MARK Dunning has urged his players to remain strong after their painful 58-12 defeat at Featherstone Rovers on Monday evening.

A 14-minute first half blitz ensured Bradford Bulls didn't stand a chance throughout the contest, with the gulf in class between the two sides evident for everyone to see.

Suffering a defeat of that ilk will no doubt give the Odsal side nightmares, but Dunning has urged his troops to remain unified after such a difficult evening.

Discussing his side's mentality, Dunning said: "I actually thought my players stuck with each other during the game. They're an honest group of people, they're a good group of people and losing the game in that manner doesn't change that.

"But we had an honest chat in the changing room after the game and the players know that they were way off their usual standards. Behind the scenes the lads were busted, patched up and they looked like a team who had put all their energy into the game on Thursday night (Widnes Vikings). These short turnarounds are difficult, but it is the same for both teams, so we won't be complaining or making excuses-we needed to be better but I'll never question the honesty of my players."

Dunning added: "It's a group sport so we are all going to be affected by this defeat, whether it's the staff, coaches or players. We are doing our best to unite the club and make sure we move in the same direction, so this loss hurts like hell, but we must come through it as a group. We've done it before and we'll do it again. We now must re-focus ahead of Sheffield."

Bradford's boss highlighted a particular area which Featherstone utulised to their advantage to ensure the visitors couldn't get a real foot hold in the game.

Dunning said: "Featherstone schooled us in the ruck, with their back five getting into the ruck as quick as they could. On the back of that, they were able to break fast and punish us clinically.

"We spoke about the ruck speed at the start of the game as something we needed to get right, but unfortunately we couldn't dominate that area of the game and it cost us."

Last night's defeat ensured Bradford have lost seven league fixtures already, out of a possible 14. A strong play-off positioning was earmarked at the beginning of the campaign for the Odsal side and despite their cagey start, Dunning believes that objective should still remain.

He said: "The Fev defeat doesn't change anything, if anything it makes us more determined to succeed.The want and desire is still there within the squad, but we need to patch a few egos and look over what went wrong on Monday.

"We'll certainly stick together, stick tight and we'll get there."