Stand by for changes

Date published: Friday, February 25, 2011

STAND by for changes in the Oldham RL side to face Whitehaven at Whitebank on Sunday (3pm) in the Roughyeds’ fourth and final Northern Rail Cup pool 2 game.

With only 160 minutes of rugby to be played now before Roughyeds embark on their Championship One promotion bid, coach Tony Benson will make minor adjustments following two defeats in a row by Halifax and Swinton.

“I’ll pick from 21,” he said, “and I’ll make changes as we look to settle on a side going into the league programme.”

The four players added to last week’s 17 are Ben Heaton, Valu Bentley, Dave Ellison and Matty Ashe.

Matty AsheHalf-back Ashe, who played in 22 of the Roughyeds’ 28 games last year, made two pre-season appearances but he has yet to play in the Northern Rail Cup. He was 18th man against Hunslet and Swinton.

Full-back Heaton was in top form before tweaking a groin in the warm-up at Halifax — a setback that gave Marcus St Hilaire an opportunity to play equally well against Swinton in his first appearance of the season.

Loose-forward Bentley missed that game after being knocked-out at Halifax, but he and front-row man Ellison will be strong contenders to return to the side.

Benson’s decision last week to switch Ben Wood from centre to second-row, coming off the bench, opened up a chance for Mark Brocklehurst to push his claims for a centre spot.

He responded with two tries to add to the one he scored in his only other previous outing in the Law Cup win against Rochdale in early January. Wood also gave a strong performance in tandem with Brocklehurst on the right side.

Unlike last week, when he had little option but to play two hookers on the bench, Benson will have tough selection decisions to make right across the park as Roughyeds bid to preserve this season’s unbeaten record at Whitebank.

Oldham (from): St Hilaire, Heaton, Onyango, Brocklehurst, Bradbury, Gillam, N Roden, Diveney, Ashe, Boults, Wood-Hulme, Clough, Whitmore, M Roden, Sutton, Ellison, Isherwood, Wood, Noone, Clarke, Bentley.

Whitehaven were hammered 50-0 here in the SEAT Trophy game last month, but this time they will field a much stronger team which will include new signing Luke Issaka, an Aussie prop who has already made a big impression at the Recreation Ground.

Coach David Seeds expects a much more competitive game on Sunday. He said: “It’s certainly going to be a different game. We know now what the pitch, surroundings and facilities are like.

“Oldham ran Swinton pretty hard last week. They are a big side and they are a good team in their own right.”

Whitehaven face a tough few days, starting with the Oldham game on Sunday. They play Halifax in a rearranged Northern Rail Cup game next Wednesday night and then face French club Lezignan, both at home, in the Carnegie Challenge Cup on the Saturday.

Added Seeds: “Playing three games in such a short time will certainly test the squad. We have a squad of 35 and although we won’t use them all we will certainly need more than the 18 or 19 we would normally use on a weekly basis.”

Howard Hill (ankle) and Reece Fox (flu) would have missed the Halifax game had it gone ahead last Sunday, but there is a chance both will be fit to come to Oldham.