IT won’t come close to matching the packed-out audience that John Kear encountered as a player.

But the Bulls coach expects a ferocious contest when Post Office Road hosts part three of their battle with Featherstone tomorrow.

The stakes are high with both sides locked together on the same points in the fight for a play-off place.

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And Kear is relishing the contest on a stage he knows very well from his Castleford past.

He said: “It’s the start of the second half of the season. We feel we’ve got a good chance of achieving what we wanted to as a playing group and obviously this is step number one in that.

“It’s even-stevens between us and this is a real 'four-pointer'.

“I was fortunate enough to play for Cas against Featherstone in some of the great derbies.

“I remember 13,500 people packed into that ground on a Boxing Day – I don’t think there were any safety certificates in those days.

“Believe you me, playing on the wing for Cas with that many there can be a very intimidating atmosphere.

“It’s a great little ground and does engender a great atmosphere and I hope there are loads of Bulls fans going across to assist that.”

The Bulls are looking to climb back on the horse after suffering back-to-back Championship losses to drop out of the top five.

Kear admitted they were off their game in last week’s loss to Halifax in the Summer Bash as the exertions of that epic Challenge Cup victory over Leeds took their toll, mentally and physically.

“I’ll use Mikey Wood as an example,” he added. “He’s been an absolute star of the season and was outstanding against Leeds.

“I played him for 70 minutes because we obviously wanted to win the game and last week I just felt he was a little bit flat.

“You could use that analogy perhaps across four or five players.

“One of our players said he was absolutely emotionally drained afterwards.

“It’s something we’ll have to get used to and grow into.

“This group of players haven’t been used to games like that Leeds one. They were magnificent that day but obviously we suffered a hangover last week.

“We’ll have to learn from that and improve.

“The Summer Bash is a big deal but it pales by comparison with playing Leeds in the Challenge Cup at Odsal.”

Despite the recent setbacks, the Bulls remain on course for their play-off target after returning to the second tier this year. They are only four points behind second-placed Toulouse.

Kear said: “We’re not storming away and leaving everybody in our tailwind. But then again, we’re not clinging on desperately.

“If this was the Grand National, we’d be halfway round the course and nicely tucked in behind the leaders.”