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Super League preview: Widnes Vikings v Bradford Bulls
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Beware of the Bull will be the maxim at the Select Security Stadium on Sunday as Widnes entertain Bradford.
The Vikings have enjoyed an excellent start to the current campaign, including a hard-fought 7-0 success against Hull FC last week, but winger Patrick Ah Van says that they cannot afford to take his former club lightly.
"They have new owners so the players will be pleased about that and they can just concentrate on the footy now," Ah Van told the club website.
"Playing under the circumstances they have had to endure over the past couple of months won't have been ideal so they will be glad it's all out the way now. We have to be very wary of them this week as they are still a very dangerous side despite their position in the Super League table."
Vikings coach Denis Betts will be delighted to welcome back Hep Cahill to his pack after the Aussie missed the last four matches with injury. On-loan Paul Clough is also set to line-up for his 200th career game.
The Bulls remain rooted to the foot of the Super League table after a six-point deduction earlier in the season for going into administration, but with new owners now on board and a new chief executive in former-Bradford player Steve Ferres, there is a renewed optimism that the club can avoid relegation.
"Our immediate priority is to ensure we avoid relegation," said Ferres. "Everyone knows we are some way behind the nine ball, but we are committed to doing everything we can to ensure Super League survival.
"From there, we intend to take the club forward in a controlled manner," he added.
The trip west sees Bradford boosted by the return of Chev Walker, who missed last week's defeat to Hull KR through suspension.
Even so, the squad remains depleted in number, with Matt Diskin (calf), Jamie Foster (foot) and Adam Sidlow (ankle) out with injuries, in addition to Lee Gaskell, Dale Ferguson and Luke George who are still three to four weeks from returning to action.
"We will leave no stone unturned in helping Francis Cummins strengthen his squad, but it is no secret that clubs are reluctant to let players go during this part of the season," said Ferres.
The Bulls have come away from Widnes with a win and a draw in the two seasons since the Vikings returned to the top flight, so they have proved that they can handle a surface that most find difficult.
However, they have found the finishing of Ah Van more tricky to combat, the winger having posted two tries in each of the last three meetings between the clubs.
Widnes: Ah Van, Brown, Cahill, Clarke, Clough, Craven, Dean, Flynn, Galea, Gerrard, Gilmore, Johnson,, Joseph, Leuluai, Lloyd, Owens, Phelps, Tickle, White.
Bradford: Addy, Blythe, Bridge, Conroy, Donaldson, Gale, Kear, Kearney, Henry, Mellor, Manuokafoa, Mullally, O'Brien, Olbison, Purtell, Roberts, Sutcliffe, Walker, Wood.
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Super League Table
|9||Hull K R||27||23|
|10||Salford Red Devils||27||23|
|13||Bradford Bulls *||27||10|
|First Utility Super League|
|Thursday 5th February|
|20:00||Widnes vs Wigan|
|Friday 6th February|
|20:00||St Helens vs Catalans Dragons|
|Saturday 7th February|
|15:00||Warrington Wolves vs Salford Red Devils|
|Sunday 8th February|
|15:00||Huddersfield vs Hull|
|15:00||Hull K R vs Leeds|
|15:30||Castleford vs Wakefield|
|Thursday 12th February|
|20:00||Salford vs St Helens|
|Friday 13th February|
|20:00||Hull vs Warrington|
|20:00||Leeds vs Widnes|
|20:00||Wigan vs Huddersfield|
|First Utility Super League|
|Saturday 11th October|
|St Helens 14 - 6 Wigan|
|Friday 3rd October|
|Wigan 16 - 12 Warrington|
|Thursday 2nd October|
|St Helens 30 - 12 Catalans Dragons|
|Friday 26th September|
|Huddersfield 16 - 18 Catalans Dragons|
|Thursday 25th September|
|Castleford 14 - 30 Warrington|
|Saturday 20th September|
|Leeds 20 - 24 Catalans Dragons|
|Warrington 22 - 19 Widnes|
|Friday 19th September|
|St Helens 41 - 0 Castleford|
|Thursday 18th September|
|Wigan 57 - 4 Huddersfield|
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