Clash of experience on Sunday

Date published: Thursday, March 29, 2012

OLD stagers Neil Roden and Darren Holt are key to the finely-balanced Oldham-Barrow game at Whitebank on Sunday (3pm).

They go head to head at stand-off, Roden as Roughyeds’ captain, Holt as Raiders’ player-coach, both as principal play-makers.

Neither camp in this Championship One top-of-the-table clash will name a side early for fear of giving too much away.

But all fans know that Roden, 32 next week, and Holt (35) will each wear No 6 and will likely have ball in hand more than anyone else.

Both have spent most of their careers in the service of their present club

Roden made his Roughyeds’ debut as a fresh-faced 19-year-old 12 years ago this week and, despite one season at Batley and another at Leigh, has clocked up 278 senior games for Oldham, scoring 108 tries.

Holt, who has also played briefly for Carlisle, Whitehaven and Workington, will be playing his 400th career game on Sunday and his 301st for Barrow, for whom he is in his third spell at Craven Park.

You go back to 1998 to find his name on the Barrow team sheet for the first time in a Challenge Cup match against amateurs Farnworth.

Fourteen years on, and in his first season as boss, Holt has guided his team to six wins in a row in all competitions against Workington, Swinton, Doncaster and Lezignan at home and against Whitehaven and North Wales Crusaders away.

Like Roden in general play, Oldham’s young half-back Jamie Dallimore will also be involved in a personal duel with the Barrow boss, who has been a prolific goalkicker all his accomplished career.

After two games, Dallimore tops the Championship One goalkicking chart with 10, ahead of Dylan Skee of London Skolars (9), Paul Cooke of Doncaster (8) and two players on seven, Holt and Whitehaven’s Carl Rudd.

Holt can kick teams to death — and both Roden and Dallimore will at least need to match him when putting boot to ball if Roughyeds are to win their fair share of territory.

Phil Atkinson, Barrow’s assistant coach, said: “It will be a typical top-of-the-table clash. Prize for the winners will beseeing some daylight between themselves and the chasing pack.

“Oldham, on their own pitch, are never going to be easy, but it is very winnable and both sides will view it that way.”

The fitness of several Oldham players will be assessed at training tonight before coach Tony Benson finalises his 17 at training on Saturday.

The reserves go to Featherstone tomorrow (Fri) night for an 8pm kick off at Post Office Road.

Coach Paul Ashton will take a similar side to that which won 38-10 at Keighley last time out.

Said full-back Steven Nield (21), in his third season with the club: “We feel we can kick on now and hopefully enjoy a similar season to last year (when Oldham won the league trophy).

“The club has recruited some good young players to replace those who have stepped up to the first team.”