Oldham's good ways

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If coaching is the art of extracting more from a side than appears to be there, then Andy Goodway is the most successful coach of the season so far.

With a newcomer to the job in charge and a squad which looked to have lost too many key players, Goodway's Oldham seemed a reasonable each-way bet for relegation.

Instead, they go into this afternoon's Silk Cut Challenge Cup fifth- round tie at Warrington in a comfortable mid-table position, able to concentrate on making progress towards Wembley - a destination that has eluded them thoughout their history.

The former Warrington scrum-half, Martin Crompton, returns for Oldham after injury, but another ex-Warrington man, Darren Abram, is rated doubtful with a dead-leg and Steve Gartland stands by.

Greg Mackey, Warrington's durable current scrum-half, will play despite recurring problems with his shoulder.

The Cup holders for the last seven years, Wigan, go to Batley at full strength, apart from the absence of Andy Farrell with an ankle injury. Their main worry is the state of the Mount Pleasant pitch, which is due to be further churned up by a football match today.

Batley's 45-year-old player-coach, Jeff Grayshon, has named himself as a substitute, and he has doubts about his forwards Mark Scott and Tony Walton.

The other genuine heavyweights left in the competition, Leeds, give the French scrum-half, Patrick Entat, his first game in three months, with Garry Schofield dropping to substitute against Ryedale-York. Richie Eyres returns for the injured Gary Mercer in the second row.

Salford and Featherstone have had contrasting fortunes with disciplinary rulings before their tie. Salford's Bob Marsden has escaped without a suspension for his recent sending-off, but Featherstone's Matt Calland has been banned for five matches for a head-butt.

Darren Hughes comes in for Calland, while Andy Gregory is able to add his vast experience of Challenge Cup campaigning to Salford's cause.

That is a well-balanced tie, as is the meeting between Sheffield Eagles and Widnes at the Don Valley Stadium, in which Sheffield hope to field a stronger pack than the one beaten in the League match at Widnes last week.

The newly-formed Irish rugby league side hope to use their trip to play the United States in Washington on St Patrick's Day to force their way into the World Cup in October.

At the launch of Mason Communications' sponsorship of the side, their manager, Brian Corrigan, said: "We should at least be in the competition for emerging nations, and we will be knocking on the door of the League's headquarters after we beat the United States."

The project advisor to the Irish, Alex Murphy, said: "Rugby league in Ireland is not a joke and this match could be the start of something very big."