spoilt for choice against Barrow

Date published: Friday, March 30, 2012

TONY Benson will be spoilt for choice when picking his side for Oldham’s big game at Whitebank on Sunday (3pm).

Twenty-three players are challenging for 17 spots and it could be 24 if winger Shaun Robinson (hip) passes a late test.

Only John Gillam and Luke Stenchion are out injured, so Benson will have lots of options in finding a combination that can inflict Barrow’s first defeat in seven games.

In contention are the 17 who beat Egremont last time out plus Liam Gilchrist, Mark McCully, Paul Smith, Valu Bentley, Michael Ward and Paul Ballard.

“Nearly everybody is fit and itching to go,” said the Roughyeds boss, who won’t reveal his hand until an hour before kick off.

While accepting that a clash of two unbeaten teams at the top of the division provides extra spice for supporters, Benson said that in the Oldham dressing room it was “just another match.

He added: “This is the third of 18 competition games. We aim to win them all in our quest to get promoted. In that regard, the Barrow game is no more important than any of the others.

“We take one game at a time. They will all be tough so we prepare accordingly.

“Barrow are back here in a fortnight in the Challenge Cup. I have been asked a few times by reporters if, come Sunday, we will have one eye on that game as well.

“Not on your life. Before then, we will be battling for six league points, including the derby at Rochdale on Good Friday, and the last thing on our minds right now is a cup tie which is still two weeks away

“We have been strong defensively in the last few games and we will need to be again because Barrow are formidable in attack and are capable of scoring from anywhere on the field

“They have some dangerous players.”

Those players were involved in a rough-house cup tie against French club Lezignan last week, the repercussions of which are rumbling on.

Four Lezignan players, plus Barrow’s Lee Haney and player-coach Darren Holt, have been charged with punching after incidents in the tie were viewed on DVD by the RFL’s Match Review Panel.

Haney is up on a grade C charge for sustained punching, while Holt is facing the less serious grade B charge.

Both face possible suspension next week, but it would take more than a one-match ban to affect the Oldham-Barrow cup tie on April 15.

Cautions have been issued to a fifth Lezignan player and to Barrow’s James Finch, also for punching.

During a fiercely-fought tie the Raiders’ 22-year-old hooker Jack Pedley suffered a nasty head wound which needed stitching both internally and externally.

He is doubtful for Sunday’s game, although he may play with the wound heavily protected.

It has emerged that Holt is also doubtful, having played most of the Lezignan tie with a slight tear of the calf muscle.

He said: “I’ll see what it feels like at the end of the week. We’ve got plenty of options at half-back and hooker. Everyone needs to be fully fit, that’s why we’ve recruited a big squad.”

Centre Daniel Toal, who also  took a knock, is expected to be fit.

Centre Aaron Low, second-rower Martin Ostler and utility man James Dandy, all of whom missed the tie, will be back in contention this weekend.

Roughyeds’ Reserves go to Featherstone Rovers tonight (8pm kick off) hoping to capitalise on their 38-10 win at Keighley last time out.

The squad comprises most of the players who turned out at Cougar Park plus new boy Nathan Jewitt, who plays at Oldham St Anne’s.