APART from the obvious, Adam Clay has three reasons for hoping Oldham can cause an upset on Sunday by beating in-form Batley Bulldogs at Bower Fold.
Firstly, the Roughyeds’ top try scorer acknowledges that, after disappointing defeats by Halifax and Swinton Lions over Easter, Scott Naylor’s men owe it to the club, the fans and themselves to bounce back with a rousing performance.
Secondly, and on a personal basis, he wants to make amends for how low he felt when he pulled out of the Swinton game due to sickness — only three days after playing a major role in the fightback against Halifax with two late tries, one of them after a thrilling, length-of-the field foot race with Ben Heaton.
Thirdly, he is keen to show that even against a quality side like the Bulldogs — joint Championship leaders with only one defeat in seven games — he can make a big impact in helping his forwards to make the hard yards when coming out of defence on exit sets.
“Even for a winger, it isn’t all about try scoring in the modern game,” said the deceptively fast, heavily-built Clay, who top-scored with 20 tries in 23 games in the 2015 promotion season and is already out in front again this time with one at Leigh, one in the home win against Dewsbury and his pair against Halifax.
“It’s always nice to score, but I like to think I get stuck in when helping the big lads in yardage sets. You’ve got to go looking for the opportunity to do your share of the heavy stuff, but that comes with experience, knowing that it’s part of your job to try to get the team on the front foot.”
He’ll have plenty of that to do against a Bulldogs side which has taken the Championship by storm this season under the command of a man who is as well known for his TV punditry as he is for his first-class coaching and man management.
At Championship level they don’t come with a bigger profile than John Kear, who will always be talked about as the man who famously led rank outsiders Sheffield Eagles to a Challenge Cup final triumph against mighty Wigan Warriors at Wembley.
“He’s now got Batley playing some great stuff,” said Clay. “They’ve got a back three that work hard to put them on the front foot. They’re strong up the middle too.
“From out point of view, we are looking for a big response after what happened in the Easter games. We owe ourselves a performance we can be proud of and it would be great to do it for the club and the supporters as well.”
No chat with the 25-year-old former Barrow and North Wales Crusaders winger would be complete without getting his slant on THAT try against Halifax when he went 90 metres in the dying seconds before diving spectacularly over the line.
“To be honest, I felt a little bit stupid afterwards. It wasn’t as though it was a match-winner. Time was up and we had lost. But I didn’t know how close the chasers were and I wanted to make absolutely sure they didn’t catch me on the line.
“The opportunity to go the full length arose when the ball went loose as they were attacking our line. I guess I must have reacted the quickest. Chances like that don’t come along often. It was my first since Newcastle away last year.
“I suppose I should have just pinned my ears back and gone. I remember looking around to weigh things up — maybe that was a confidence thing — and I thought at one stage they were going to catch me.
“Then I kicked-on, saw the line looming and dived in for the try.”
Fans were disappointed when they got to Sale RU Club some 70 hours later and discovered that Clay wasn’t on the team sheet.
“I was flattened by a bug over the weekend and it knocked me for six for two or three days,” he explained. “I felt awful at withdrawing from the squad, but there was nothing else I could do.”
He was still on the sick list when players and coaching staff got together the next night to talk about what went wrong at Heywood Road.
By last night’s session he was fully recovered, back in harness and dying for the opportunity to make amends.