WITH 12 games still to play — six at Bower Fold and NINE against bottom-half teams — Oldham RL have an opportunity to regroup, turn their season around and stave off the threat of relegation, says head coach Scott Naylor.
Roughyeds have lost their last seven Championship games, but five of those defeats were away from home and five were by teams currently heading the division —- Leigh Centurions, London Broncos, Bradford Bulls, Halifax and Batley Bulldogs.
Not insignificantly, Leigh, London and Bradford are full-time professional clubs and Naylor’s men have just played two of them in the space of five days.
They were up against the other one, league leaders Leigh, in back-to-back contests with the then Super League leaders Warrington Wolves, who paraded their strongest available team at Bower Fold in the sixth round of the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup.
“We always knew the last six or seven weeks would be tough and we’ve had to wrestle with an injury pile-up at the same time,” said Naylor.
“Also, by winning three ties in the Challenge Cup, including Hull KR away, we’ve not had a break since we started pre-season matches in January.
“The boys have had it tough in May and June, but we’re not complaining, it is what it is and we’ve got to get on with it.
“Hopefully, we’ve turned the corner regarding injuries, with Richard Lepori and Craig Briscoe already back in action and others to follow soon.
“We’ve got a good chance now to start picking up points again and our last 12 games, five left in the regular fixtures and then seven in the Championship Shield, will determine whether we stay up.
“Being realistic, there are two separate divisions in the Championship and it won’t be our last few results that are decisive; it will all be resolved by what we do over the next 12 games, starting with Whitehaven’s visit to Bower Fold on Sunday, a game we need to win to set us off on the front foot.
“We didn’t do a great deal at training last night. It was more a case of trying to freshen the boys up in readiness for weekend.”
Gary Middlehurst will be out for up to four weeks with a broken finger, but Adam Clay (ankle) and Danny Grimshaw, whose nose was broken at Dewsbury, will be available.
Decisions on Jack Spencer (shoulder) and Steve Roper (calf) will be made later.
Naylor is also waiting for a verdict from Leigh on the availability of on-loan hooker Lewis Foster, who took a bang to the head in the London game last Sunday.
Said the Oldham boss: “Lewis is Leigh’s player and it will be their medical team who guide him through the head-injury protocol and do his tests with him.
“Hopefully, he will be cleared to train with us on Thursday, but that’s down to Leigh.”