Picking from 20-man squad

Date published: Friday, September 12, 2014
OLDHAM will pick from a 20-man squad for tonight’s big play-off clash at Hunslet (8pm kick off), including four who didn’t play in the last game — skipper Lewis Palfrey, George Tyson, Sam Gee and Jason Boults.
Brett Robinson is ruled out with an ankle injury.
Team (from): Nield, Clay, Cookson, Ford, Bloomfield, Roper, Joy, Owen, Mooney, Crowley, Langtree, Thompson, Mason, Ward, Hughes, Wood, Palfrey, Tyson, Gee, Boults.
Captain Palfrey, meanwhile, has said he is looking to playmakers Steve Roper and Gareth Owen to rise to the challenge in the biggest game of the season so far.
Not only are they playing well in pivotal roles but, according to Palfrey, they have the big-game nous to compensate for the home side’s greater experience.
Half-back Roper (27) was influential in a Rochdale team that, a year ago, pipped Roughyeds 23-22 in a play-off at Whitebank and then beat their derby rivals again in the final, winning 32-18.
Rochdale finished nine points behind Scott Naylor’s men in the league, but came good at the right time — a key to play-off success.
Hooker Owen, on loan from Salford, is only 22, but he has 36 Super League games and a Magic Weekend appearance on his CV.
Said Palfrey: “Gaz Owen will take it in his stride, while ‘Ropes’ (Roper) is playing out of his skin and he has loads of experience.
“Nerves got to us in last year’s play-offs, especially in the final, but we’re a year older and wiser now and we’ll benefit from having gone through it last year.
“I’ll echo what Scott said at a team meeting on Tuesday: ‘It’s just another game of rugby’.
“It’s going to be a battle, but we don’t fear Hunslet as we showed when we beat them at Whitebank.
“Looking at results I can see how some people think we can’t play on wide pitches, but wherever we play we don’t approach games any differently.
“Scott has stressed that we have to get things like widths and slopes out of our heads and accept that a pitch is a patch of grass and is the same for both sides.”
Roughyeds also boast the top two try-scoring wingers in the division in Dale Bloomfield and Mo Agoro which kills the argument that they can’t play expansively.
Naylor, meanwhile, has revealed that the club set promotion as its goal at the start of the year.
“Everyone expects Hunslet or York to go up, but don’t write us off — we are good enough to be in the mix too,” said the Roughyeds boss.
Tonight’s winners go to York next week in the qualifying semi-final, while the losers will have a home game against the winners of Gateshead v Hemel, who meet on Sunday (6pm) at Kingston Park, home of Newcastle Falcons RU Club.