SCOTT Naylor’s Championship part-timers are looking forward to the game of their lives on the Bower Fold pitch that has become their fortress in recent weeks.
Their reward for stunning the rugby league world by winning at Hull KR is a home tie on Saturday (3pm) in the last 16 of the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup against Super League leaders Warrington Wolves, three times finalists and three times semi-finalists in the last seven years.
At face value, the Wolves should walk it, but the boys who were playing League One development clubs in the south of England this time last year take heart from their headline-hitting win in Hull and the subsequent sixth-round draw in which they came out of the hat first.
Home advantage is important to them — and no amount of persuasion or of £-signs would have tempted Roughyeds to switch the tie to the Halliwell Jones Stadium.
“Warrington asked if we wanted to go over there, in the belief that a tie at the Halliwell Jones would attract a bigger crowd and make more money for both clubs,” revealed Oldham chairman Chris Hamilton.
“I’ve got to say that, even here in Oldham, a few people asked me why we were’nt doing it.
“It would almost certainly have been a good move in the financial sense, but there were other issues to consider as well.
“After doing what they did at Hull KR, the boys deserved a home draw and when they got it they were delighted for the fans as well as for themselves.
“There’s a close bond between them and for a game like this the players will love to share the experience at their home ground and in front of their own supporters.
“Scott, his back-up staff and the players have been punching way above their weight since winning promotion to the Championship, but we need more people to come and get behind what the club is all about this year.
“It will be the biggest game since the new club was launched nearly 20 years ago and Scott and his players deserve all the plaudits they get.”
The last time a similar Challenge Cup tie was held at Bower Fold, in 2002, St Helens brought a team of all stars, including Paul Wellens, Tommy Martyn, Sean Long, Keiran Cunningham, Chris Joynt and Paul Sculthorpe. and won 40-6 in front of 4,089 supporters.
We won’t know until later whether Tony Smith intends to go down a similar route and play his top men, like Matty Russell, Kurt Gidley, Stefan Ratchford, Chris Hill, Daryl Clark, Ashton Sims, Ben Westwood and Co.
He has confirmed. however. that Gene Ormsby (23), a winger, will make his first start since returning from a loan stint with Huddersfield Giants.
There’s talk that Westwood and Russell will need pain-killing injections in ankles to enable them to play and that 18-year-old half-back Morgan Smith may be given his debut.
The tie is not all-ticket, but they can be bought in advance at Whitebank before 1.30pm today and between 9.30am and 4pm tomorrow.