OLDHAM RL Club’s medical team will be working overtime at training tonight to assess the fitness of several key players ahead of Sunday’s final game of the regular season against derby rivals Rochdale Hornets at Bower Fold.
Roughyeds can’t finish higher than third bottom – the position they occupied after 23 Championship games last year – because fourth-bottom Hornets have two more points and a better for-and-against record.
Scott Naylor’s men will, however, have plenty more reasons than that for wanting to conquer the old enemy, not least to avenge a 38-28 Summer Bash defeat at Blackpool and to register a derby triumph for the first time in four clashes with the red, white and blues this year.
Hornets won the pre-season Law Cup game at Bower Fold and the Bloomfield Road clash, either side of a 26-26 draw at the Crown Oil Arena in March.
Roughyeds also need the vital points on offer to be sure of finishing outside the bottom two at the 23-game mark and, ahead of the seven Shield games, to keep as much daylight as possible between themselves and the teams beneath them, troubled Swinton Lions and Bradford Bulls.
With 16 points still to play for it’s looking like Bradford and any one of Swinton, Oldham, Rochdale or Dewsbury to go down.
Said Naylor: “Every game will be like a final because we are desperate to stay in this division, as all the others will be.”
Both Oldham and Hornets have injury problems ahead of the big game.
Oldham’s concerns surround players in three categories – those who picked up knocks against Sheffield; those who were injured in the previous game and missed the defeat by the Eagles; those who have been out for much longer.
George Tyson (knee), Matty Wilkinson (calf) and Scott Leatherbarrow (calf) were hurt on Sunday.
Danny Langtree (bicep), Liam Thompson (sternum) and Kameron Pearce-Paul (sternum) struggled against Featherstone and missed the Sheffield game.
Scott Turner, Phil Joy and Richard Lepori are out for the season and there will be updates on Gareth Owen, Jack Spencer, Adam Neal and Craig Briscoe.
At Rochdale, Lewis Palfrey and Miles Greenwood are currently sidelined and a third former Oldham player, Gary Middlehurst, faces a check on damaged ribs.
Kevin Penny’s month’s loan from Warrington will take him past the signing deadline, while other players from the Wolves, like Declan Kay, Lewis Hatton and Lee Mitchell are also expected to stay at Rochdale for the rest of the season.