OLDHAM’S home form will be severely tested in the next 16 days with visits to Bower Fold by Halifax, Batley Bulldogs and Sheffield Eagles.
It all kicks off tomorrow when Roughyeds go head to head with a Halifax side that will include former Oldham men Miles Greenwood and Ben Heaton and will be under the tutelage of last season’s Championship coach of the year, Richard Marshall.
By their own high standards ‘Fax have had an indifferent start, but that will make them all the more determined to knock over the Championship new boys, who will need to be at their best to pick up their second league win.
Nobody in the Oldham camp knows the Yorkshiremen better than prop Jack Spencer, who was at The Shay last season and played 16 Championship games in the famous blue and white hoops.
“They like to play exciting, attacking rugby. They are let off the leash and they are encouraged to express themselves,” said the Roughyeds front-rower.
“They’re skilful and experienced with a few former Super League players. They’ve not had the best of starts, but it won’t take much before they start hitting the straps.
“Miles Greenwood is back to form after missing most of last season with a serious leg injury. He has worked extremely hard to get back and on current form he will be a big threat.
“Ben Heaton also had a big season in 2015 and he will certainly want to do well against his old club.
“Halifax are there to be beaten though. Their confidence is down a bit right now and if we play to the best of our ability we can be a match for anybody in this division.
“What we have to do is to start believing in ourselves. We are in the Championship on merit and although we’ve only one win behind us in five games we’ve been competitive in every single one.”
Like full-back Greenwood and centre Heaton, the Oldham prop will also be determined to show up well against his ex-team mates.
And it might be a big day too for Oldham new boy Joe Burke, who looks certain to make his debut tomorrow or, if not, against Swinton Lions at Sale RU Club on Monday (2pm start).
Coach Scott Naylor rested Will Hope and Lewis Palfrey in the side that beat Kells in the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup; and with Danny Langtree and Danny Grimshaw recovering well from knocks picked up in the cup tie, he is confident he will have a full squad at his disposal apart from long-term absentees.
Said Oldham’s boss: “We’ve done well at Bower Fold so far, beating Dewsbury and Kells and giving London Broncos a good run for their money for most of the game.
“Halifax are a much better side than their early-season results might suggest, but our home form is good and if we play as well as we can it will be interesting to see what happens.
“Langtree and Grimshaw are going to be okay, so I’ll have a full squad to go at plus the use of dual-reg lads from Huddersfield for the first time this season.
“From now on, I think that will always be the case.”
On Monday, Oldham make the short trip to Sale to meet a Swinton Lions side that has had a huge turnover of players since the end of last season when they finished third in League One and then narrowly beat York City Knights and Keighley Cougars in the play-offs to clinch promotion.
Their current side bears little resemblance to the one Roughyeds beat home and away last year, new signings including centre Macauley Hallett from Hull KR, half-back Matty Beharrell from Newcastle Thunder, influential hooker Anthony Nicholson from Batley Bulldogs and prop Jordan Hand (ex of St Helens and Rochdale).
They also signed former Leeds, Hunslet and Salford Red Devils hooker Liam Hood, but he has since gone full time with Leigh Centurions and has been replaced by Vila Halafihi from Bradford Bulls.
The Lions go to Leigh tonight still seeking their first league win.
Said Naylor: “Monday’s game is a big one for both clubs, for obvious reasons. When you’re playing two games in four days a lot usually depends, in the second game, on mental strength and who is available.”