Penrith coach Ivan Cleary admits he is concerned with his side’s spluttering attack which has totalled just 16 points in their past two NRL games.
In fact, the Panthers have scored 14 points or less in six of their past eight matches and their 17 points a game ranks them a lowly 14th in the competition.
Ahead of Friday night’s local derby against Parramatta, Cleary apportioned part of the blame on an injury toll that has forced them into ten different halves combinations over the first ten rounds.
But the Panthers are this week boosted by the return of halfback Peter Wallace, who’s been missing since round five with a knee injury.
Asked whether he was worried about his team’s attack, Cleary said: “A little bit. It’s well-documented [about] our halves rotation and that has to have an affect on chemistry.
“So we feel like that will help, having `Wal’ come back in.
“‘Wal’, `Sowie’ [Jamie Soward], `Moyza’ [Matt Moylan] and `Chicko’ [James Segeyaro] haven’t played together since round two.
“That will help a bit, but certainly there are areas in our attack that will need to improve.”
The Panthers host the 16th-placed Eels, who have lost their past four games and five of their past six.
However Cleary said he wasn’t going to be fooled by Parramatta’s lowly position on the NRL ladder, and believed the neighbourhood rivals have simply been unlucky over the past few weeks.
The Eels past two losses – against South Sydney and the Warriors – have been by four points or less.
“Any game’s dangerous,” he said.
“It sounds like a cliche but this year more than ever, team one to 16… you just can’t go by where teams are on the ladder.
“They’ve had some good wins and some unlucky losses, and they’ve got a very strong team.
“We’re definitely preparing for a tough game
“We understand what we’re up for and us ourselves feel like we need to improve a fair bit as well.”
While NSW winger Will Hopoate is expected to back-up from Origin duty, the Panthers have had no such distractions by the representative period.
This time last year, Penrith made full use of their entire squad to push up the ladder on a five-game winning streak.
Cleary said that with most of his roster now back at his disposal, he was hopeful of going on another winning run.
“That’d be great,” he said.
“The situation’s a little different. We have two byes before Origin games, so I’m not sure how that works out.
“But whether it’s Origin or not, we’re getting some players back and some key ones.
“We definitely feel it’s our time to get some chemistry back in our team.
“If we do that and we play better for 80 minutes in all areas, then results should back that up.”
STATS THAT MATTER
– The Panthers miss the most tackles per game (31.3 per game) of any team so far this season whilst also conceding the third most line breaks (5.3 per game) and penalties (7.3 per game). However they concede the least metres (1336 per game).
– David Simmons has a great record against the Eels with 11 tries in his past 12 games against them, including five in four matches at Pepper Stadium. Since coming back into the Penrith team in Round 8 this season, he has two tries in three matches.
– The Panthers will look to take advantage of a poor Eels defence and improve upon their paltry 17 points per game, the third fewest of any team. They have particularly struggling in the first half, scoring just 68 points, the fewest, and will look to exploit a Parramatta defence which has conceded the equal second most points in the opening 20 minutes of matches (68).