In real terms Oldham are exactly half way through their second season of Kingstone Press Championship rugby.
They have played 15 of 23 games in the Championship and judging by what many fans are saying in social media and on rugby league forums there is a feeling on the terraces that time and games are running out for a Roughyeds outfit that is currently experiencing a poor run of form, writes ROGER HALSTEAD.
However, eight Championship games plus seven in the Shield, which count towards final league positions and dictate who goes down and who stays up, provide Scott Naylor’s men with as many more tough challenges as they have faced already in a campaign that began on the first Sunday in February.
They’re ONLY half-way there, so there’s plenty of time to pull things round; no cause for panic; and a hope that supporters will take into account that Roughyeds, like a few others, are punching way above their weight in this division.
Four bad defeats in a row, including losses to derby rivals Rochdale and Swinton, have caused plenty of doom and gloom and lots of soul-searching among management, coaching staff and players.
The fact remains that Roughyeds are one point and two places better off than their half-way ratings last year when they lost seven league games on the spin before winning six of their last 12 to avoid the drop.
Talking of Rochdale and Swinton, it is easy to forget that Rochdale’s Summer Bash win was their first since they snatched a one-point triumph at Featherstone, of all places, TEN games earlier; or to overlook the fact that the Lions are still lower down the table than Oldham, who have a game in hand.
No team escapes the rigours of this cruel, uncompromising division and what Oldham need most of all now is for supporters to stick behind their team and to put their trust in Chris Hamilton and Scott Naylor.
With a mere fraction of the budgets enjoyed by the top few, they have built and shaped a squad that has gone from half way down League 1 to a second year of Championship rugby via two Grand Finals, promotion and a series of never-to-be-forgotten days at Bower Fold in the past 18 months, not to mention one very special day against Hull KR away in the Challenge Cup.
They will be the first to admit that not all their plans for this season have gone according to plan.
All those good days seem a long way off right now — and there can be no tougher test for a struggling outfit than to face Sunday’s Bower Fold visitors Hull KR, who are five points clear at the top and hell-bent on getting back into Super League first time around under the direction of former Kangaroos team boss Tim Sheens.
Their capture this week of Oldham-born Lee Jewitt takes their full-time squad to 35 in number — about 15 more than Roughyeds employ on a part-time basis.
Oldham face an awesome task but, irrespective of the result, they have an opportunity to get their fans back onside with a performance that lacks nothing in belief, honesty and sheer effort — qualities that were once their hallmark.
They will take heart from being back on home soil at Bower Fold after seven games on the road, producing only one win.
There’s something about the Stalybridge venue that brings out the best in them.
Of their ten league wins last year, nine were at the Fold. Of their four victories so far this season three have been there — 12 out of 14 in total.
Given that six of their remaining eight Championship matches will be at home-sweet-home, the Bower Fold dates with Hull KR, Halifax, Dewsbury Rams, Toulouse Olympique, Featherstone Rovers and Rochdale Hornets will be key to where Oldham finish.