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Nelmes doubt for derby cup challenge

IN-FORM prop Luke Nelmes is doubtful for Oldham RL Club’s second-round Betfred Challenge Cup tie against derby rivals Swinton Lions at Heywood Road, Sale on Sunday (12,30pm).

The big front-row man, who has been a tower of strength in the Roughyeds’ pack so far, has a twisted knee and will be assessed at training on Friday night.

If the worst happens and he’s ruled out, coach Matt Diskin hopes to have both Phil Joy and Jack Spencer back in the running. Both have played only once, Joy in the first friendly at Featherstone where he picked up a knock and Spencer in the second warm-up game against Halifax.

Long-serving Joy, the biggest prop at the club and virtually an automatic choice for the past eight years, didn’t play against Halifax and against Barrow in the first round of the cup because of the injury.

However, he is now “back in the running”, said Diskin, who has to submit his 21-man squad to the RFL 48 hours before the game.

He said:

“The purpose of assembling a big squad with the emphasis on pack strength was to be in a position where we could replace quality with quality in the event of somebody having to drop out.

“If that happens with Luke (Nelmes) this week we’ll be well covered and ready to go.”

Two players received head injuries in a hard-fought battle with Barrow in the last round — one should be available this week (Martyn Reilly), but the other (Dec Gregory) is out.

Hooker Gregory suffered concussion while prop Reilly, also on the bench at the start, had to come off when he took a nasty blow to the forehead.

It was Gregory’s second concussion in a year.

To meet RFL concussion protocols and play again so soon after the injury he would need to be cleared by a neuro surgeon and the club can’t get an appointment until Monday at the soonest.

With Matty Wilkinson a long-term injury victim with a broken leg, it looks like club captain Gareth Owen, the most experienced of the three, can stand by for another long stint after being on the field for about 70 of the 80 minutes against Barrow.

He will be the only specialist hooker in the squad, but with no scrums at present because of Covid, the hooker’s main task is from dummy half at play-the-ball.

The tie will be broadcast live by the BBC and shown on iPlayer, the Red Button and BBC Sport’s digital platforms. No cost — its free-to-view.

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