Regular TotalRL.com columnist Louise Woodward-Styles (@MsCityRedGirl) reflects on another defeat for the Salford Red Devils, but can begin to see light at the end of a gloomy tunnel..
Since the arrival of Iestyn Harris as Salford Red Devils coach, the mood amongst the Salford faithful appears to be that of acceptance and calmness. This change in mood can perhaps be attributed to the decision by an independent panel to uphold the points deduction dished out to the Bradford Bulls; an appeal that if successful, would have really turned up the heat at the AJ Bell Stadium.
The appointment of Harris was at the time somewhat underwhelming; his name thought to be not experienced enough to take on the mammoth task of turning Marwan’s men into play-off contenders. Our form guide under Harris doesn’t make positive reading, either. A win loss ratio of only 2 wins in 11 outings for the former Wales coach is the type of form that would see the axe fall elsewhere, so what is it that is keeping Harris in the Red Devils hot seat?
The answer is that of noticeable improvement; since the Oldham-born star took over from former Bradford coach Brian Noble in April, the progress has been steady. Even if the league table doesn’t lend itself to this theory, there is a glimmer of hope that Salford can end the season with renewed faith. Harris has brought a culture of ‘us’ to a club that has in the past been lacking direction. He has been quick to point out the positive impact Adrian Morley has had on his charges, the Salford born club captain and former Warrington forward playing a key role in the nurturing of Salford’s younger squad members.
Although the table often doesn’t lie, it fails to show the real story. Injuries have played their part in the Devils failure to achieve the top-four goal as set out by club owner Koukash at the beginning of the season; the loss of Rangi Chase in the season opener against Wakefield left the club without its star playmaker for several weeks, and further bad luck followed with serious injuries to Greg Johnson, Jason Walton, Jake Mullaney, Shannon McPherson, Andrew Dixon, and Harrison Hansen.
Despite the avalanche of injuries, Salford appear to have turned a corner; the 14-10 last minute defeat to Castleford at the Mend-A-Hose Jungle proof of why the Red Devils continue to keep the faith. Perhaps the most pleasing aspect of that performance was the defensive effort, one which limited the Tigers to only one clean break in the whole game –plus another stellar performance from Salford’s academy produced young fullback Niall Evalds. Evalds is fast becoming the hottest prospect in the game, scoring four tries in four matches since being recalled from his loan spell at Barrow.
The re-emergence of Evalds and the continuing Hell-raising performances of Junior Sa’u, Lama Tasi and Gareth Hock will no doubt see the Devils pick up victories, hopefully starting this weekend at The John Smiths Stadium.