Fighting forwards line up against Rochdale

Date published: Friday, August 12, 2011

PROP Luke Sutton, who is emigrating to Australia, will make his farewell appearance for Oldham RL Club in Sunday’s Co-operative Championship One derby clash with Rochdale Hornets at Spotland.

Coach Tony Benson won’t finalise his side until training tomorrow, but he will be anxiously awaiting the outcome of fitness tests on winger Mark Brocklehurst (foot) and Sutton’s fellow front-row forward Luke Stenchion, who has been having treatment and rehab for a back complaint.

Stenchion hasn’t played since he propped in the impressive 36-14 home win against Keighley Cougars on July 24, so Benson will be hoping that the Yorkshireman’s three weeks of relative inactivity and rest will have done the trick.

If so, expect the hard-working former Batley Bulldogs prop to start on the blind-side, replacing Andy Isherwood, who did that job in an emergency in the Roughyeds’ last game against Workington Town a fortnight ago.

Sutton has been used all season as an impact prop coming off the bench and that’s the role he is again likely to play in his swan-song appearance before heading off to Brisbane to make a new life for his young family.

As Roughyeds head for the play-offs that could create an opening for Great Britain Students prop Liam Gilchrist, while the imminent return after injury of Bruce Johnson will further ease front-row worries.

The unlucky Johnson, a mid-season signing from Swinton, had three cracking games in the Reserves and was all set to make his senior debut at Gateshead at the end of June when he badly damaged a finger in his final second-team run-out.

He is expected back soon, but this weekend might be just too soon for a player who has had hardly any first-team rugby this year, so Benson’s props at Rochdale will almost certainly come from Jason Boults, Stenchion, Sutton, Gilchrist and Isherwood.

With the possibility of providing options in the backs, centre Matthew Fogarty and winger John Gillam will be in line for a recall, Gillam for the first time since the narrow defeat by London Skolars at The Stoop five weeks ago.

Fogarty, youngest member of the squad at 19, has been out of the first-team limelight for a few weeks because of elbow and hand injuries, but he has proved his fitness in the Reserves and is now pushing for more senior recognition.

Team (from): Heaton, Brocklehurst, St Hilaire, Fogarty, McCully, Robinson, Gillam, N Roden, Forber, Boults, M Roden, Clough, Stenchion, Sutton, Gilchrist, Noone, Bravo, Isherwood, Casey, Ward, Bentley.

Said Benson: “It should be a cracker. Rochdale are one of the division’s form teams, but we enjoy playing them in derby battles, in front of decent crowds with plenty of vocal support for both teams.”

John Hough’s Roughyeds Reserves side, unbeaten in ten, will be guaranteed a second-place finish if they beat Dewsbury Rams at Whitebank tomorrow (kick off 2.30pm).