Palmer out of retirement to aid Crocs’ cause

LAST season’s all-conquering Old Crossleyans front row could be reunited at some stage of tomorrow’s North One East contest at Middlesbrough.

Mark Palmer is coming out of retirement to aid the Broomfield team’s survival bid, which gained more momentum with a hard-fought home success over Northern in blustery conditions six days ago.

Palmer has trained twice this week and has been named on the bench for what is likely to be a tough match away to the third-placed side.

With hooker Richard Wheale recently returned from injury and remarkable old warhorse Andy Day still going strong on the other side of the scrum, it could be like old times if the improving Dave Maloney gives way to Palmer at some stage.

Skipper James Wainwright admitted Crocs had twisted Palmer’s arm to return and while he wouldn’t be available to face Team Northumbria the following week they hoped he might help out for the remainder of the season.

The league table - and Crocs’ poor away record - suggests the Halifax side have a mountain to climb tomorrow. However, Middlesbrough looked far from world beaters in a one-point win at Old Brodleians recently where their only area of supremacy was the maul. Also, Crocs are close to full strength.

Wainwright said: “On paper it looks a tough ask but I’m not sure they are as strong as they were. They have lost at home to Northern and scraped home against the Brods recently so that makes us a bit more optimistic.”

Crocs’ lineout failed to function against Northern and James Kavanagh has regained his starting place at lock in an effort to improve that area. Kev McGill drops to the bench.

The main area for debate in selection is the back row with No 8 Ryan Hammond suspended and Simon Normanton not quite ready to resume after injury. Manny Riaz and Rob Oliver continue but Danny Booth was due to have wisdom teeth removed today, putting his participation in doubt.

If Booth doesn’t make it, player-coach Chris Jones could switch to the back row with Gareth Ott coming in at stand-off.