PROP Adam Neal is available to play his first home game since mid-April when Oldham clash with Whitehaven at the Vestacare Stadium on Sunday (3pm).
It’s a crucial game for both clubs in terms of earning a play-off place — and Roughyeds boss Scott Naylor is delighted to have his pack leader back in the firing line for the vital, six-match run-in to the end of the regular season.
Neal (28), who doubles up as the squad’s fitness and conditioning expert, missed 14 matches after suffering concussion in the home game against Keighley Cougars on April 15.
He made his long-awaited comeback in last Sunday’s win at Hemel and, to quote Naylor, “he looked like he had never been away.”
Added the Roughyeds boss:
“Adam was out for so long (nearly four months) that in some ways it’s like bringing a new forward in.
“I know the rest of the lads won ‘t mind me saying he has been a massive loss. And it’s good to have him back for the business end of the season.
“He’s very experienced, having played a lot of Super League, and he’s strong, fit and a very hard worker.
“He came through the Hemel game with no issues and, in truth, he looked like he had never been away.”
Adam Jones, out for the past few weeks because of a back injury sustained at work, is also expected to be ready for Sunday’s game, billed as one of the most important of the season.
Naylor believes that, come Saturday’s training session, he will have 24 players from whom to choose, comprising his 23 contracted men plus on-loan winger Lee Kershaw.
He’s hoping Roughyeds fans will recognise the importance of the game and turn up in numbers to cheer their boys across the line.
“A decent home crowd makes a huge difference,” he said. “It gives the boys a lift, of that there is absolutely no doubt.
“Last time we were in this division we were regularly getting between 600 and 700 and sometimes more than that.
“A lot of people said they were delighted we were coming back to the Vestacare Stadium after our two Championship seasons at Bower Fold, but the attendances this season haven’t reflected that.
“Our gates this year have been disappointing, to be honest, but we hope they will improve in our remaining home games, starting with Sunday’s four-pointer against Whitehaven.”
Turnstiles open at 2pm.
A match-day club shop will be open from the same time (cash or cheque only please) and Craig Halstead will be there to sell signed copies of his second Roughyeds book, which retails at £12.95 with all profits going to the club.
Our match-day magazine, Roughyed Review, 24 colour pages, sells at £3 and includes a colouring competition for young fans aged 12 and under.
Watch out too for 10-year-old Keira Arnold and her family who will be raffling off hospitality for two at our game at Newcastle on Sunday, August 19 to raise money for Dr Kershaw’s Hospice or, more specifically, for a fund called Keira’s Wishes.
This young, mad-keen Roughyeds fan has already raised £8,000 for Dr Kershaw’s, who have set up Keira’s Wishes to help terminally ill patients to fulfil their final wish.