Playing for places

Date published: Friday, January 29, 2016

PLEASED though they were by team and individual offerings in the 22-0 win at Barrow, Scott Naylor and his coaching staff know Oldham will need to play even better in their first Championship game against London Broncos at Bower Fold.

With that in mind, Sunday’s Law Cup derby against fierce local rivals Rochdale Hornets at Spotland (3pm kick-off) takes on additional significance.
It’s the last chance for Roughyeds to fine-tune their game before they go into battle against the Londoners on their return to the second tier after a decade further down the pecking order.
And it won’t have escaped the notice of anybody in Naylor’s squad that several spots are wide open.
Assistant boss Lee Spencer picked out Richard Lepori, Josh Crowley, Phil Joy and Danny Grimshaw for special recognition at Barrow, but he could easily have added another three or four, including safe-as-houses Adam Clay and lively Kenny Hughes.
In the two warm-up games so far, Naylor has used every player in the squad and with the exception of the injured Craig Briscoe he might go down that route again at Rochdale.
After that, it’s decision time for the Roughyeds boss, who will have to declare his hand on one or two selection teasers, notably at half-back, hooker and in the forwards generally where there is healthy competition for places.
New-boy Grimshaw is providing a different dimension at half-back and it might be significant that he was on the field for 74 minutes at Barrow, only coming off then because he had taken a knock to his thigh.
Every player in the squad will be itching to be in the side that runs out at Bower Fold for the first time.
And the best way to seal that is to shine at Spotland on Sunday in what is likely to be a feisty derby showdown with lots of biff and beef in evidence.
Said Naylor: “We played well at Barrow, but there is still a lot left in us. We need to keep on improving week by week.
“We worked on a few specific things after the Keighley game and it was satisfying to see them being put to good use last week.
“There were some extremely good performances which means I will have some very tough decisions to make soon.
“That’s good because it means everyone is up for the challenge and is fighting for a spot. I’m not frightened by tough decisions; just the opposite, I relish them because it shows we are doing something right.
“Rochdale will be confident after beating Swinton away from home, but that result, and ours at Barrow, will be totally irrelevant in a derby.
“We all want to win, of course, but it’s also important that we play well because we need to take good form into the London game seven days later.”