OLDHAM will have to beat Workington Town the hard way following the shock news from training last night that Richard Lepori, Jack Spencer and Lewis Foster will be unavailable.
Hooker Foster’s extended loan agreement contained a call-back clause which Leigh Centurions have activated.
Full-back Lepori, who sustained a badly gashed hand in Workington’s 32-30 win at Bower Fold two weeks ago, had stitches removed early this week and has since told the club he can’t play for another two weeks.
It was thought prop Spencer would be fit after shoulder trouble but he also withdrew last night because the injury is causing him more concern.
Add Adam Clay (shoulder) and Michael Ward (suspended) to the list of absentees and coach Scott Naylor will have to pick a side to do battle in Sunday’s Bower Fold relegation showdown with the Cumbrians (3pm kick-off) without four who played last time and a fifth (Spencer) who was expected to return after several weeks on the casualty list.
Said Naylor: “We can’t let injuries become a distraction. We have to focus on the boys who will be giving everything they’ve got for the club and the badge.”
New-boy winger Scott Turner looks sure to make his debut, but his fellow beat-the-deadline signing James Mendeika is said to be a couple of weeks off after playing little rugby this season.
There’s no shortage of forwards to cover for Ward, Spencer and Foster, though Naylor could opt to switch Gareth Owen back to his original spot at hooker to work in tandem with in-form Kenny Hughes, who scored two late tries last time as Roughyeds threatened to pip Town at the post in a thriller.
As for full-back, there could be a chance for either Sammy Gee or Lewis Palfrey to step into the breach.
Naylor is left with 18 to pick from plus dual-reg youngsters from partner club Huddersfield Giants.
Team (from): Blagbrough, Briscoe, Burke, Chisholm, Files, Gee, Gill, Grimshaw, Hewitt, Hope, Hughes, Joy, Langtree, Middlehurst, Owen, Palfrey, Thompson, Turner plus dual-reg personnel.
Town are without two who played last time — injured winger John Patrick and suspended utility man Karl Olstrum.
Coach Phil Veivers must also decide between Carl Forber and Callum Phillips to partner Jarrod Sammut at half-back.
Prop Marc Shackley said: “Self-belief counts for lot and after three wins in a row we’ve got piles of that.
“Oldham are good on their own patch. It’s on a slope and they know how to use it. They also have two good hookers who’ll we’ll have to keep our eye on”.