Thommo set for home debut

Date published: Friday, April 26, 2013
LIAM Thompson, Oldham’s young loose-forward, is in line for a home debut in Sunday’s compelling clash with Oxford at Whitebank.

The 21-year-old Wiganer is a prototype of Scott Naylor’s new squad —- youthful, talented, ambitious and with an impressive  rugby league pedigree.
A shoulder operation held up his appearance on the Roughyeds’ stage, but he passed his first big test in the 36-0 win in Gloucestershire.
On the back of that, Thompson retains his place in the 19 from whom Naylor will select his side for Sunday’s showdown (3pm kick off) with Tony Benson’s squad of Whitebank old boys.
Three who didn’t play in Oldham’s last game — prop Chris Tyrer, hooker Sam Gee and centre Danny Samuel — are back in contention, but there is no place for Steven Nield, who loses his centre spot, or for Liam Gilchrist, who has been out for six weeks with a calf muscle injury.
The front-row forward continues to make good progress, but Naylor took an early decision on him at training last night and concluded this was no game for a player who has been sidelined for so long.
Said Oldham’s boss: “We’ll be looking to bring him back at Hemel Stags in a fortnight or maybe in the under-20s against Halifax at Whitebank next Friday.”
Nield plays in the under-20s against Featherstone at Whitebank tonight (8pm kick off), so Samuel looks set to partner Mo Agoro on the right flank.
Thompson’s place in the 17 would appear to be secure, given that he and Mark Hobson — the footballer and the grafter —- complement each other perfectly for sharing the workload at loose-forward.
Interestingly, Naylor has called up promising young scrum-half Sam Singleton out of the under-20s to train with the first team.
He plays with the second team tonight — his third appearance after joining from Leigh — but, starting next week, he will then train with the senior side on a permanent basis.
Said Naylor: “He’s made a big impression in his short time at the club. He fell into our lap, after stints with Leigh and Widnes, and he’s looking good.
“As soon as I get the chance I’ll put him in the first team and we’ll see how he goes.”
More immediately, Naylor has the small matter of an important home league game as his priority, with tough selection decisions to make across the whole of the front-row.
One of his five props and one of his three hookers will be disappointed as the Oldham boss wrestles with the task of trimming these 19 by two:
Oldham (from): Lepori; Agoro, Samuel, Cookson, Bloomfield; Palfrey, Roden; Boults, Files, Hughes, Gee, Marriott, Tyrer, Joy, Ward, Crowley, Langtree, Hobson, L Thompson.
Several Oxford players face late fitness checks, among them Chris Clarke (dead leg), Brett Robinson (hamstring), Martin Roden (neck) and Alex Thompson (elbow), but Lucas Onyango (knee) and JJ Baird (back) look certain to miss out.
Oxford (from): Leather; Johnson, Fiander, Morris, S Robinson; Connick, Price, B Robinson; Clarke, M Roden, Ellison, Halliwell, Bentley, A Thompson; Hadden, Osborne, Clough, Hoggins, Onyango, JJ Baird, Calladine.
Ten of those are former Oldham players in a squad that has experience on its side against a Roughyeds line-up that is blessed with the exuberance of youth.
Said Naylor: “You can’t buy experience, that’s true, but I’ve every confidence in my young blokes.
“We’ve prepared well, we’re injury free apart from Gilly (Gilchrist) and we don’t even have any niggles to worry about.
“Tony (Benson) is bound to want to get one over on us. He will have his lads ready and raring to go, but so will I with my boys.
“It’s just a matter of putting it together on the day.”
Both sides have four points from two league games, Oldham having picked up a bonus point from a 28-18 home defeat by Rochdale and three points from a 36-0 win against Gloucester All Golds.
Oxford won 40-30 at Gloucester and then lost 20-22 at home to South Wales.
Top points scorer in Championship One is Oxford full-back Jonny Leather with eight goals and two tries, while Oldham full-back Richard Lepori and Oxford hooker John Clough have each scored three tries in the league to share joint second place behind Gary Middlehurst of North Wales on four.
Teenage hooker Adam Files has scored a try in each of Oldham’s last three games, but one of those was in the Tetley’s Challenge Cup defeat at Hunslet.