Tough decisions for ScottDate published: Tuesday, August 4, 2015
SCOTT Naylor will have tough decisions to make when selecting his Oldham side for Sunday’s game at Hemel Stags (2.30pm kick off).
He firmly believes there are benefits to be derived from a squad rotation policy, as he has stated publicly more than once.
Given there are five league games left and the trip to Hertfordshire is followed by Newcastle away and then Barrow and Swinton at Whitebank, this might be regarded as the time to bring rotation into play.
The six who haven’t figured in the brilliant wins against North Wales Crusaders (23-6) and Keighley Cougars (38-8) are forwards Richard Joy and new boys Will Hope and Elliot Liku and backs David Hewitt, Tom Dempsey and Tom Ashton.
Back division changes might be forced on Naylor, depending on the fitness of wingers Adam Clay (ribs) and Jack Holmes (foot), who were injured last Sunday; Holmes in the warm-up and Clay shortly before half-time.
Ashton (23), a former Sheffield Eagles centre who damaged knee ligaments in only his second game for Roughyeds in South Wales in April, is thought to be on the verge of a comeback.
Naylor will also want to look at Hope and Liku sooner rather than later, but he will be mindful that Hemel, and Gloucester to a lesser degree, have given Roughyeds a few torrid times in his three seasons at Whitebank.
To prove they are anything but “southern softies”, Hemel drew 20-20 at Whitebank in the first of two visits here last season and followed up with a 44-32 win in Hertfordshire on one of the few occasions when Naylor has had reason to be miffed by the performance of his squad.
In 2013, Hemel’s first season at semi-pro level, Roughyeds had to work hard for two wins, 30-12 away and 26-18 at home.
Gloucester, similar opponents, drew 24-24 at Whitebank in 2013 and even caused a stir here as recently as May this year when holding Naylor’s men to a narrow 33-30 win.
Juggling his fancy for making maximum use of his squad while going south with a group that is least likely to skid on a potential banana skin will be Naylor’s priority in his efforts to maintain a four-point lead at the top of League One.
Remaining fixtures of the eight clubs chasing five play-off spots are:
OLDHAM (28 points, five to play): Hemel (a), Newcastle (a), Barrow (h), Switon (h), Oxford (a).
YORK (24 points, six to play): Oxford (h), London Skolars (a), North Wales (h), Hemel (h), North Wales (a), Barrow (h).
KEIGHLEY (24 points, six to play): London Skolars (a), South Wales (a), Barrow (h), Rochdale (a), Gloucester (a), Hemel (h).
NORTH WALES (23 points, six to play): Rochdale (a), Swinton (h), London (a), York (h), Newcastle (a), York (a).
SWINTON (23 points, six to play): London (h), North Wales (a), Gloucester (h), Oldham (a), South Wales (h), Oxford (h).
ROCHDALE (22 points, five to play): North Wales (h), Oxford (a), Keighley (h), Barrow (a), London (h).
BARROW (22 points, five to play): Coventry (h), Keighley (a), Oldham (a), Rochdale (h), York (a).
NEWCASTLE (18 points, five to play): Gloucester (a), Oldham (h), Coventry (h), South Wales (a), North Wales (h).