SCOTT Naylor has described Oldham’s clash with York City Knights at the Vestacare Stadium on Sunday as “one of the biggest games of the season for both clubs.”
Naylor’s Oldham and James Ford’s Knights, promotion semi-finalists for the past three years, have both indicated publicly that they are setting out their stall to be in the Betfred Championship in 2019.
There are many similarities between the two, not least that Ford has been at York since 2011 and in charge for the past three years, while Naylor is in his sixth season as team boss of the Roughyeds — two head coaches who are clearly held in the highest regard at Bootham Crescent and the Vestacare Stadium.
Naylor is at the start of a new two-year deal that will take his tenure to seven years.
New owners took charge at York in December, 2016 and immediately tied down Ford to an improved three-year agreement.
Each has stuck with his club through thick and thin — and each is eyeing a serious tilt at promotion from a Betfred League 1 competition that is arguably the toughest it has ever been.
They’ve each got 24 contracted players and a dual-registration agreement; Oldham with Salford Red Devils, York with Hull Kingston Rovers.
Since the end of last season there has been a large turnover of players at both clubs, but the one big difference is that York have invested seriously in experience, while Roughyeds have backed their judgement and gone mainly for up-and-coming younger players (Paul Crook being the one big exception) — a policy that has served them well since Naylor first arrived at the club in the autumn of 2012.
They go head to head on Sunday and Naylor believes it’s a game that has all the ingredients to be a fantastic advertisement for League 1.
“Knights have a few ex-Super League players and others with heaps of experience at a high level.
“James Ford is doing a great job with them and come the end of the season they’ll definitely be up there challenging for promotion.
“This is a much bigger game than some people seem to realise — definitely one of the biggest games of the season for both clubs.
“We’ve worked hard this week to make sure we’re fully prepared and ready for them.”
Gareth Owen, Adam Jones and Ben Davies won’t be available, so Naylor will have 21 contracted players at his disposal, plus dual-reg personnel from Salford, if he decides to take up that offer.
Goalkicking ace Crook (31) has accepted the vice-captain’s role and he will again lead the side in Owen’s absence, as he has done since the start of the season.
The fact that Naylor’s men have ‘nilled’ their opponents in their last two games and have conceded only six points in their last 240 minutes of rugby has not gone unnoticed over in York.
Ford told The Press, York’s local evening paper:
“It’s a record Oldham should be proud of. We will need to be right on the money to break them down.
“They play very differently to us, but its very effective. In their last pre-season friendly they blew Keighley away. Keighley couldn’t live with them in contact.
“When they get on the front foot they’re hard to handle. It will be a real physical challenge for us, certainly around the ruck, and we need to pick a team that suits and looks to expose their weaknesses — they don’t have many.”
OLDHAM replica jerseys and other items of club leisure wear have been selling well all week. The first delivery of large size away replicas have sold out. More are on order, but all other sizes — home and away — are available.
They can be purchased today (Friday) from 9.30am to 3pm when fans can also pick up season tickets ahead of Sunday’s first home league game.