KYRAN Johnson should know what he’s talking about when he says Oldham need to be primed for action against Yorkshire amateurs Featherstone Lions at the Vestacare Stadium on Sunday (3pm) in the third round of the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup.
Though born a few miles up the road in Castleford, the Roughyeds’ wing or full-back lives in Featherstone and used to play at academy and reserve-grade levels at the town’s professional club with Joe Fox and Jake Perkins, who are now leading lights with the Lions.
“They’re a decent side and they’ll be coming to Oldham to win,” said Johnson (23). “Featherstone folk love the Challenge Cup competition and the word in the town is that the Lions have already booked three bus-loads of fans to come over and there will be a lot more in cars. That wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest.
“They’ll be hoping for an upset, so we need to be on our mettle.
“I played with Joe and Jake at Post Office Road and they’re very good players.
“I haven’t seen Lions in action for a while, but in the last round they beat NCL champions Thatto Heath (St Helens) 18-6 and that made a lot of people in the community game sit up and take note.”
As a part-time pro, living in Featherstone, playing for Oldham and working regular night shifts at a Barnsley clothing warehouse, Johnson has to be totally committed to his new life style.
He trains Tuesday and Thursday evenings in Oldham and then drives straight to Barnsley to work through the night.
“It’s tough, but I knew it would be,” he added. “Moving out of my comfort zone and joining a Lancashire club has freshened me up as a player and as a person. I’m loving it. It was a great win at Whitehaven to kick off our league campaign and now we’ve got to make sure we don’t slip up in the cup.”
His ex-team mate Joe Fox scored two tries against the pride of St Helens in round two to take the man-of-the-match award, watched by 18,000 viewers when the tie was streamed live on the BBC Sport website.
It was a massive upset, given that Featherstone Lions play in NCL division one and Thatto Heath are current champions of the premier division and, in theory, the strongest amateur team in the country.
Lions now fancy their chances to claim an even bigger scalp. “It’s definitely do-able,” said club official Richard Taylor.
And top community-game journalist Phil Hodgson, writing in League Express, said there was often little or nothing between players in League 1 (or even higher) and those at the top levels of the amateur game.
He wrote: “Many professionals will be more than a shade edgy this weekend. Anticipate a shock or two — I certainly am.”
Oldham will wear their new home strip for the first time, having won at Whitehaven in their new all-green away kit.
It was the ‘new’ Roughyeds’ first win at the Recreation Ground since a Mike Ford side won there 16-15 in 2001.
But in all-time records it wasn’t a first to keep the Cumbrians pointless on their own ground. It happened in 1963 (Whitehaven 0 , Oldham 19) and again in 1965 (Whitehaven 0, Oldham
The last occasion Oldham ‘nilled’ their opponents was in the promotion season of 2015 (Oldham 64, Oxford 0) at Whitebank and they last did it away from home in 2013 (Gloucester All Golds 0, Oldham 36).