TONIGHT’S Bower Fold battle featuring Championship bottom-four sides Oldham and Dewsbury Rams is “huge”, says Roughyeds boss Scott Naylor.
With points still available from six regular-season games plus seven Shield matches, Naylor stops short of billing this showdown (8pm start) as “must win”, but he does say it’s importance can’t be over-stated.
Fourth-bottom Oldham have nine points — three more than Rams, who are staring relegation in the face and travel to Stalybridge desperate to avenge the Roughyeds’ 28-24 win at their place on April 30.
Said Naylor: “As a year-two Championship side, still establishing ourselves, we’re bound to find that some games become bigger than others.
“This is one of them. It’s huge. But it’s not the be-all and end-all.
“In five or six of the 12 league games we’ve lost this year we’ve had the lead but we’ve been unable to hang on to it and close the game out.
“We’re not doing a lot wrong; we just need a couple of wins and then I’m sure we’ll kick on from there. We are going through a tough period. We did the same last year and came through it.”
Richard Lepori is out with an ankle injury and there will be no dual-reg players available from Huddersfield Giants.
“In such an important week for us, I’m disappointed about that,” added the Oldham boss, who will pick from last Sunday’s 17 minus Lepori and dual-reg pair Sam Wood and Tyler Dickinson, plus Jamel Chisholm, Sammy Gee, Liam Thompson, Danny Grimshaw, Liam Bent and Brad Hill.
Lepori’s ankle was still swollen at training last night and he is expected to be out for two to three weeks.
“On and off he often has trouble with this ankle,” said Naylor. “He’s a fast healer and he knows what he’s dealing with so we’re thinking he won’t be out too long,” said Naylor.
He won’t reveal his line-up until an hour before kick-off.
Oldham (from): Clay, Tyson, Turner, Leatherbarrow, Hewitt, Neal, Hughes, Burke, L Adamson, Langtree, Spencer, Ward, Owen, Davies, Chisholm, Gee, Thompson, Grimshaw, Bent, Hill.
New signing Zach Johnson, who made his debut at prop in a below-strength Rams side at Hull KR, will make his second appearance.
As many as seven or eight players who didn’t play last Sunday could return to action, among them Toby Adamson, younger brother of Oldham’s Luke, either at prop or in the second-row.
Coach Neil Kelly has targeted this game as one the Rams must win and he will be looking to recall Lucas Walshaw and Aaron Ollett, who were suspended last week, as well as scrum-half Gareth Moore, centre Macauley Hallett, utility back Shaun Squires and prop Jode Sherrife.
Josh Guzdek (full-back) and former Oldham prop Tony Tonks, who have both been injured, could also figure.
Dewsbury (from): Morton, Potts, Aaron Brown, Hooley, Alex Brown, Speakman, Fairhurst, Johnson, Hemingway, Igbinedion, Spicer, Hayes, Sykes, Day, Ward, Teanby, T Adamson, Walshaw, Ollett, Moore, Hallett, Squires, Sheriffe, Guzdek, Tonks.