Tony Benson to choose from 21 man squad

Date published: Monday, February 8, 2010

by ROGER HALSTEAD

Marcus St Hilaire (hamstring) and Saqib Murtza (shoulder) are lined up for comebacks in Oldham’s Northern Rail Cup derby clash with neighbours Hornets RL at Sedgley Park tonight (Monday).

Coach Tony Benson will choose from a 21-man squad which comprises the 17 on duty at Leigh last week plus Scott Mansfield, Mark Brocklehurst, St Hilaire and Saqib.

Play-anywhere back St Hilaire, one of Benson’s senior lieutenants, has been battling to overcome a long-standing hamstring problem which restricted him to only one appearance out of three pre-season games.

Second-row man Saqib, who damaged a shoulder in Howard Hill’s testimonial game at Whitehaven, will face a late check but is expected to come through.

Said Benson: “Apart from the Law Cup game against Hornets, when we fielded a very young side, this will be our first game against a team from the same division, so it will be a good test as well as a pointer for the league.

“There will be lots of derby passion — we saw that in the Law Cup — and we are looking forward to it.

“Training on Saturday morning was great. It was the first time we had been able to train in daylight on a pitch that wasn’t full of frost and with the sun shining.

“All the boys were really looking forward to Monday. They enjoy these derby games and I do as well.

“The players who were in the side at Leigh did very well. We were extremely competitive, but the challenge for us now is to turn good field position into points.

“Each of the three tries we scored at Leigh came off a kick and we have been working hard in a bid to produce more than that in our attacking game.

“We are also looking to to tighten up our defence. A lot of it was good at Leigh but some small parts of it let us down.”

His Hornets counterpart John Stankevitch, who will select from 20, said: “It should be a thriller. We will endeavour to put Oldham under pressure and play expansive rugby.

“Our programme so far has suffered disruption, but it’s now down to the players to go out and perform — and that’s something they have been waiting for all winter.

“Oldham have an aggressive forward in Wayne Kerr and two decent half-backs in Neil Roden and Matty Ashe, but I feel strongly that if we stick to the game plan I have put in place then we will be successful on the night.

“Whether the game was played in somebody’s back garden was never an issue — we were just desperate as a unit to get the fixture on.

“We need to put ourselves to the test after a long pre-season that has suffered more than its fair share of disruption.

“It’s now down to the players to go out and play — something they have been waiting for all winter.”

Oldham (from): O’Connor, Onyango, Littler, Brocklehurst, St Hilaire, Fogerty, Gillam, N Roden, Whitmore, Ashe, Boults, Mellor, M Roden, Ellison, Kerr, Chandler, Mansfield, Clarke, Bentley, Saqib, Heaton.

Hornets (from): Johnson, Fagborun, Samuel, Bloomfield, Smith, Roper, Powell, Raftery, Wood, Cookson, Hayes, Tunstead, Saywell, English, Corcoran, McPaul, Donoghue, Ostick, Hough, Ashall.

Roughyeds are providing FREE transport to the game, courtesy of Atlantic Executive Travel of Heywood, but fans must book at the club’s office on 0161 628 3677 before 3.00pm today (Mon).