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Will hookers point the way in the clash with Eagles?

OLDHAM and Sheffield Eagles, who clash at Bower Fold tomorrow (Sat) in a tough-to-call Betfred Championship game, have each named three hookers in their provisional 21-man squads.

Club captain Gareth Owen, who had a short spell at Sheffield a year or two ago, is Oldham’s senior hooker, supported by livewire Declan Gregory and youngster Jamie Abram.

While former Salford hooker Owen is in his fifth season as Roughyeds captain, both Gregory and Abram are newcomers this season, both signed after Owen’s hooking partner over the past two years, Matty Wilkinson, broke a leg in pre-season training.

It was considered important to have three hookers on the books, but Abram, who was 21 this week, has made the 17 only once and that was at York when Owen was down with an infection and Gregory was in from the start.

Sheffield’s hooking trio are Greg Burns, James Davey and Robbie Ward.

Burns and Davey are ever-presents so far this season, but Ward’s inclusion in the 21 suggests something interesting may be afoot in the mind of Eagles boss Mark Aston; either that or there may be a doubt about one of his regulars which won’t be resolved until later.

Davey (31) is noted for his defence-busting scoots from dummy half – like Oldham’s Gregory – but Aston went for Burns in his starting line-up at Halifax last time out with Davey on the bench

According to their match preview on the Eagles website, Sheffield appear to be putting a lot of faith in their hookers to give the Eagles a vital advantage and that won’t go down well with the Owen, Gregory, Abram triumvirate.

Gregory has caused opposing defences huge problems in his nine appearances out of a possible ten and Roughyeds fans will be looking to the former Rochdale, North Wales Crusaders and Castleford hooker to show that anything Davey can do for Eagles, he can do better for Roughyeds.

Both teams will be looking for positive responses following heavy defeats last time.

Sheffield lost 46-12 at Halifax a week ago, while Oldham went down 40-18 at home to Widnes Vikings two weeks ago.

Oldham, who have lost four games in a row, know they will have to play much better than of late if they are to end that losing sequence.

Said skipper Owen:

“In patches against Widnes we matched them physically, but the patches didn’t last long enough to give us a chance to win.

“We need to play a whole lot better against Sheffield.”

The game kicks off at 3pm and fans can attend if they buy a ticket in advance online.

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