a head coach.

Wakefield are averaging a meagre 6.45 points per game so far in 2023, and 18 of the 71 points they have scored all came in the defeat to Warrington last week.

Trinity gained some plaudits for their efforts in that match, against a Wolves side that have started the season strongly, and the scores were locked at 18-all early in the second half when experienced forward Kevin Proctor was sent off.

We’ll never know whether Wakefield could have broke their duck had they retained a full complement of players, but Sky Sports pundit Jon Wilkin is not convinced.

When asked if he thought the Warrington performance could see them pick up their first win over Hull, Wilkin replied: “No. What’s the point in sport in looking better and losing? Are they likely to win? No.”

A tale of two half-backs

There will be attention on a possible debut for Luke Gale, signed recently from Championship club Keighley, though he wasn’t risked in the game at Warrington.

There are doubts whether he will be thrown in against Hull, the club he left at the end of last season.

Applegarth was pleased with the showing of Morgan Smith against the Wolves, and may stick with him in the halves alongside Mason Lino.

He said: “It would have a bit of extra meaning wouldn’t it? But it’s a bigger game than Luke Gale and Hull FC. It’s about the team.

“He’d be the first to put his hand up and say that it’s team first mentality. We will do what’s right for the team and not just the story with Luke playing against his old club.”

Hull were buoyed by the introduction of a new half-back of their own last week, as Jake Trueman finally got to make his debut following his arrival from Castleford.

It was the first time Hull fans had got to see their new half-back pairing of him and Jake Clifford, albeit Trueman started the game on the bench with Ben McNamara in the run-on team.

Tony Smith’s side curbed a three game losing streak to surprisingly beat high-flying Wigan 14-10 to record only their fourth win of the season.

That result has moved them eight points clear of basement boys Wakefield, with Castleford sat between the two sides on four points.

Competition sponsors Betfred have Hull the 4/11 favourites for the win, and are giving Wakefield eight points on the handicap market.

Wilkin told Sky Sports: “Hull had a terrible start to the season really and Wigan quite the opposite. You would have assumed Wigan would have come away with a relatively easy win.

“But the way Hull played set the fans alight, it got the Hull fans out of their seats. Hull FC were great. You can build your season on many things, like on an attack and how fluid and how pretty you are; but I’m a firm believer that Hull FC and Tony Smith will built it on the effort and desire they showed.”

Wakefield 21-man squad: Taufua, Lineham, Gaskell, Lino, Battye, Hood, Whitbread, Ashurst, Tanginoa, Pitts, Crowther, Bowden, Atoni, Kershaw, Proctor, Smith, Langi, Bowes, Eseh, Dagger, Gale.

Hull 21-man squad: Swift, Tuimavave, Sutcliffe, McIntosh, Trueman, Clifford, Sao, Houghton, Satae, Lane, Fash, Lovodua, Cator, Scott, McNamara, Brown, Griffin, Litten, Gardiner, Taylor, Dwyer.

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