NEWCASTLE Thunder’s surge up the Betfred League 1 table has pushed Oldham down to third place, but the Roughyeds players say they are still up for the promotion push with five games left before the play-offs.
The team finishing top, currently Whitehaven, goes up automatically.
The next five are thrust into a complicated play-off system, the winner of which also goes up.
Top dog in the play-offs (the team finishing second overall) has a massive advantage in the shake-up so several clubs, including Oldham, are aiming to finish first or second.
Roughyeds’ hopes are boosted by the return of on-loan winger Lee Kershaw from Wakefield Trinity and back-to-fitness Kyran Johnson, who has missed the last nine games with a broken jaw.
Kershaw, who scored a gem of a try in the win over North Wales Crusaders last time out, said:
“We’ve five games left and each one is a ‘must win’ encounter.
“We’re at the business end of he season and we shouldn’t have to rely on other results going our way.”
Back-row forward Emmerson Whittel added:
“It’s been an up-and-down season, but we are still well in the running for promotion and I think we are more than capable of getting there.
“Whether we do it automatically or by the longer route through the play-offs remains to be seen.”
The five remaining games for Scott Naylor’s men are against Newcastle and Doncaster at the Vestacare Stadium and on the road at London Skolars, Coventry Bears and Hunslet.
Given that four of the five are against teams with a realistic play-off chance that’s a tough call and nobody knows that more than coach Scott Naylor.
With two blank weekends, he gave his squad time off — they’re back in this Thursday night to start preparations for the trip to London on Saturday week — and he is still hopeful of adding to his squad before the forthcoming signing deadline.
Said the Roughyeds boss:
“We were able to give the lads some time off and it coincided with school holidays which meant they could get away with their young families.
“Getting time away from rugby isn’t a bad thing because it mentally recharges you. They will be back in this week so that we will have plenty of time to get ready for the London game and to make sure everybody is right and back into the swing of things for the final five games.
“We’re also getting close to the signing deadline so it’s important we try to do a bit of business as well so that we can get the squad all ready to go for the final push.
“It’s going to be tough and we’ll need all the players we can get.”
The next home game against Newcastle on Sunday, August 11, will be a 3 v 2 affair which the Tynesiders are describing as their most important game for years.
Having made it six wins in a row against the Skolars last weekend, they fancy their title chances and see the game at the Vestacare Stadium as one they must win at all costs.
They are laying on coaches to get as many fans as they can down here for the big game, saying this is a massive match at which the Thunder Army will be out in force.
Oldham’s remaining games in the Final Push are as follows:
- Saturday, August 3 (3pm), London Skolars (away).
- Sunday, August 11 (3pm), Newcastle Thunder (home).
- Sunday, August 18 (3pm), Rangi Chase-inspired Doncaster (home).
- Sunday, September 1 (3pm), Coventry Bears (away).
- Sunday, September 8 (3pm), Hunslet RLFC (away).
- Play-off games are scheduled for September 15, 22 and 29 with the final (and the prize of promotion) on October 6.