Bryce Cartwright of the Panthers.
Bryce Cartwright of the Panthers. DAVID ROWLAND

Injury-hit Panthers on high alert against Knights

PENRITH will be decidedly wary of an improving Newcastle when they clash on Friday night at Pepper Stadium - particularly with the Panthers again missing star Bryce Cartwright.

Cartwright had been named earlier in the week but coach Anthony Griffin confirmed the 22-year-old still had not recovered fully from an ankle injury.

The back-rower, who has missed the Panthers' last two games, is now expected to return for the round-five blockbuster against Melbourne next weekend.

A loss to the Knights would leave the Panthers with just one win from their first four games heading to the Storm, after Penrith succumbed 14-12 to the Roosters last week.

After claiming the last two wooden spoons, the Knights have been impressive in the early rounds.

"I think their three performances have been strong. They came from behind and nearly beat the Warriors and they handled the Titans and there was nothing in that game against Souths," Griffin said.

"They've been very consistent, very strong, very competitive, their attack is very well structured."

Adding to the Panthers' injury woes is the fact James Fisher-Harris, who replaced Cartwright against the Roosters last week, is also sidelined after suffering a fractured cheekbone.

Tyrone Peachey is expected to move into the back row with Griffin at least having the luxury of bringing Kiwi international Peta Hiku into the starting backline.

"I thought last week, apart from that little period before half-time, our defence was pretty solid all game. I don't see that being an issue," Griffin said.