Leatherbarrow set for return to old stomping ground

SCOTT Leatherbarrow, Oldham’s midfield pivot, doesn’t think his first-hand knowledge of Batley’s slope will have any significance on how Roughyeds shape-up in the Fox’s Biscuits Stadium on Sunday (3pm).

Of greater relevance, he says, is whether Oldham can again play as well as they did against Sheffield and London Broncos at Bower Fold and against Featherstone and Rochdale on the road.

They were well under-par at Hull KR, but as Roughyeds prepare for their fourth away-day test in their first six KP Championship games of the season Oldham’s key man is of the firm belief that the no-show in Hull was a one-off.

“We’ve played well in all the other games,” he said, “but it can be disheartening when you go so close yet don’t get what you deserve.

“We feel we should have had at least three more league points, so the challenge for us now is to make sure we keep playing at those levels. 

“If we can be consistently good, and stick to our standards, things are bound to turn in our favour eventually. 

“We’ve prepared well, as we do for every game, so we’ve good reason to believe we can go to Batley and win.”

While it will be a typical away game for the rest of the squad, for Leatherbarrow it will be a nostalgic return to a ground he knows like the back of his hand, having been Batley’s top points scorer in seasons 2014 and 2015.

He agrees the infamous slope can be intimidating to the unwary, but believes the ground’s peculiarities are overplayed.

He added: “There are other grounds with slopes, Bower Fold for one. Batley’s is the steepest and it’s true that the more you play on it the more you get used to it.

“But too many people make too much of it.

“It’s great playing downhill with ball in hand. The flip side is it’s hard work when you’re playing uphill and you’re back-pedalling in defence.

“Since I was there, a lot of players have come and gone and they’ve got a different coach, so I don’t know how they view the slope now.

“John Kear was coach in my time there and back then he liked to play uphill first half and downhill second half.”

Most teams, Oldham included, tend to adopt that principle on grounds with pronounced dips and whichever side wins the toss on Sunday will probably go that way.

In his first season at Oldham, the former Keighley, Batley and London Broncos half-back has gone from strength to strength with each game.

His role is to lead the side around the field; to make most of the tactical decisions; and, with half-back partner David Hewitt, to kick with intelligence and purpose.

“I’m absolutely loving it here,” he said. “I suppose I do have a big role, but that can be said of any half-back in any team. It’s all part of the job. It’s what half-backs do.

“I enjoy my job on the field, I like doing the kicking and Dave (Hewitt) and I are working on different combinations together and how we can be more effective as a pair. It’s all looking good.

“I’ve been playing half-back since I was a kid. It just comes naturally.”

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