Looking ahead to the London match

Date published: Tuesday, July 5, 2011

COACH Tony Benson will stress to his Oldham RL players that Saturday’s game against London Skolars at The Stoop will be harder and more demanding than last Sunday’s game against Whitehaven at Whitebank.

Though next to bottom of Co-operative Championship One, Skolars have won each of their last three matches at their New River Stadium home in North London, beating Rochdale Hornets 44-22, Keighley Cougars 18-16 and South Wales Scorpions 27-26.

In between, they gave Whitehaven a massive fright at the Recreation Ground, pushing the Cumbrians all the way on their own patch before being edged out 14-12.

[singlepic id=565 w=320 h=240 float=left]Skolars have conceded home advantage for the Oldham game, which will be played across the city in west London at The Stoop (5pm kick off), shared home of Harlequins RL and Harlequins RU.

Quins RL star Rob Purdham will celebrate his testimonial at The Stoop on Saturday, this to be built around a double-header with Quins staging a Super League game against Wigan Warriors to kick-off at 3pm, followed by the Skolars-Oldham clash two hours later.

“We’ve got to be ready for a challenge that will be tougher than the one posed by Whitehaven,” said Benson, a former Skolars boss. “They have caused big problems for every team they have played in recent weeks and they will certainly want to make a big impression on a big day¬†at The Stoop.

“For whatever reason, they always lift their game against us, and we’ve got to be ready for everything they throw at us.”

Benson can’t call on young prop Liam Gilchrist to replace the injured Dave Ellison because Gilchrist is currently on tour with Great Britain Students in Australia. Recent recruit Bruce Johnson, another prop, is out with a damaged hand sustained in a reserve-team game while another front-rower, Chris Clarke, is also on the long-term injury list.

Tom Wood-Hulme, yet another young prop, has had only one run-out for the reserves since coming back from a ten-week absence with a broken hand, but he may get another run in Thursday’s reserve-team game against Featherstone Rovers at Whitebank, kick-off 7.45pm.

[singlepic id=787 w=320 h=240 float=left]Jason Boults, Luke Stenchion and Luke Sutton will no doubt head-up front-row duties, while Benson will also have the option of playing either Valu Bentley or Andy Isherwood as the fourth prop and recalling Ben Wood into the squad as cover for both back-row and centre.

The full extent of centre Matthew Fogarty’s elbow injury will be known later today and that will also have a major bearing on how Benson’s squad for London will take shape over the week’s two training sessions.

Ellison, who severely dislocated an elbow in Sunday’s superb 40-20 win against Whitehaven at Whitebank, left the Royal Oldham Hospital late on Sunday night with his right arm in a full plaster cast. It will remain in place for four to six weeks.

Coach John Hough will finalise his reserve-team squad for Thursday’s Featherstone home game at training tomorrow night. The reserves will be seeking their sixth win in a row.