Championship 1 Weekend Preview

Oldham will be looking to get their promotion push back on track, as the battle for the top four spots in Championship 1 heats up.

Oldham v South Wales Scorpions (Sat, 3.00pm)

Oldham coach Tony Benson hopes to have John Gillam and Paul Noone in contention for Saturday’s clash with South Wales Scorpions.

But Lucas Onyango (hamstring) and Valu Bentley (calf) are both in doubt, while Jamie Dallimore is suspended.

Fifth-placed Oldham lost 26-16 against Whitehaven last week, but Benson has pleaded for patience as he battles against an enormous injury list.

Benson said: “We played pretty well against Whitehaven, but we didn’t score enough points and that comes down to the people missing.

“We can’t field a reserve team at the moment, and that says a lot about where we are in terms of our squad’s fitness.”

On the Scorpions, Benson said: “They’re a good side. They’ve just beaten Rochdale, and they’re certainly no mugs, so the Scorpions will certainly be coming up confident.”

Lewis Reece is back in contention for the Scorpions after missing last week’s 32-30 win over Rochdale due to illness.

Scorpions coach Dave Clark said: “I’ve just had all our stats from the Rochdale game, and there were massive improvements.

“Defensively there are still some problems that we need to fix up, but it was great for the team and supporters last week. Now we’ve got to make sure we keep our feet on the floor.”

He added: “I’ve kept in touch with Tony Benson since I started coaching. He’s going through some tough times at the moment regarding injuries, and I feel for him.

“He’s a good coach and he gets the best out of the side he has. We’ll need to be playing at our best to compete on Saturday.”

 

London Skolars v Gateshead Thunder (Sun, 2.00pm)

Mike Worrincy is set to make his 100thcareer appearance in Sunday’s Co-operative Championship One clash with Gateshead Thunder.

The former Harlequins, Bradford and Leigh star needs just one more appearance to reach the ton.

And after making an impact in his five Skolars matches this year, he will be hopeful of helping the Londoners to a win that could propel them into seventh place in the table.

Thunder have lost all seven of their Co-operative Championship One games this season.

The North East men are currently without a win in their last 55 competitive fixtures against non-amateur opposition in a losing streak dating back to March 2010.

However, centre Ashley Thackeray believes a win is imminent after seeing the effort Gateshead produced in their most recent defeat, a 46-26 loss against Rochdale.

Thackeray said: “All the boys are that much hungrier for that first win, and I don’t think it’s too far away for us now.”

Thunder coach Kevin Neighbour hopes to have both Mike Mitchell and Ryan McBride available for Sunday’s trip south.

 

North Wales Crusaders v Doncaster (Sun, 2.30pm)

Danny Hulme faces a late fitness test on a calf injury before North Wales Crusaders coach Clive Griffiths can finalise his squad.

However, Jono Smith still remains up to three weeks away from a return to first team action.

Griffiths said: “Having last week off gave us a bit of a break, but I’m not keen on missing too many games. However, we did some extra training and we’ve been able to stretch things out over a full week, which was good for us.

“Doncaster are going to be hurt by their loss at Workington. They’ll be favourites on Sunday, obviously – but Oldham were favourites against us too.

“I just hope we can continue to show that we’ll be competitive week in, week out. That was the aim coming into this division, and we’re gradually getting there.”

He added: “Doncaster are a very potent side. Paul Cooke is a great talisman, and with Craig Fawcett and Kyle Kesik they’ve got a good triangle in the middle.”

Second-placed Doncaster are expected to be boosted by the return of Craig Lawton from a recent illness.

 

Whitehaven v Barrow Raiders (Sun, 3.00pm)

Loz Hamzat (knee) and Richard Varkulis (groin) are both doubtful for Sunday’s Cumbrian derby with Barrow Raiders.

The Whitehaven pair suffered knocks in last week’s 26-16 win at Oldham, and face late fitness tests to determine their availability for this week’s Co-operative Championship One fixture.

However, Whitehaven coach Don Gailer has conceded that it is “more than likely they’ll join Andrew Beattie on the sidelines”.

Gailer added: “Brad Crellin is back in contention and Stephen Fox is also back on the training field, so we do have a couple of options if needed.”

On Barrow, Gailer said: “They’re an impressive team. They’re well disciplined and they’ve got some very strong structures.

“They’ll be extremely hard to beat, but we’re looking forward to being back at home in front of our own supporters.

“We were good defensively against South Wales and North Wales, and to follow that with our effort at Oldham was superb.

“The attitude has finally sunk in that defence is hard work, but you’ve just got to keep on turning up for each other.”

Injury-stricken Raiders are without six players after Chris Larken (knee) became the club’s latest casualty.

Aaron Low, Andy Litherland, Jack Pedley, Martin Ostler and player-coach Darren Holt are also set to miss Sunday’s game.