Fans Forum

Date published: Friday, September 23, 2011

TONY Benson has given his reserve-team boss John Hough a massive vote of confidence in the build-up to Sunday’s under-23s play-off final between Oldham and Widnes Vikings at Whitebank.

The teams have dominated the Reserves Under-23s Championship all season, Widnes finishing top and Oldham second.

Vikings are the only team to win at Whitebank this year but by the same token Oldham are the only side to have beaten the league leaders — and they have done it twice on the Vikings home patch.

Head coach Benson told fans at last night’s forum: “We might not have much money, but we have a great structure in place at this club and I have total confidence in both John Hough and Phil Costin (under-18s scholarship coach).

“You will continue to see young players coming through and that’s down to the excellent coaching they receive before they get to senior level. Houghie makes my job easy because the players he sends up to me are excellently prepared.

“It’s a massive leap from reserves to first-team level and once we’ve identified a player who we think will make it, it can take months getting that player ready to go.

“It’s a testimony to Houghie’s work, though, that whenever a player steps up he invariably does very well indeed.”

Sunday’s final, kicking off at 3pm, will showcase the young talent at the club.

Five of them — Jamie Dallimore, Danny Langtree, David Cookson, Alex Thompson and Matthew Fogarty — have signed professional contracts to cover next season when they will be pushing for first-team recognition.

Fogarty last night passed a fitness test on an elbow injury and takes his place in a squad that has been cut from 22 to 19, with centre Alistair Williams and wingers Lewis Brookes and Danny Chetwynd the unlucky ones who miss out.

Dallimore (hamstring), Matty Barber (back) and Zac Cotton (knee) will face make-or-break tests tomorrow (Saturday) before Hough finalises his 17-man squad. The exact line-up and choice of substitutes, though, won’t be revealed until one hour before kick-off

Team (from): Nield, Bridge, Cotton, Fogarty, Cookson, Dallimore, Connick, Ward, Eyres, Joy, Hughes, Mansfield, Johnson, Langtree, Barber, Wood-Hulme, Dean, Knight, Thompson

“We’ve prepared well,” said Hough, “and we’ve prepared for every eventuality.

“Widnes will come as favourites because they topped the league and they had a resounding win against third-placed Leigh last week.

“We’ve got to counteract that by playing to the best of our ability, and if we do that we won’t be far off.”