CLUB captain Gareth Owen has assured Oldham fans that the Roughyeds dressing room is full of players with promotion ambitions and the quality and self-belief to make it happen.
After eight wins in a row injuries began to bite and there followed three narrow defeats in a four-game spell when Owen and his troops seemed to lose form and confidence.
They’re still third in Betfred League 1, however, and well-placed to finish in the play-off four although it’s clearly going to be a neck-and-neck race to the finishing line with several clubs in contention.
Scott Naylor’s men, still primed for a play-off push, are at home to North Wales Crusaders on Sunday (3pm) and hope to have Danny Langtree, Matty Wilkinson, Kyran Johnson and Matt Reid available again after injury.
Hope the @Roughyeds fans will turn up in their numbers this weekend, need a big performance to get our season back on track and a big crowd would give us a massive boost!
— Gareth Owen (@Garethowen9) July 16, 2018
He hopes to head-up a team performance that will get the Vestacare Stadium rocking.
As a local lad who played his early rugby at Waterhead and cheered on Roughyeds as a boy, captain Owen feels it more than most when things go wrong.
“We’ve toiled a bit lately and it’s not been good enough. We all know it — fans, players, coaching staff, chairman, everybody.
“But it’s down to us, and only us. When we step over that touch-line it’s only the players who can make a difference and as captain I have to take responsibility too.
“There’s still a lot of rugby to be played (nine games in the regular season) but even so it’s getting to the stage where, as players, we need to stand up and be counted.
“We owe that to club, coach, chairman and all our terrific fans. They might not be many in number but they give us enormous vocal backing every time we turn out.
“We’ve been a bit down lately, but nothing would give us a greater boost than to run out on Sunday to a roar that would tell us our loyal fans are still with us despite their disappointments of late.
“We’ve had a poor run of form but we’re still fancying our chances of getting in the play-offs and then going all the way.
“We still believe we can chase down York for second place (that’s top of the play-off four), but if it doesn’t happen and we finish third, fourth or even fifth the feeling in the dressing room is that we can pull it off so long as we qualify.
“We won’t be fazed by anyone in a one-off, sudden-death game, home or away, and that’s a genuine belief.
“Don’t forget that, earlier in the season, we won at Whitehaven and at Workington — how many other teams have done that ? — and we beat Halifax at The Shay in the Ladbrokes’ Challenge Cup.
“Right now, we are just focusing on North Wales and we hope we put on a big show in front of a sizeable crowd.
“We need to turn things round, starting Sunday, and I can’t stress enough how much better we feel as individuals and as a team when we have a lot of support inside the ground.
“Over the next nine weeks our rivals will be taking points off each other. It was always going to be a hugely-competitive division so we can’t afford to get too down on ourselves when we hit a bad patch.
“It happened to us, with injuries, and it’s quite likely to hit our rivals also.
“Our aim now is to win every game to the end of the season, but our rivals will have similar targets so it’s all to play for and we’ll see what happens.
“At Keighley we weren’t clinical enough with the ball at their end of the field and at our end we made too many mistakes and gave away too many penalties. They punished us with penalty goals.
“It wasn’t lack of effort or poor attitude. Sometimes, there is no explanation for these things.
“We need our fans more than ever before, starting this Sunday.”