Oldham crash in League 1 play-off

OLDHAM’S 2018 season ended with a disappointing 47-0 defeat by Bradford Bulls at Odsal in the Betfred League 1 promotion semi-final.

Workington won at Doncaster in the other play-off game, so the Cumbrians go head-to-head with the Bulls at Odsal for the right to join title-winning York City Knights in the Championship next year.

Intriguingly, Workington  did a league double over the Bulls, winning at Derwent Park early in the season and then completing another win at Bradford more recently.

Oldham, alas, face another season in the third tier after competing strongly for 20 minutes or so and then collapsing to be on the receiving end of their biggest defeat of the year.

In fairness, they went into the game without four suspended players — Danny Bridge, Ben Davies, Luke Nelmes and Luke Hooley — and it was to prove too much of a handicap in a game too far  for Scott Naylor’s men.

Four times they had men held up over the Bulls line, but in the main they struggled to break down a well-drilled home defence.

In stark contract, Bulls led 19-0 at half-time and went on to finish with eight tries, five of them in the second half and four of those in a ten-minute spell when Lee Kershaw was sin-binned for kicking the ball away in frustration after a Dane Chisholm 40-20.

He hadn’t been back long when Gareth Owen was also shown yellow for a high tackle.

Ross Peltier ran in to spark a pile-up and he was also sin-binned as the tie finished with 12 men on each side.

Describing Oldham’s 2018 season as one of the strangest he had ever been involved in, Scott Naylor said: “To be perfectly honest, I’m glad it’s over.”

Said Naylor: “Every single player in the squad has given everything all season, but we lost an incredible number of close games; we rarely got the rub of the green; and as a result of both of those things we finished in a league position that inevitably made it a long shot for us to get the result we wanted against Bradford at Bradford.

“The game was a mirror image of our entire season — brilliant for the first 20 minutes, but then we started making mistakes which cost us field position and lost us possession and stopped us putting serious pressure on the Bulls, although over the course of the match we did have four players held up over the line.

“When we did get opportunities to put points on the board we didn’t take them because of our offensive errors.

“You can get away with that against the so-called lower teams, but all that does is to mask the fact that you can’t do it against the stronger sides and hope to get away with it.

“It’s something we have tried to fix all season but, for whatever reason, we have been unable to change the way we play offensively.

“Our best performances all season were those against York home and away, even though we lost both of them.

“In those games we played simple, yet constructive, rugby with a good kicking game and sound defensive structures.

“We need to play like that for 80 minutes not only on any given Sunday, but week after week over the course of a full season.

“For next year, we need to fix this up, learn lessons and put things right because we definitely need to put more points on the board.

“Look at our defensive stats and they’re not bad at all, but our attacking record is very average indeed for a club hoping to win promotion.

“On a different tack, I’d like to wish Danny Langtree all the best in his move to Super League club Hull FC.

“I hope fans and club are happy for him because over the last six years his form has been so consistently good that Super League clubs have been showing an interest in him. In all that time he has been absolutely fantastic for us.

“It’s been a pleasure to work with him and to coach him and he has fully deserved this opportunity to join a Super League club on a full-time, two-year contract and I’m sure he’ll make the most of that opportunity.

“On a personal note, I’d also like to thank the fans, who have been marvellous all season.

“To go to places like London, Hemel, West Wales and Coventry and to hear our supporters above theirs was unbelievable and testament to the loyalty and dedication of our die-hards.

“The ones who back us regularly, either at home or home and away, are terrific but next season we need to increase numbers of our core support, especially at home where it makes a massive difference if, when the lads run out, they can see large numbers gathered to cheer them on.

“I’d also like to thank the players for all they’ve done since we first gathered for pre-season work last November.

“We’ve had some good times and some not-so-good times but they’ve all stuck together and they’ve all given of their best, both individually and collectively.

“Their attitude in training and on and off the field has been first class and I can’t ask for more than that.

“The same goes for my backroom staff — Pete (Carey), Rebecca, Beth, Nigel and Aidie as well as the people from Salford University, who have also contributed to the season.

“As a club we just need to improve; act like the top clubs in our division; and attempt to take this club forward by improving things on all fronts so that come the end of next season we are not in this situation again.”

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