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Roughyeds gearing up to face Knights in shining armour

SCOTT Naylor has underlined how much tougher it will be to win promotion from Betfred League 1 this year than when Oldham RLFC last did it in 2015.

Back then, in Naylor’s third year as head coach, they topped the table with 19 wins from 22 games and boasted the best defensive record in the division and the second best attacking stats.

Fast forward three years and the Roughyeds boss believes standards in the sport’s third tier have improved immeasurably.

“Even without Bradford Bulls it would be a lot tougher this time, but with Bradford in there as well it’s going to be tougher still,” said Naylor. “There’ll be a lot of games in which we’ve got to be at our best.”

One such toughie will be Sunday’s visit to the Vestacare Stadium (3pm) of rejuvenated York City Knights who, under the command of James Ford, have reached the last three play-off semi-finals.

Under new owners since December, 2016, they’ve made some relatively big signings during the winter off-season and, like Oldham, they’ve made no secret of their ambitions to climb out of League 1 this year.

On the day Roughyeds were kicking off the league campaign with their first win at Whitehaven in 17 years, the Knights put a shine on their armour by giving full-time Bradford a fright in a 22-20 home defeat in which the Bulls scraped home with a penalty goal from half-way after the final hooter had sounded.

Ben Cockayne
A brilliant game, watched by a crowd of nearly 4,300, fuelled a belief in the Minster city that by signing former Super League men like the vastly-experienced Ben Cockayne and Graeme Horne, York can go all the way in 2018.

Between them they’ve played nearly 450 games in the elite competition and they were signed — Cockayne aged 34 and Horne 32 — to provide the Knights with the nous and the old heads to get them over the promotion line.

They were both in the starting line-up against the Bulls.

Cockayne was on the wing and Horne was in the front-row in a hugely-experienced squad that also included 33-year-old hooker Andy Ellis, formerly of London Broncos and Barrow; 33-year-old Tim Spears, captain and loose-forward; two dual-reg men from Hull KR, centre Will Oakes and half-back Matty Marsh; and, also from Hull KR, on-loan Aussie winger Kieren Moss, once of Penrith Panthers and Parramatta Eels.

Not finished there, Knights have since added to an impressive-looking squad with the arrival on loan from Huddersfield Giants of prop Colton Roche, who looks certain to make his debut at the Vestacare Stadium.

While still wearing L-plates, Roche spent a short time on loan at Oldham, but he has since passed his test with flying colours, playing for Ireland and doing enough with Bradford and Featherstone to earn a full-time deal at Huddersfield.

He also had a spell with Knights a few years back so he knows the club and they know him. Said boss Ford: “I’m looking forward to seeing his explosive carries and his intent in contact.”

Roughyeds know they’ll be in a battle which will be every bit as tough and competitive as those at Rochdale, where they won the Law Cup in a pre-season humdinger, and at Whitehaven where they got their League 1 programme off to a brilliant start with a 14-0 triumph.

“We’ve played really well this season so far, but I firmly believe we’ve still got more to offer,”

said Naylor, who has urged his side to turn the Vestacare Stadium into a fortress.

So far this season on that stadium’s new artificial pitch his boys have put more than 50 points on Keighley Cougars in a pre-season encounter and more than 40 on the amateurs of Featherstone Lions in a Challenge Cup tie.

York will be a hugely different sort of challenge which will act as a barometer of the Roughyeds’ prospects for the season and their hopes of achieving their promotion goal.

Naylor will have tough decisions to make in selection, but with men like full-back Kyran Johnson, half-back David Hewitt and second-row pair Danny Langtree and Danny Bridge in scintillating form, he will be quietly confident that Roughyeds can keep the pot boiling.

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AS you all know from your own experiences these are tough times for everybody, but we believe you will agree that OLDHAM RLFC is taking massive inspiration from the fabulous NHS and other key workers in tackling Covid head-on, while looking forward positively to the 2021 season and better times ahead thanks to the outstanding work now being done to get people vaccinated as quickly as possible.

Nevertheless, we have to face facts and be realistic enough to accept that the club urgently needs every pound that is currently coming in from whatever source. One of those sources is our Club Cash lottery and we would like to take this opportunity to thank all those who support us on this. A lot of you who used to pay our collectors on the doorstep have responded to our suggestions on how to pay by different methods and we are extremely grateful for that. Thanks again. You will never know how much difference your contributions make.

Alas, our income from the lottery has dropped by more than 50 per cent over the course of the pandemic and that would be a huge blow financially at any time let alone a time of unprecedented hardship because of the pandemic. It really is a situation we seriously need to address.

With that in mind the prize fund for the duration of the latest national lockdown will be temporarily reduced from February 10.

You will still be able to win a £1,000 first prize, plus £100, £50, £25 and ten £10 prizes every week, while continuing to provide vital support for the club and it will only cost you £1 a week. You can’t get a decent coffee for that, but the difference it makes to the club when multiplied a few times over and then multiplied again by 52 – the number of weeks in the financial year – is of major significance.

If you can help us at all — for £1 a week — it would be hugely appreciated by everyone with Oldham RL Club at heart. The prize structure still represents good value for money for an outlay of £1.

To those who are already members and help us accordingly, we very much hope to retain your support at this extremely difficult time.

Should you wish to play but don’t, due to the pausing of cash collection rounds, we have other options available, which you can discuss with our lottery administrator, John McAndrew on 07980129541 or from the club on 07904 898177.

Alternatively, you can send an email to: mcandrewj@aol.com or to: enquiries@roughyeds.co.uk

The prize fund will be increased back to previous levels as soon as latest lockdowns are released. Please watch our website and social media platforms for further announcements.

Finally, if you want more information about the lottery or you wish to discuss your membership please contact one of the numbers given above.

A huge thank-you to you all.

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