Reserves hit by loss

Date published: Thursday, May 31, 2012

PAUL Ashton, Oldham RL reserve team coach, has suffered another blow in the wake of Friday’s 84-16 defeat at Featherstone.

Already suffering from a player shortage, he has now lost loose-forward Mark Smith, whose appearance at Post Office Road was his last before his job took him to the USA for at least a year.

“His loss will hit us hard,” said Ashton, whose under-23s are struggling from the knock-on effect of the many injuries which have severely weakened Tony Benson’s senior side over recent weeks.

Ashton’s squad has also suffered an injury pile-up which has claimed second-row man Ben Bailey (dislocated knee), utility back Ben Thompson (dislocated shoulder), prop Mark Thomas, who is having tests for a stomach disorder, and full-back Matty Lomax, who has an eye injury.

“Tony can’t let me top up with first-team players because of his own problems,” added Ashton, “and I’m finding it tough to put out a side that’s competitive and can do itself justice.

“We have the makings of a very good side, but it would have been nice to go to Featherstone, who are a crack outfit, with 17 players and some props on the bench.

“We are putting in a lot of hard work and getting no reward.

“You can’t ask props to play for 80 minutes match after match, as we have done with Phil Joy. It’s only a matter of time before fatigue takes over.

“That’s life, so we’ve just got to dig in and keep going.

“When I took the job I wanted a challenge, and that’s what I’ve got. I’m up for it, and I know the lads are.”

Matthew Fogarty was pulled out of the squad to go to Featherstone because he was required as 18th man for the first team.

That left Ashton with only thee substitutes, including former reserve team captain Jamie Knight, who came out of retirement to plug a gap.

“Jamie did me a massive favour,” said Ashton, “but I don’t know whether he will be available again.”

In his constant search for players, Ashton hopes to sign a scrum-half from the St Helens area in time for next Thursday’s game against Halifax.

Aged 20, and once on Wigan’s books, he was recommended to Roughyeds last year by Danny Langtree.

“We couldn’t get him at the time, but he has now approached us and he is keen to come,” said Ashton.