Derby build up

Date published: Thursday, August 12, 2010

HORNETS skipper Phil Wood, a livewire hooker who has given Oldham trouble throughout his career, is said to be a major doubt for Sunday’s second v third Championship One derby clash at the Whitebank Stadium.

A key man for Hornets, Wood played in last Sunday’s 24-16 win against Swinton Lions despite suffering from a dead leg — an injury for which he has been having treatment all this week.

The bruising is now coming out and he is said to be ‘black and blue’, but he is desperate to play in a crucial derby battle in which Hornets desperately need a rare away victory in a bid to hang on to third place with all the advantages that provides in the play-offs.

A final decision on Wood will be a tough one for coach John Stankevitch, his medical team and the player.

“Phil was probably no more than 50 per cent fit last week,” said the Hornets boss, “but he put his hand up and said he wanted to play and that was the attitude that helped us through.”

Centre Damian Reid and prop Danny Samuels, who both missed the Swinton game, are fit and back in contention and with the possible exception of Wood it seems that Stankevitch will have a fully-fit squad from which to choose.

“Third spot is ours to lose,” he added. “We will go to Oldham full of excitement. It’s a game that represents a challenge for us because they have beaten us twice already this season, but we have more or less a fully-fit squad and we will go to Whitebank fully prepared.

“We will have a light week in training, analysing the things we did right against Swinton and the things we did wrong.”

There could be three former Roughyeds players in the Hornets squad — centre Dean Gorton, prop Gareth Hayes and evergreen Chris Hough, cousin of Oldham’s reserve team coach John Hough.

With two games left to play nobody can catch the second-placed Roughyeds which guarantees Tony Benson’s men pole position in the play-offs.

Mathematically they could still finish top and go up automatically so Roughyeds will be determined to bring their home league programme to a successful conclusion.

Below them in the table the next five clubs are separated by only four points with Hornets, York City Knights, Blackpool Panthers, South Wales Scorpions and Workington Town all striving to finish as high as they can to give themselves the best possible chance in the play-offs.

Oddly, each of Oldham’s three league defeats have been at Whitebank — against York, Hunslet and South Wales — while Hornets, in stark contrast, have an awful away record, having won only two out of nine on their travels.

Their only defeat at Spotland was Oldham’s 22-16 win there in early April.