FOR the middle game of three in eight days, Oldham RL boss Scott Naylor will be expected to make changes against Bradford Bulls at Bower Fold tomorrow (8pm kick-off).
After four consecutive games on the road against Halifax, Swinton Lions (at Blackpool), Batley Bulldogs and Dewsbury Rams, Naylor’s men will welcome the opportunity to return home for the first time since May 15.
Home is where the heart is for Roughyeds, who have won four of their seven Championship clashes at Bower Fold — against Dewsbury, Batley, Sheffield Eagles and Featherstone Rovers — and lost all nine on their travels, including a 23-12 defeat at bottom-of-the-table Workington Town in March.
Naylor will finalise his side at a light ‘captain’s knock’ training session tonight when several senior players who didn’t figure at Dewsbury on Sunday will be throwing their hats into the ring, among them captain Lewis Palfrey, vice-captain Sammy Gee, Will Hope, Jack Holmes, Adam Files and maybe even Craig Briscoe.
The former Leigh and Barrow second-row man, who seriously injured a knee in pre-season and hasn’t played since, was close to selection last week and this might be the time when he makes his long-awaited Roughyeds debut.
Utility back Jonny Pownall, who used to play with Briscoe at LSV, could also be in line for his first outing in Oldham colours, having signed on loan last week.
Bradford boss Rohan Smith, who succeeded Jimmy Lowes in May, has made four changes to the side that gained a hard-fought 29-22 win at Workington on Sunday, going in front six minutes from the end with a try by debut-making on-loan scrum-half Lewis Charnock from St Helens.
Out go new Aussie full-back Kieren Moss, who made his debut in Cumbria; young centre Ross Oakes; and forwards Dale Ferguson and Paul Clough.
Into his 19-man squad come forwards Jonny Walker and Steve Crossley; full-back Oscar Thomas; and his fellow Londoner Omari Caro, a flying winger.
After four games in charge, Australian Smith (35), son of former Bulls boss Brian and nephew of Warrington Wolves coach Tony Smith, says he is still looking for his strongest side.
Lying fifth in the table, Bulls will push Halifax out of fourth spot if they win tomorrow.
Said Smith: “Our target is to be in the top four at the end of the regular season and nothing I have seen so far has shaken my belief that we will make it.”
Commenting on Charnock’s match-winning performance at Workington, he said: “He caused trouble for their (defensive) line all game. I liked how he took the line on.
“That’s a lost art in rugby league. You usually play he ball to the sides and go round the back — it’s overdone. It was good to see Lewis, and Danny Addy too, taking the line on.”
Bradford (from): Olbison, Clark, Walker, Haggerty, Caro, Welham, Addy, Thomas, Charnock, Pitts, Ryan, Sidlow, Walshaw, Lumb, Lauaki, O’Brien, Clare, Crossley, Mellor.