SCOTT Naylor has described Oldham’s game at Bower Fold on Sunday as the biggest in his four years at the club.
In terms of advancing Roughyeds’ status in the RFL pecking order he views it as potentially more rewarding than anything the club won in League One last season, including promotion and two related trophies.
While victory against Workington Town (3pm kick-off) would achieve nothing tangible beyond two precious points, Naylor regards this game against the division’s bottom club as the launch pad for a successful Championship Shield and, with it, Championship survival.
For a club in its first season on an extremely undulating Championship playing field, and with one of the smallest budgets in the sport’s second tier, that would be some achievement.
This is what the Oldham boss said when asked about the significance of the game; Workington’s strength; and the threat from their midfield maestro and main man, Jarrod Sammut, who was the difference between the sides in Town’s 23-12 win at Derwent Park in March.
On the game:
“Three wins out of the last four have turned our season around and we are now looking at making it eight points out of 10, which would be by far our best spell of the season.
“If we win and other results go our way, we could end up outside the bottom four and with four home games in the Shield, rather than three.
“It would also put Workington and Whitehaven under enormous pressure to catch us and overtake us over the course of the last seven fixtures of the season. Workington would be seven points behind us and Whitehaven three or five depending on the outcome of their home game against Sheffield.
“A massive game then — definitely the biggest in my time at the club.”
“They’re a side in form (five points from their last eight) and I’ve felt all season that they’re in a false position.
“They’ve lost half a dozen games by seven points or fewer, including Bradford, Batley and London at home and Halifax and Swinton away, and they beat Sheffield away 37-30.
“They’got some extremely talented players and a typical Workington pack, big and strong.”
“He’s the best halfback in the division. He has an amazing kicking game; a quality passing game; a strong running game.
“Give away penalties and field position, and thus give him lots of ball in the right part of the pitch, and he’ll ruin you, as he did when we played up there in March.
“Fail to complete sets, Town will have more possession and Sammut will have more opportunity to ruin you, as he did up there.
“Stand off him and give him time and space and he’ll also ruin you, as did at their place.
“He’ll ruin you too if you don’t put him under pressure when he’s shaping to kick.
“We came close to winning at Derwent Park, but we’re both playing better than we did then.”
Naylor will have his work cut out on selection with perhaps as many as half a dozen players in contention who didn’t play at Bradford.
Jack Blagbrough and David Hewitt will fancy the prospect of home debuts, but with Phil Joy, Liam Thompson, Gareth Owen, Jack Spencer, Gary Middlehurst and Lewis Foster back in the mix there are bound to be some disappointments.