Team news

Date published: Friday, August 13, 2010

JOHNNY Walker, the ex-Wigan forward whom Oldham signed on pro forms six weeks ago, will be in the mix when coach Tony Benson considers his selection options for Sunday’s derby clash with Rochdale Hornets at Whitebank (3pm kick off).

The 22-year-old back-row man, on contract to Roughyeds to the end of next season, is still waiting for his senior debut although he has been 18th man for the last two games.

Benson, who will pick from a 23-man squad, is giving nothing away about the formation of his final 17, but he has confirmed that Walker is in contention.

The provisional squad comprises the 17 who won at York last Sunday, plus Greg McNally, Luke Sutton, Craig Robinson, Scott Mansfield, Alistair Williams and Walker.

Sutton, Robinson, Mansfield and Williams are also included in a 21-strong reserve team squad for tomorrow’s game with Leigh Centurions at Whitebank (2pm), but Walker doesn’t figure in that squad — another indication, perhaps, that his big chance at senior level is just around the corner.

Mathematically, Roughyeds could still finish top of Championship One and earn automatic promotion, but the probability is that they will go into the play-offs in pole position.

In preparing for that, Benson’s strategic plan is to give enough players enough game time to ensure that changes, enforced or otherwise, will not adversely affect the smooth running of the operation.

He said: “Ideally, we are working towards a situation where we can cope with changes without noticing any difference to our level of performance.

“We haven’t a big squad, but we have sufficient cover now for all positions and we have to utilise the squad to get the best out of it if we happen to pick up injuries along the way.”

Benson’s 17 to go into battle with Hornets will come from the following:

O’Connor, Onyango, St Hilaire, Williams, Fogerty, Gillam, N Roden, Ashe, McNally, Boults, M Roden, Whitmore, Mansfield, Kerr, Clarke, Ellison, Sutton, Robinson, Chandler, Heaton, Bentley, Hodson, Walker.

The Oldham boss expects a battle royal with Rochdale going all out for the points in a bid to cling on to third position for the advantages that provides in the cut and thrust of the play-offs.

“In terms of finishing third it’s a do-or-die game for Hornets,” said the Kiwi, “and they will come out fighting, that’s for sure.

“John Stankevitch, their coach, had done a superb job at Spotland this year. Like us, they have surpassed expectations — and I believe it says a lot about the game in this area when Oldham are assured of a second-place finish and their neighbours are pushing for third.”

Benson hopes fans of both clubs will rally round to make it an occasion to savour on and off the pitch.

Reserve team coach John Hough will name his side to face Leigh at Whitebank tomorrow from the following: Coates, Dennis, Williams, J Knight, Chetwynd, Hatton, Connick, Raftery, Mansfield, Sutton, Robinson, Smith, Brocklehurst, Barrowclough, Shepherd, Mellor, Ward, Lowe, Kellett, Cadd, Joy.

New-boy Shepherd is a 20-year-old prop from Leigh Miners.