“Edwin” back in 18

Date published: Friday, April 11, 2014
TEENAGE centre Edwin Okanga-Ajwang may be given his home debut in Oldham’s first game at Whitebank for five weeks.
Aged 19 and the ‘baby’ of the Roughyeds’ senior squad, ‘Edwin’ is named among 18 players from whom Scott Naylor will pick his side for Gateshead Thunder’s visit on Sunday (3pm kick off) in Kingstone Press Championship One.
He made his first appearance off the bench in the cup win at Egremont on March 15 and got a full game in the next outing at London Skolars, where he scored his first Oldham try by racing home on the intercept from deep inside his own half.
Naylor chose not to expose him to Super League opposition in the Bradford cup-tie, but he is back in contention this weekend while young prop Paddy Mooney stands down —- the only change.
Alex Davidson was 18th man (reserve) at London and Bradford, but it’s difficult to envisage Naylor leaving him inactive for the third game in a row.
He would appear to be the obvious replacement for Mooney.
Naylor will announce his side at training tomorrow from these:
Whitehead, Agoro, Wood, Gee, Bloomfield, Palfrey, Robinson, Ward, Whitmore, Boults, Crowley, Langtree, Hobson, Joy, Hughes, Tyson, Okanga-Ajwang, Davidson.
Key to selection will be the boss’s decision as to who will be 18th man.
Since the last home against Hemel Stags on March 9, Naylor’s men have done well on their travels, winning at Egremont (Cumbria) in the cup and at London in the league before putting up a valiant show in defeat in last week’s fourth round Tetley’s Challenge Cup tie at Bradford.
As one of only two unbeaten clubs in the division, Roughyeds believe their performances on the road in recent weeks are worthy of solid support from fans when the team gets back on home soil on Sunday.
Said Naylor: “It’s important we perform well at home for numerous reasons, not least that we want to encourage fans to come back for more.
“We had three comfortable wins against Gateshead last year, but they have come on a lot since then. We need to guard against thinking that we are going to be playing the team we beat last season.
“After the Bradford cup-tie, we’ve got to get back on the Championship One horse and focus entirely on winning league games.
“Starting on Sunday, we face a very important five days, but whatever happens we can’t start thinking about Hunslet until the Gateshead game is in the record books.
“As I’ve said before, I’ll be using the full squad over the two games.”
Thunder, coached by Stanley Gene, have won one of their three league games and have also picked up a bonus point, but Gene isn’t impressed by his side’s defence, which has leaked 93 points, equal to 31 a game.
“If we don’t improve, and quickly, we’ll be going out looking for other players to come in,” said the former Papua New Guinea international.
Thunder (from): Blades, Booth, Brown, Heil, Capper, Stamp, Beharrell, Clarke, Hough, Stoker, Payne, Bowring, Essiemont, Fewlass, Cockburn, Barron, Powley.
* FIRST-TEAM squad players Steven Nield, Mooney and David Cookson (back after injury) play in the under-20s side against Halifax at Whitebank tomorrow (2.30pm kick off).
Having seen his side beaten in the league by the second teams of leading Championship clubs Leigh, Sheffield and Featherstone, coach Neil Roden hopes it’s Oldham’s turn to win.
He’s named a 19-man squad, but he fears Richard Joy will be ruled out by injury after going over on an ankle in training last night. He went to hospital for x-rays.
“It will be a blow if he is out because he has been playing exceptionally well,” said Roden, of the younger brother of first-team prop Phil Joy.
Under-20s (from): Singleton; Bickerstaff, Cookson, Nield, Whitfield, Dempsey, Hughes, Mooney, Ball, B Roden, Haney, Partington, Fitzsimmons, Sargeant, Boardman, Wareing, A Joy, Walker, R Joy.
* NAYLOR described as ‘great news’ the latest medical report on young hooker Adam Files, who is recovering from knee surgery.
There were early fears that he might miss much of the season, but the operation has been successful and the latest prognosis is highly encouraging.
Said Naylor: “He’s coming along really well with his rehab. Best of all, we are hopeful that he could be available again within the month.”