THEY said Derwent Park was to be a Workington Town fortress. There was one big problem: they didn’t tell Oldham.
Scott Naylor’s marauders travelled up hill and down dale for four hours to get to this Cumbrian outpost — and then stormed the barricades six times in 80 minutes with tries by Liam Bent, Danny Langtree, Lee Kershaw, Luke Hooley, Phil Joy and David Hewitt.
Paul Crook converted four of them and, with a score of 32-10, Roughyeds were the first League 1 side this year to triumph on a ground where the Bulls were battered in the league and the Broncos squeezed through by only two points in the Challenge Cup.
After such bright beginnings it all seems to have gone pear-shaped for coaching rookie Leon Pryce and the new dawn that was promised for Town’s long-suffering fans.
Was this purely down to what Workington did wrong though . . . or had it something to do with all Oldham did right ?
A bit of both perhaps, yet Pryce was big enough to concede that a Roughyeds side coached by his ex-Bulls pal Naylor was full value for its six tries and its 22-point winning margin.
“They were better than us — and it’s the first time this season we’ve been beaten by a better side,” said Pryce.
“Oldham deserved it by far. As for us, I’m not going to make excuses. We need to take a good look at ourselves in the mirror.”
It was always going to depend on which set of forwards ruled the roost and the visiting pack, every one a contracted Oldham player, bossed the middle ground and beat off the challenge of a Town set that included three dual-reg men in Nick Gregson, Jack Blagbrough and Jonah Cunningham, all of Leigh,as well as loose-forward Caine Barnes, on loan from Wigan.
Oldham’s three loan men, Luke Hooley (19), Lee Kershaw (18) and Kieran Gill (22) were all in the backs.
So the battle of the big men could reasonably be billed as Oldham versus Workington and partners.
Town’s best and most effective forwards were much-travelled prop Oliver Wilkes, the skipper, and new recruit Karl Olstrom.
Jack Spencer led out the Oldham side and continued to take the lead during his long spells on the field. Aided and abetted by Phil Joy, the light but defensively lethal Liam Bent, Adam Jones and Luke Nelmes, Spencer had a terrific game where the battle was at its most fierce.
Apart from a few defensive lapses in the first quarter of an hour and a dodgy spell in the second half when Town lifted their game a bit and won four penalties in a row, Oldham’s middle men were always in control.
The plan to use all three hookers, Kenny Hughes, Gareth Owen and Matty Wilkinson worked like a charm although it inevitably meant more game time than usual for a pack that was missing the injured Adam Neal.
Further out, the two Dannys — Bridge and Langtree — did their statutory 80 minutes as usual.
In the backs Kieran Gill looked class. On three separate occasions in the second half he was unlucky not to break free or, at the very least, to get his winger, Dave Eccleston, heading for the corner.
Kershaw and Hooley each scored cracking tries, the winger after shaping to go for the flag and then cutting inside two covering defenders and the full-back after joining the attack close to the ruck and capitalising on Owen’s clever pass to ghost past two or three defenders with that long, loping stride that eats up the metres.
Town made the worst possible start when their kick-off went out on the full and in their first set of the game Oldham opened the scoring when Spencer’s defence-splitting pass sent in Bent. Crook failed to convert in a tricky wind.
Oldham’s defensive line was bust wide open three times in the first 20 minutes.
Gill came to the rescue when Barnes went through; Gregson scored for Town and Foster goaled when Forber broke; and general scrambling stopped the rot after the third clean break by Wilkes.
It needed a trademark Langtree try to put Roughyeds back on top. Owen, with one of his first touches of the ball after replacing Hughes, did the initial damage and then the plundering Nelmes smashed through and offloaded to ‘Langers’ to do the rest. Crook goaled for a 10-6 lead.
The visitors increased their lead just before half-time when they moved the ball smartly from right to left and Kershaw finished off spectacularly by swinging inside off his left foot.
Early in the second half, following a wind-assisted Hooley drop out which went almost the full length of the pitch, Roughyeds went further in front.
Hooley’s top-notch solo was improved by Crook, whereupon Town immediately withdrew Scott Leatherbarrow and Barnes and brought back Wilkes and Newton.
The changes couldn’t stop Naylor’s men scoring again when Joy crashed over on Wilkinson’s flat pass, for Crook to convert once more, but not before Town stand-off Jamie Doran was sin-binned for a shoulder charge on Hooley.
As clashes and tackles warmed up Wilkes drew the referee’s attention to some damage on his forearm and the incident was placed on report with a penalty going to Town.
Oldham lost their grip on the game for a few minutes, resulting in a Miller try for Town and then a lucky escape when Doran got over in the corner only to be recalled for an obstruction.
In a stirring last few minutes, another incident involving Miller and Hooley was also placed on report before Bent was sin-binned after striking Wilkes in the tackle.
On the final play of the game Matty Reid had a chance to break down the left and Hewitt got with him to finish off with a try which Crook duly improved to bring down the curtain on a most satisfactory afternoon indeed for Oldham and their small band of travelling supporters.
Town — goal, Foster; tries, Gregson, Miller; Oldham — goals, Crook (4); tries: B_ent, Langtree, Kershaw, Hooley, Joy, Hewitt_.
Town: Tansey; Roote, Miller, Foster, Patrick; Doran, Forber; Wilkes, Newton, Scholey, Gregson, Olstrom, Barnes. Subs: Leatherbarrow, Singleton, Blagbrough, Cunningham.
Oldham: Hooley; Eccleston, Gill, Reid, Kershaw; Crook, Hewitt; Joy, Hughes, Spencer, Bridge, Langtree, Bent. Subs: Owen, Wilkinson, Jones, Nelmes.
Ref: Nick Bennett; Att: 712.