WITH the start of a crucial season little more than 48 hours away, Oldham boss Scott Naylor has emphasised his belief that his 2019 squad is better than the one he had last year.
He’s preparing to go into battle against Workington Town at the Vestacare Stadium on Sunday (3pm) with 23 of his 25 players available and itching to be given first shout on the opening day of the campaign.
It would have been 22, but young prop Titus Gwaze’s arrival on loan from Wakefield Trinity this week provided him with even more options than he initially anticipated.
Highly-rated Titus (19) trained with the squad on Tuesday and Thursday and is among the 23 who will have to be whittled down to 19 and then to 17.
First impressions of the new boy ?
Said the Roughyeds boss:
“He looked very comfortable and fitted in right away. He’s a nice lad who will be a very good addition to the squad, and I’ve no doubt a lot of the fans will like him too.”
Odd men out are Paul Crook with a foot injury and suspended Danny Bridge, but neither Danny Grimshaw nor Ben Davies has featured in any of the three pre-season games because of injury so that might also work against them.
Even so, Scott and his staff will still have some tough selection decisions to make and, as is his custom, he isn’t giving anything away at this stage.
Asked about Workington, who finished higher than Roughyeds last year and got to within 80 minutes of promotion, he said:
“I’m sure they’ll finish in the top two or three so that alone shows that, as an opening-day fixture, it’s as tough as they come.
“They’ve kept most of their lads from last season and have since made notable additions.
“They beat us down here by two points last year and we expect a similar sort of game — tough, close, physical and hard.
“Leon (Pryce, the coach) did a fantastic job at Derwent Park last season and he’ll be all the better for having had his first year as a coach at this level.
“He’s got a big, experienced set of forwards and that was why York City Knights did so well last year.
“Workington are very strong up front and one of the first things we must do is try to get on top of the Town forwards.
“That will be a tall order, but I do feel we are stronger than last year with more experience and more depth in the squad.”
Reports coming out of Cumbria are suggesting Town might have two dual-reg players from Huddersfield in their ranks, but that has still to be confirmed.