Looking to Workington

Date published: Friday, September 2, 2011

WINGERS John Gillam and Terry Bridge are surprise selections in a large Oldham RL squad from which coach Tony Benson will name his team for the last league game of the season at Workington on Sunday (3pm).

Gillam, who has been working away, hasn’t played for almost two months while Bridge earns senior recognition for the first time, having had a good season in the successful Roughyeds’ reserve team.

If Ben Heaton were to miss out because of ankle trouble, either of the two regular wingers, Mark Brocklehurst and Shaun Robinson, could be switched to full-back, hence the inclusion of Gillam and Bridge in a provisional 24-man squad.

It was due to be pruned to a more manageable size last night, but the exact make-up of the party to travel to Derwent Park won’t be finalised until tomorrow at the final prep session of the week.

Benson’s provisional 24 are:

Heaton, Brocklehurst, Cookson, St Hilaire, McCully, Fogarty, Robinson, Gillam, Bridge, N Roden, Dallimore, Forber, Boults, Whitmore, Clough, M Roden, Stenchion, Gilchrist, Bravo, Noone, Ward, Casey, Isherwood, Bentley.

Centre Mark McCully (knee), full-back Heaton, goalkicking half-back Carl Forber (groin) and prop Luke Stenchion (back) will have late fitness tests, having been on the treatment table for the past fortnight.

“I’ll give them until Saturday morning,” said Benson who, interestingly, has also included 19-year-old utility back Matthew Fogarty and two newly-signed stand-out performers from the reserves, David Cookson and Jamie Dallimore.

Benson believes the upturn in Oldham’s fortunes, from one win in six to six wins in eight, can be traced to the arrival of McCully and Leeds Rhinos youngsters Danny Bravo and Callum Casey in June.

He said: “They enabled us to be more consistent in team selection and, as a direct consequence, more consistent also in our level of performance.

“Our game has developed significantly in the past two months and now we arrive at the play-offs as real contenders.

“We will finish sixth or seventh, depending on other results as well as our own, but it doesn’t really matter which because we have no preference about who we would like to play in the play-off. We respect all opponents and fear none.

“What does matter on Sunday is that we continue our momentum and produce a good performance to take with us into the play-offs. From here in, it has to be all about consistency.”

The Cumbrians can finish top of the play-off six if they beat Roughyeds for the third time this year and if Whitehaven take points off Keighley Cougars at Cougar Park.