Oldham new boys on show

Date published: Friday, December 31, 2010

FOUR Oldham RL Club new boys — Andy Isherwood, Liam Gilchrist, Ben Wood and John Clough — will take centre stage when Roughyeds entertain derby rivals Rochdale Hornets in Sunday’s Law Cup clash at Whitebank Stadium (3pm kick off).

Also on view for the first time in Oldham colours will be Tom Wood-Hulme, a young prop who has joined Roughyeds for trials after playing at Academy level for Salford and St Helens.

He comes from a similar background and from the same Saints’ stable as another young front-rower, the 21-year-old Gilchrist, who is already signed up on a one-year contract.

Back-rower Wood, an Oldhamer, is of a similar age and will be making his debut for his hometown club after successfully completing his apprenticeship with Salford City Reds.

In stark contrast to these young guns, 31-year-old Isherwood and 26-year-old hooker Clough, who was Blackpool Panthers’ player of the year last season, are forwards of vast experience and know-how.

In Clough and Martin Roden, who doubles up as assistant coach, Roughyeds have two of the most experienced hookers in the division, supported by promising youngsters Danny Whitmore and Scott Mansfield.

Whitmore is one of several players who, for various reasons, will be unavailable on Sunday and therefore unable to stake claims on the early-season pecking order.

Also likely to sit this one out will be Marcus St Hilaire, new-boy Tom Woodcock and the injured Jack Bradbury and Chris Clarke, while latest signing Mark Brocklehurst isn’t expected to link up with the squad for several weeks.

The eagerly-awaited derby clash will, however, represent significant career milestones for scrum-half Michael Diveney and centre Alistair Williams.

Following the path taken so successfully by Clarke, Mansfield and Ben Heaton, this Oldham-born duo have earned first-team contracts on the strength of consistently impressive performances for John Hough’s reserve team last year.

They are now fully-fledged members of Tony Benson’s senior squad and on Sunday they will get their first opportunity to dip their toes into the deep end.

OLDHAM (from): Bentley, Boults, Clough, Diveney, Ellison, Gilchrist, Gillam, Heaton, Isherwood, Mansfield, Onyango, M Roden, N Roden, Sutton, Walker, Williams, Wood, Wood-Hulme.

Preparations will be wrapped up at Noddy’s Field in Chadderton today (Fri) in order to protect the Whitebank pitch which was sufficently frost-free on Wednesday to enable the squad to go face to face with the reserves.

“It was a good run-out for both teams,” said Benson. “The reserves looked good as well — and both sets of players were just happy to get on a pitch with a ball. It was a whole new experience for them after the weather we’ve had in the last few weeks.

“The pitch was fine, but we are staying off it now until Sunday for obvious reasons.”

Benson and his Hornets opposite John Stankevitch have agreed to go with up to 23 or 24 players as a maximum and also to use unlimited substitutions.

While that may seem to be a free-and-easy approach, both coaches know that any clash of these old derby enemies will provide an intense, physical contest with no holds barred.

“We always have a humdinger with Hornets — and this will be no exception,” added Benson.

Stankevitch’s squad played a Rochdale amateur select side at Castleton Sports Centre on Wednesday, but not everyone who played in that will be on show at Whitebank.

HORNETS (from): English, Johnson, Gorton, Strong, Yates, McGovern, Roper, Newton, Wood, Bowman, Ashall, Smith, Donoghue, Powell, Crook, Samuel, Bloomfield, Cookson, Hayes, Clough, Hobson, Kennedy, Saywell, Taylor.

Admission prices are £10 adults, £8 concessions and £4 under-16s. Transfer to seats, on a first-come basis, will be £2. Fans are advised to arrive early to ease congestion at the turnstiles and on the car park.

Roughyeds are optimistic the game will go ahead, but fans are advised to keep an eye on the club’s website at www.roughyeds.co.uk or to ring the office telephone number at 0161 628 3677 which will relay updated messages from lunchtime today (Friday).