TO underpin Scott Naylor’s decree that there will be ‘nothing friendly’ about Sunday’s Law Cup game at Bower Fold, both Oldham and Rochdale have agreed to play their strongest available squads and to prepare as they would for Championship rugby.
Each side will have only four substitutes on the bench, as in all league, cup and play-off games, and rival coaches Naylor and Alan Kilshaw will each demand that their players go flat out to get their hands on the silverware.
“Both teams will be building up to the game as they would for a cup final,” said Oldham chairman Chris Hamilton. “Bragging rights are always a big issue in Oldham-Rochdale derbies, but rarely have they meant so much to so many as they will in this one.
“It will be 17 v 17 and it will be bursting with pride and passion.”
With the likelihood of five or six former Oldham players in the Hornets squad, headed by Lewis Palfrey, Josh Crowley and Gary Middlehurst, there will be plenty of fierce ‘mate v mate’ clashes in which friendships will go on hold for 80 minutes.
Said Naylor: “The Law Cup is never a friendly, and it certainly won’t be this year. It’s a great fixture with which to kick-off the season. I’m delighted it’s back on the calendar and, having enjoyed a couple of wins at Rochdale, it will be good to play it at our place.
“We’ve had a good Law Cup record in recent years, so let’s hope that will continue.
“Players of both sides look forward to it; the fans are always talking about it. It seems to have been a big topic of conversation among both sets of fans since the game was announced a couple of months back.”
The Crowley factor alone should boost the shared gate. Like Palfrey, Oldham’s captain for the past four years, Crowley was a key man in everything Roughyeds achieved in the first three years of Naylor’s tenure before moving to the other side of the M62 to join the old enemy.
He has already had a full season in Rochdale colours, playing an important role in enabling head coach Kilshaw — ‘Killer’ to all in the Hornets’ nest — to guide them to promotion at the first attempt.
Said the Hornets boss: “We’ve strengthened well for the step-up in status this season and Lewis Palfrey, Gary Middlehurst, Miles Greenwood, Rob Massam and Gavin Bennion are huge signings.
“It shows we’re an attractive proposition, which is a credit to the club and to the chairman, Mark Wynn.
“Every player we have brought in has improved the squad and added to the competition for places.”
Bennion is one of four new recruits from Halifax, alongside full-back Greenwood, Ryan Maneely and Jake Eccleston.
Roughyeds will claim they have strenghtened equally as well, if not better with the capture of Adam Neal, Ben Davies, George Tyson, David Hewitt, Nathan Chappell and Scott Leatherbarrow.
There’s a chance that all six will play, although prop Davies (back) and utility man Chappell (knee) will face fitness checks tonight.
Admission: seats, adults £14, concessions £11, under-16s £3; standing, adults £12, concessions £9, under-16s £2.
The supporters’ association, ORSA, have a Quiz Night tonight (8pm) at Higginshaw ARLFC, with a £180 jackpot up for grabs. Before Sunday’s Law Cup they are hosting hospitality at £25 a head, including a main stand seat.
Ring Paul Hulbert (07534329674) or John McAndrew (07980129541) to book.