“Roper on standby”

Date published: Friday, May 23, 2014
STEVEN Roper may get his long-awaited Oldham debut against Gloucester All Golds on Sunday.
The Rochdale Hornets’ half-back’s initial one-month loan spell is nearly up and he’s still to drag the Oldham jersey over his head.
Coach Scott Naylor’s policy, as ever, is to name his team at training on Saturday mornings and, until the players have been informed, to keep his thoughts to himself.
But he confirmed that 27-year-old Roper was in contention — as well as 22 others — and added that he would be making changes for the game at the Prince of Wales Stadium in Cheltenham (3pm kick off).
“That’s not because anybody has been playing poorly,” he said.
“I’m thinking of making a few changes because I want to look at different players doing different stuff.”
Three are ruled out by injury — Adam Files, Edwin Okanga-Ajwang and long-term casualty Liam Thompson.
Everybody else is fit and available and that includes Salford centre Jon Ford, who is on dual registration which, by its very nature, means he is here on a week-to-week basis.
After playing all last season for Roughyeds on long-term loan — and scoring 21 tries in 15 games — Ford was shipped off to Sheffield Eagles by the Red Devils at the start of this season.
He returned to Whitebank only last week and played his first game for Roughyeds in the thrilling 31-30 victory over York City Knights.
It was Ford’s first game for three or four weeks so he will be all the better for the run-out.
Oldham have had no trouble scoring points, amassing 143 in the last four games.
Left-wing Dale Bloomfield is second in the Championship One try-scoring list with eight, while Mo Agoro on the other flank has scored at least one try in each of the last three games.
It’s the defence that needs attention and it may be with that in mind that Naylor is considering his options and thinking of change.
Of a Gloucester side that won at London Skolars last time out in new coach Steve McCormack’s opening gambit, Naylor said: “I’ve seen footage and they are playing very well indeed.
“Everything is going for them just now —- new coach, fresh faces boosting the squad and a win in London. All positives. We’re expecting a very tough game.”
One of those ‘positives’ is the impact made on debut by 19-year-old on-loan hooker or halfback Casey Canterbury. The Hunslet Hawks youngster replaced injured Danny Fallon at half-time, off the bench, and scored two tries in a sizzling performance.
Describing his contribution as ‘fantastic’, McCormack said of him: “He got out of dummy half well, picked up the tempo, added quality when we needed it and scored two tries.
“We’ve a lot to work on, but it was a good start. We want to change the way other teams think about us. We don’t want anybody thinking they’ve only to turn up to get three easy points.”
Oldham (from):  Nield, Agoro, Cookson, Ford, Bloomfield, Palfrey, Robinson, Joy, Whitmore, Ward, Crowley, Langtree, Tyson, Hughes, Davidson, Mason, Gee, Mooney, Boults, Whitehead, Hobson, Wood, Roper.
All Golds (from): Cowburn, Jenkins, Ward, Te’o, Spencer-Tonks, Fallon, Thomas, Walters, Cook, Duffy, Muranka, Fairbank, Smith, McLean, Chapman-Walker, Francis, Canterbury, White, Claridge.