SCOTT Naylor believes courage, big hearts and solid defence will keep Oldham in the Kingstone Press Championship for a third successive season.
Speaking after his side’s 30-24 win at Rochdale, which backed-up a 22-22 draw at Batley, the Roughyeds’ boss said his players deserved enormous credit for defending heroically and with the resolve that can win relegation battles.
He said: “I’m old-fashioned. I would rather win a close, hard-fought game with solid defence than with fancy play or an amazing kick.
“We’ve been in front against Rochdale in previous games this season, but we’ve lost because we haven’t been as courageous as we were this time. We got the bit between our teeth and it was good to see.
“We need to play like that in each of our three remaining games and with the spirit in the club as superb as it is right now, and with so many positives knocking about, I see no reason why we can’t.
“Sometimes it’s not down to game plans, coaching, or what you’ve been doing on the training pitch; it’s all down to what the players do on the day and, in particular, to how they react when they’ve a lot of tough defending to do.”
Players, officials and fans jumped for joy at the final hooter. Chairman Chris Hamilton left his seat in the stand to back-slap each player as he made his way up the tunnel , while Naylor and his right-hand man, Peter Carey, went across to the fans to acknowledge their support.
Added Naylor: ” We’re in a dogfight to stay up with Swinton and Rochdale, whose one-point advantage largely becomes irrelevant now. They play each other next week so something has to give.
“We play Swinton as well in a couple of weeks, but all the focus in the next few days will be on Toulouse’s visit to Bower Fold on Sunday.
“We are currently blessed with three hookers with contrasting styles — Sammy Gee, strong, excellent at the wrestle; good with the ball; Matty Wilkinson, a tough kid with a lot of vision; Kenny Hughes, whose attitude is 100 per cent, and who has always run his blood to water for this club.
“I didn’t play him last week and I know he will have hated that. I didn’t start him today and he will have hated that too. When he got on, he was chomping at the bit to prove a point.
“Two-try Joe Burke was brilliant as well. He’s got plenty of height, but he’s not the biggest front-row forward. He works hard, he never stops trying and there’s isn’t a single backward step in his body.
“We also saw what David Hewitt was capable of. He’s playing when not fully fit, but he puts his hand up every week.
“Luke Hooley is only young, but time and again he pops up in the right place at the right time and you can’t coach that. A player either has it or he hasn’t.
“I played at Bradford with Michael Withers. We called him ‘the ghost’ because he had those qualities. Luke reminds me a lot of him. He’s only young, but he is doing really well.”