UNPREDICTABLE OLDHAM RLFC got to within touching distance of Championship survival at Halifax on the first Sunday in September – and then let it slip through their fingers.
No matter what happened elsewhere, a win for Scott Naylor’s men at The Shay would have guaranteed Championship survival at the end of their first season up, but they threw away an 18-8 lead by conceding 24 unanswered points in the last half hour to crash to a 32-18 defeat.
Then, horror of horrors, they learned that relegation rivals Whitehaven had pulled off a shock 56-12 win at Dewsbury Rams to cut the Roughyeds lead to three points, both with two games to play.
Workington, beaten 62-0 at Sheffield, are already through the trap door, but Cumbrian neighbours Whitehaven are still battling to pull off the ‘Great Escape’ ahead of this Sunday’s (Sept 11) crucial clash with Oldham at Bower Fold, Stalybridge (3pm kick off).
Naylor’s men must win to finish the job, but the Cumbrians will be firing on all cylinders after their great win in Yorkshire last time out and if they were to triumph again at Bower Fold it would go down to the last day of the season when they are at home to Swinton Lions and Roughyeds go to Dewsbury.
“Whitehaven are showing what they’re made of and now we’ve got a real relegation battle on our hands,” said Oldham boss Naylor after the defeat at Halifax.
With full-back Richard Lepori facing possible suspension and key forwards Danny Langtree and Liam Thompson having picked up injuries at The Shay, Naylor and his right-hand men Lee Spencer and Peter Carey have a battle on their hands to get Roughyeds over the line.
Added Naylor: “We quickly need to learn how to manage a game. At 18-8 up you don’t waste possession and concede penalties, inviting a good team like Halifax back into the game.
“A 13-5 penalty count against us didn’t help – that’s another story – but in the back-field we made wrong decisions and came up with handling errors.
“A game lasts 80 minutes, not 60, which some of my lads seemed to think judging by how they played at Halifax.”
Looking ahead to the Bower Fold clash with Whitehaven, one of Oldham’s most crucial for many years, chairman Chris Hamilton said: “We have to buckle down, man up and make sure we’re up for the challenge.
“We showed glimpses at Halifax, but only glimpses and that’s not good enough.
“We had great support at The Shay, both in numbers and vocal support, and the lads will be relying on home advantage to count at Bower Fold in a very important game. We’ll be hoping for a big crowd and lots of noisy support in a very important game.”