Roden positive about going to Hornets

Date published: Friday, April 6, 2012

NEIL Roden has given Oldham RL Club a boost ahead of  the derby clash at Rochdale.

The Roughyeds skipper missed the Barrow game because of a sore back, but he has since passed a fitness test to give coach Tony Benson a major selection poser in the key stand-off half position.

“Neil is back in contention,” said Benson, “but I now have a very tough decision to make because Danny Whitmore did a great job for us as the captain’s stand-in last Sunday.

“Apart from long-standing injury victims like John Gillam and Luke Stenchion, I’ll be picking from a fully-fit squad and I’ll have some tough decisions to make, none more so than the one at stand-off.”

The Oldham boss underlined the merits of the squad system in team selection and stressed that any success Roughyeds might achieve this year would be reward for the entire playing staff, including the reserves team.

“This season is about far more than the 17 players who are on the field in any particular match,” he said.

“Up to now we have been pretty consistent in our performances, and our results, and that’s because we have assembled a good strong squad that is a nice mix of youth and experience.

“The players in the reserves are pushing for places and that keeps everybody on their toes and plays a big part in the levels of performance that we are trying to achieve with each passing game.”

Benson will finalise his line-up for Spotland (1pm kick off) at training tonight but, in keeping with his approach to the Barrow game, he is unlikely to reveal his hand until an hour before kick off.

He played down any notion that his table-toppers —- three wins in three games so far — would have special plans to combat the threat of Rochdale’s former Oldham players Paul O’Connor and Chris Baines.

O’Connor, t full-back, and Baines, at centre, have been in good form for Hornets, who have beaten London Skolars (home) and North Wales Crusaders (away) and lost to Whitehaven up in Cumbria.

Added Benson: “My only concern is for Oldham, it’s about what we do and about making sure that we are as good as we possibly can be.

“We can improve certain areas of our defence and at the same time we are putting a lot of emphasis on getting the attack right.

“There’s always a bit of extra fire about a derby clash and I expect this one to be just as tough as the Barrow game.

“In this division this year there is certainly no let-up in the pressure and the intensity.

“Both teams are coming off the back of very good wins so it should be an absolute humdinger.

“I’m sure our fans will turn up in force and get right behind us from the start.

“That does make a huge difference and the supporters have an important role to fulfil.

“We are all in this promotion battle together — players and fans alike.”

Bullish Hornets boss John Stankevitch said he was not fazed by Oldham’s 100 per cent league record so far.

He said: “I don’t buy into it. I’ve got the utmost respect for every team in the division, but three wins out of three means nothing at this stage.

“There’s nobody in the Oldham team that I would sign and put into my team. There’s nobody I would take over the lads we’ve already got here.”