Joy, Cunningham on stand-by

Date published: Friday, August 31, 2012

SAM Cunningham and Phil Joy are on stand-by as acting coach Martin Roden wrestles with pack problems ahead of Oldham’s last game of the regular season at Gateshead on Sunday (3pm).

Joy, who has had a superb season in the reserve team’s front-row, may be rewarded with his first taste of senior rugby against a Thunder side that caused a major upset by beating Workington Town at home in midweek.

Second-row man Cunningham, another reserve team forward, was given his senior debut off the bench in Oldham’s 40-18 defeat at Doncaster on May 13, but he hasn’t played in the first team since.

Said Roden: “I’ve called them both into the squad. They trained with us last night and they’ll be with us again on Saturday morning when I pick the team.”

Of the forwards who figured in the hard-fought 28-18 win against Workington at Whitebank a fortnight ago, Roden has lost three props in Luke Stenchion (broken hand), Jamie Acton (one-match ban) and Danny Langtree, who is away on a pre-booked holiday.

A fourth prop, Jason Boults, is doubtful with a toe injury, while utility forward Valu Bentley has still to prove his fitness after missing the Workington game with a damaged and painful calf muscle.

“I’ve given both of them until Saturday morning,” said Roden. “An x-ray has shown that Jason’s damaged toe is not broken. but it is still giving him a lot of trouble.

“Hopefully, both he and Valu will come through, but the reality is that there are serious doubts over both of them so I have to prepare accordingly.

“At best, I will have to juggle about with the pack and perhaps play some players out of position.”

On a brighter note, threequarters Mark McCully and Chris Murphy are back in contention after injury, but at this stage Roden is planning to give a vote of confidence to the backs who lined up against Workington, namely Dave Cookson and Michael Ward at centre and Lucas Onyango and Mark Brocklehurst on the wings.

Added Roden: “I’d like to name an unchanged back division, and I certainly don’t want to move Michael Ward, who did exceptionally well there in our last game, but until I know for sure who is available I can’t be too specific.

“I’ve a few things spinning around in my head, but I can’t take it any further until final decisions are made on Boults and Bentley.”

Squad: Greenwood, Onyango, Cookson, Ward, Brocklehurst, McCully, Murphy, N Roden, Dallimore, Boults, Thompson, Clough, Gilchrist, Joy, Bentley, Noone, Smith, Clarke, Cunningham.

It will be a special game for Mark Brocklehurst, who will be making his 100th career appearance, made up of 14 with Swinton Lions, 42 with Rochdale Hornets and, to date, 43 with his home-town Roughyeds.

Oldham currently lie seventh in Championship One, but if they win on Sunday and London Skolars go down at home to a Doncaster side chasing the league title and £50,000 cash prize, Roughyeds will take the sixth and final play-off spot.

Roden has told his players that their mental approach to the game needs to be spot-on.

He said: “Every club wants to end the season on a high note and Gateshead tails will be in the air after their win on Wednesday.

“Before training last night I called the boys together for a chat and referred to Thunder’s shock win. If we go up there with the wrong attitude we will lose.

“I don’t want to hear the ‘should have’ theme again. I’ve heard it too much this year. We ‘should have’ beaten this team and we ‘should have’ beaten that team.

“The reality is that we beat Barrow twice (once in the cup) and Workington twice in the league, two of the strongest teams in the competition, but lost loads of points against teams we ‘should have’ beaten, but didn’t because our attitude wasn’t right.

“It’s no use producing the intensity with which we beat Workington a couple of weeks ago unless we can play with the same zest and zeal up at Gateshead.”

Gateshead coach Kevin Neighbour is hungry for more success after piloting Thunder to their first league win of the season on Wednesday.

He said: “Can we get two wins in four days ? Why not ? We’re at home and the last game of the season is always a special one.

“Some of the boys will be moving on, and they will want to sign off on a high note.

“We’ve got an attitude about us now that says, ‘we don’t care who you are, we’re giving it to you and you’ll have to earn everything you get’ ”

Over to you, Oldham.