Big-game fitness checks for Smith, Spencer

Departing head coach Scott Naylor would love to say farewell with a second promotion in his seven seasons at Oldham.

Victory on Sunday for third-placed Roughyeds against second-placed Newcastle Thunder would edge him closer to his dream send-off when his current contract runs out at the end of the season.

Roughyeds expect their biggest crowd of the campaign for this one and the soon-to-leave boss is banking on key forwards Jack Spencer and new-boy Ed Smith proving their fitness ahead of kick-off.

Spencer was hurt in the first half of last week’s 15-14 win at London Skolars and went off never to return.

Smith, on debut and playing his first game in two years after two reconstructions of the same knee, was impressive off the bench, but felt some discomfort afterwards.

Both were in for treatment on Tuesday night, after which Naylor said he was hopeful that both would make it for weekend.

Of Spencer, he said: “Jack took a big knock and suffered a lot of nerve pain in his hip. He was a lot better from Saturday to Tuesday so we’re hoping he will be ready to go by the end of the week.”

He said of Smith:

“In view of what he’s been through in the last couple of years he was never going to emerge from his first game back feeling on top of the world and without a twinge.

“His big test will come on Thursday night when he has a full training session, but we’re hopeful for him and very positive, as is he.

“He played very well indeed in his first outing for us, proving without doubt that if he comes through this challenge he’s going to be a top forward for us in the all-important games that lie ahead.”

Though there were “a few niggles” among the rest of the squad everyone apart from Spencer and Smith was ready to go and looking forward to going head to head with the biggest spenders in the division.

Seven wins in a row have taken Thunder to within three points of leaders Whitehaven with a game in hand, but if Roughyeds can pull it off they will leapfrog the Tynesiders, go second and enhance their chances of giving the boss the farewell he craves.

It’s going to be a biggie, handled by Aussie referee Matt Rossleigh.


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