Newcastle’s Alex McKinnon says the Knights must improve their completion rates if they are to have any chance of beating Canberra on Sunday.

Newcastle utility Alex McKinnon says his side could be in for another tough day against Canberra on Sunday unless they improve their ball retention.

The Knights produced a disappointing performance against Penrith in their opening game of the season last Saturday going down 30-8 at Sportingbet Stadium.

In the first 40 minutes of the game Wayne Bennett’s side struggled with their cohesion with just a 61 per cent completion rate in addition to 13 errors.

Matters improved slightly in the second half where they climbed to 67 per cent with five errors, but McKinnon said Bennett has been drilling his players all week in a bid to improve for the Raiders visit to Hunter Stadium.

“I think its any coaches concern when you drop that much ball, because I think last year we had one of the highest completion rates,” McKinnon said.

“Through injuries and a lot of drop ball in that first half, we didn’t really give ourselves a chance to win the game.

“We spoke about ball control before round one and through the trials.

“So if we have ball control and make less errors, then we will go a long way to be at least being in the competition.”

Newcastle are without fullback Darius Boyd who limped off against Penrith with a hamstring problem but are boosted by news Tyrone Roberts and skipper Kurt Gidley have been cleared to play after going off with concussion last week.

Gidley will play fullback with Travis Waddell staring at hooker against his former club.

Ricky Stuart’s Raiders were unlucky in defeat against North Queensland last Saturday going down 28-22 having led 16-10 at halftime.

The former Parramatta, Cronulla and Sydney Roosters coach has named the same side again with young centre Matthew Allwood keeping his place in the team following an encouraging debut against the Cowboys.

The lightning-fast 21-year-old said the experience of playing against Test stars Johnathan Thurston, Matt Scott, Brent Tate and James Tamou was a huge learning curve.

“It’s great going up against those class players and I really enjoyed, it was a great experience,” Allwood said.

“I was really nervous but also very exciting, it was awesome. It was a big step and a great challenge.”