No guarantees for Smith ahead of Hull clash

Matty Smith
Matty Smith
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Matty Smith finally stepped from the shadows during Saints 28-6 victory at Widnes on Easter Monday - coming on early in the second half as a substitute for skipper James Roby - but there is no cast iron guarantee that he will make the starting 17 for Friday night’s televised home game against Hull FC.

The Grand Final-winning international scrum half, who rejoined his home town club at the beginning of last season from neighbours Wigan Warriors, played 32 minutes against the Vikings and hopes it will be a stepping stone to better things.

His lack of game time due to fierce competition for places has led to suggestions that he could opt for a spell on loan elsewhere - but head coach Justin Holbrook insisted this week he was still part and parcel of Saints’ future plans.

Holbrook said: “My ideal scenario is that he stays at St Helens but it is getting harder and harder for him in the present circumstances.

“I would love to keep him here because he is a quality Super League player and also able to cover several positions, but like any other player naturally he wants to play week-in and week-out.

“He has been great in training and for the boys in general, as well as encouraging them before matches and going round to each and everyone in the dressing room wishes them the best of luck.”

Smith will be 31 in July and reaching the back end of his illustrious career but he still has plenty to offer at the Totally Wicked Stadium - and only needs to look around the dressing room to spot a player who is doing just that - and older than himself!

Jon Wilkin, like most of the table-topping players in the squad, is in a rich vein of form at this moment in time and at 34 shows no signs of running out of steam..

But Holbrook insisted that his decision to replace Wilko as captain at the beginning of the current campaign wasn’t the reason behind the second rower’s consistent performances in 2018

The Aussie said: “I don’t think the fact Jon is no longer captain has changed his game.

“He is still a leader in the group, both on and off the field, but I felt reducing his game time would improve him. Now I’m getting quality rather than quantity.”

The Humberside-born forward will also have an extra incentive to help Saints maintain their excellent run of form when the Airlie Birds wing their way to the Totally Wicked Stadium, having played for cross-city rivals Hull Kingston Rovers at the start of his trophy-ladened career.

It will be another stiff examination for the league leaders against a club who, like themselves, won both their holiday fixtures and lie fifth in the table,

But Holbrook is more than happy with the club’s performances to date and said: “We are going well and we don’t have an issue with keeping the lads’ feet firmly on the ground.

‘’Although we lost to Leeds - and were bitterly disappointed in how we played that night - I can’t fault our application in the games, or training.

“Monday was a real sign of that. A lesser side perhaps wouldn’t have bounced back so well from Friday’s physical 21-18 win over Wigan with just one change. It was an excellent performance.”

Friday’s squads - Saints: 1. Jonny Lomax, 2. Tommy Makinson, 3. Ryan Morgan, 4. Mark Percival, 6. Theo Fages, 7. Matty Smith, 9. James Roby, 10. Kyle Amor, 11. Zeb Taia, 12. Jon Wilkin, 13. Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, 14. Luke Douglas, 15. Morgan Knowles, 16. Luke Thompson, 17. Dom Peyroux, 18. Danny Richardson, 19. Regan Grace, 20. Matty Lees, 23. Ben Barba.

Hull FC: 1. Jamie Shaul, 3. Carlos Tuimavave, 4. Josh Griffin, 5. Fetuli Talanoa, 6. Albert Kelly, 7. Marc Sneyd, 8. Scott Taylor, 9. Danny Houghton, 12. Mark Minichiello, 13. Josh Bowden, 14. Jake Connor, 15. Chris Green, 17. Danny Washbrook, 20. Brad Fash, 21. Sika Manu, 22. Jez Litten, 23. Mickey Paea, 24. Jack Logan, 26. Jordan Lane.

The game kicks off at 7:45pm and the referee will be Robert Hicks.

Tickets for the clash are now on sale from the Ticket Office at the Totally Wicked Stadium, by calling 01744 455 052 or online.