Oldham hope for Hutchings thumbs-up

Oldham new boy John Hutchings, who pulled a hamstring in the Law Cup game at Rochdale on January 12, is expected to return to action in Sunday's Coral Challenge Cup fourth-round tie at Widnes Vikings (3pm kick off).

He was named on the bench at Toulouse Olympique, but he didn't go on the field and he didn't figure either in the 17 who were on duty in last Sunday's 16-14 Championship win at Whitehaven.

Coach Matt Diskin is clearly not prepared to take a chance on the 20-year-old former St Helens youngster, who hasn't played  for six weeks and whom Diskin wants to make sure is 100 per cent ready before throwing him into the firing line again.

Said the Oldham boss: "John trained normally this week and we have to wait until Saturday now to make sure he hasn't had an adverse reaction. It's a case of fingers crossed but we're very hopeful he'll be okay for weekend."

Signed as a centre or wide-running second-rower, Hutchings came off the bench in the first pre-season game at Barrow on January 5 and did a great job up front in his first-ever run-out as one of the "middles".

Diskin later praised his performance in a role to which he was totally unaccustomed.

He was switched to his more familiar role as a centre at Rochdale seven days later but he pulled up suddenly when chasing a kick, and he hasn't played since.

Like many other clubs in the Championship and League 1, Oldham don't have the luxury of a reserve team these days and long-term injury victims, such as Hutchings, Ed Smith, Ben Davies and Jode Sheriffe, have to make their comebacks in the first team.

Smith, Davies and Sheriffe, who is waiting for surgery on a knee injury, are still some time off, but Hutchings will be ready to return  at Widnes if head physio Chris Melling and his medical team are satisfied that he is fully ready to go again.

James Worthington, another young centre who is in his first season at Roughyeds, will be tested on a pulled groin that kept him out of the Toulouse and Whitehaven games, but he is still struggling a bit and his chances are not as good as those of Hutchings.

Roughyeds were minus recognised centres at Toulouse, where Kyran Johnson and Dan Abram filled-in, but they were stronger in Cumbria where Johnson (wing) and Abram (full-back) returned to their normal positions and were replaced by Cam Leeming. playing his first game for seven weeks after injury, and by new dual-reg teenager Jack Croft from Wakefield Trinity.

By Roger Halstead

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