Squad news

Date published: Friday, April 23, 2010

WINGER John Gillam and back-row forwards Ian Hodson and Kashley Watkins, who all showed up well in the last reserve-team game at Featherstone, are scrapping for places in the Roughyeds side to meet Gateshead Thunder at Sedgley Park tomorrow (Saturday) night, kick-off 7.30pm.

Gillam has been battling to overcome a shoulder injury for the past 11 weeks, but he played well on comeback in the reserves at Post Office Road last Friday and, more importantly, suffered no ill effects.

Hodson, who can operate in any of the back-row positions or at stand-off, played in the pivotal No 6 role in the same match — his second outing for the reserves since he was brought back to the club a few weeks ago following the departure of Londoner Jack Graves.

Kashley Watkins

Watkins has yet to make his Roughyeds debut in cup or league, having broken a wrist in a pre-season game at Batley in January, but he also came through the last reserves game unscathed.

Youngster Ben Heaton, who has played in each of the Roughyeds’ 11 cup and league games so far, has been toiling against back trouble in the last couple of matches and gets a well-earned rest.

Coach Tony Benson has so far named a 21-man squad which he will trim to 17 after late fitness checks on centre Mick Fogerty (ankle), winger Lucas Onyango (knee) and prop Wayne Kerr (ankle).

It comprises the 17 who were on duty in last week’s Carnegie Challenge Cup defeat at Hunslet less Heaton plus Paul Reilly, Luke Sutton, Hodson, Watkins and Gillam.

Oldham (from): Ashe, Boults, Brocklehurst, Chandler, Clarke, Ellison, Fogerty, Gillam, Hodson, I’Anson, Kerr, O’Connor, Onyango, Reilly, Robinson, M Roden, N Roden, St Hilaire, Sutton, Watkins, Whitmore.

Roughyeds will be seeking to make it six league wins out of six against the club currently holding up the rest, but coach Tony Benson is keen to stress that Thunder are a much better side than that suggests.

They began the campaign on minus six points after going into administration, but Benson believes they are genuine play-off contenders who will eventually start to climb the league table.

“They suffered from injuries in the early part of the season,” he said, “but they have improved rapidly after a slow start, as shown when they pushed Doncaster all the way in their last match.

“Doncaster sit equal fourth, but they had a few frights before edging home against Thunder by four points in what is developing into a very tight division.”

Benson is looking to retain a sound defensive structure while stepping up the tempo on attack and, most importantly, improving discipline throughout the side.

He added: “The theme for us is discipline — and what to do with the extra possession that discipline will earn us. We need to focus on ourselves and get back to the situation in which we were improving week by week, albeit a small improvement at times.

“We’ve struggled in attack since we had those three weeks off, but our defence is still strong.

“Gateshead pose a serious threat and we are preparing accordingly with the intention of completing our sets and keeping hold of the ball. We were too indisciplined in the cup tie at Hunslet last week and we have to make improvements there.”

Joe Brown returns for Gateshead, but on-loan Great Britain Students’ half-back Nigel Scott, from Hunslet, is ruled out by a shoulder injury.

This will be a bitter blow to Oldham-born Scott, who played at Waterhead in the same junior teams as Mark Brocklehurst and Danny Whitmore and whose father Paul, an Oldham school teacher, is a keen Roughyeds supporter.

With no game last weekend, Thunder went on a survival training exercise with the Royal Marines.

Said club official Chris Hood: “It was 24 hours away camping in forests and it was tough, real tough. We were already a tightly-knit bunch, but this strengthened those bonds still further.”

Roughyeds reserves go to Cheltenham tomorrow to compete in a nine-a-side festival for the All Golds Cup with the following squad: Marc Kellett, Tom McMullen, Alistair Williams, Jamie Knight, Will Midgeley, Paul Ashton, Mark Smith, Jacob Kinney, Austen Barrowclough, Michael Cadd, Michael Ward, Johnny Fullalove, Ben Marsden.