LIFTED by an easing injury situation, Oldham RL Club have had more good news ahead of Sunday’s intriguing-looking clash with Sheffield Eagles at Bower Fold (3pm kick-off)
An incident at Swinton on Easter Monday, in which Jack Spencer was penalised for a late tackle, went to the RFL’s match review panel, who have ruled that the Oldham forward will not be charged.
Even so, a requirement to satisfy the technical demands of match officials will be uppermost in Scott Naylor’s preparations for the Sheffield game after his side was penalised an astonishing 16 times in the exciting 28-12 win against high-flying Batley Bulldogs.
When attacking the lower end of the ground in the second half, Bulldogs enjoyed an 11-3 penalty advantage, yet such was Oldham’s fortitude in defence that the visitors were try-less until they scored two in the last few minutes — after a run of five penalties in a row.
Similarly, Halifax were awarded 10 penalties to Oldham’s six in the previous home game on Good Friday.
After that game, Naylor said: “We gave Halifax too many penalties. I don’t understand what we are doing wrong in the ruck and what we are doing right. It was the same story up at Workington.”
Just as Roughyeds bounced back from four league defeats in a row to see off Batley with a patched-up side, Sheffield put consecutive Championship losses to Leigh, Whitehaven, Featherstone and Dewsbury behind them to make the whole division sit up with a 46-28 win at Bradford Bulls.
Naylor and his Eagles counterpart Mark Aston were two of the happiest men in Rugby League last Sunday night.
While Naylor had a bare-bones 17 players available, and went into battle with forwards Liam Johnson (18) and the inspirational Sam Gee in the back division, Aston questioned his side’s attitude in the defeat at Dewsbury and left out three of his most experienced players in prop Mitch Stringer (32), his captain, second-row man Michael Knowles (28) and winger Rob Worrincy (31)
Another who played at Dewsbury but not at Bradford was young stand-off David Hewitt, who had a spell on loan with Oldham from St Helens last season before going full-time with Sheffield this year along with Whitebank fans’ favourites Adam Neal and George Tyson.
Neal played second-row at Dewsbury, but was back in his more familiar prop position at the Provident Stadium (Odsal).
Tyson was at centre in both games, but Aston may defer a decision on whether to play him on the left or right in order to keep Oldham guessing.
Hewitt’s half-back role at Odsal went to young Cory Aston, who had an outstanding game as well as kicking seven goals from nine attempts.
The competitive nature of the man — a huge part of his appeal to fans in his Oldham days — will make Tyson determined to make an impact against his former team mates.
If Oldham are unchanged at centre and second-row he will have to contend with Gee and Gary Middlehurst or with Johnson and Liam Thompson, depending on which centre berth he occupies.
Either way, it’s going to be interesting, Tyson being the sort of all-action player who invariably attracts attention from opponents and opposing fans alike.
Middlehurst has similar characteristics —- and if they were to be in direct opposition that alone would be worth the admission money.
Neither coach will reveal his hand until later.
Aston, who has the option of reinstating Stringer, Knowles and Worrincy, will be having late checks on Scott Wheeldon, Keal Carlile, Garry Lo and Mark Mexico, who were all knocked about at Bradford.
He’s also lost winger Ben Blackmore to a two-match ban.
Referring to the Bradford game, the Eagles boss said: “It was all hands on deck. Tyson even went on the wing at one stage. Our backs were to the wall and it fired us up. Nobody thought we could win.”
Could that have been Naylor talking after the Batley game ? You bet it could.