OLDHAM skipper Gareth Owen has assured fans that Roughyeds are winding up for their biggest game of the season so far when Newcastle Thunder come to the Vestacare Stadium on Sunday.
They’ve won seven in a row to thunder up the Betfred League 1 table to second on 23 points — three behind leaders Whitehaven but with a game in hand and one more than Roughyeds, who are snapping at their heels in third.
A win will take Scott Naylor’s men to second; and if they can make it four wins from four they will be guaranteed to finish second with the massive advantages that gives them in the play-offs.
Thunder, who have invested hugely in an all-out promotion push this year, say they can’t over-estimate what a win on Sunday would mean to the club and to the sport as a whole in the North-East.
A huge game is in prospect — and nobody knows that more than Owen and his Oldham players.
“We set out to do five from five. We’ve ticked off Skolars and now it’s four from four.
“It’s must-win; do or die; call it what you want. We know and Newcastle know how much is riding on this game.
“You can drive yourself daft thinking of where you might finish and weighing up all the permutations and possibilities.
“We’ve talked about it in the squad and we’re not even thinking about that. All our focus in the next few weeks will be on the next game.
“This week we’re focused on Newcastle, nothing else. We won’t start thinking about the other three until this one is out of the way.
“We’ll stick to that principle and see where it takes us. We can’t do any more than that. We’re aiming for four from four, but thinking of one at a time if that makes sense.
“Thunder will be coming down here wanting desperately to win, but they’ll find we’re in the same mood. We felt we should have beaten them up at their place. It’s going to be an absolute cracker.”
Roughyeds expect their biggest crowd of the season, topping the 765 who turned up for the Workington game on the first day of the season back in February.
“If there was ever a game when we needed every rugby league fan in Oldham to come and get behind us vocally this is it.
“Thunder will be coming with players like Kieran Gill and new signing QLT, who will be playing at half-back, and Oldham fans can be our extra man.”
Centre Gill, who has had two spells at Oldham on loan from Castleford Tigers, scored four tries for Thunder in last week’s big win at West Wales Raiders.
QLT (Quentin Laulu-Togagae) is another who needs no introduction.
Coached by Simon Finnigan and under the direction of Denis Betts, the Thunder squad is full of talent, but far from invincible.
They are due for a fall . . . and Roughyeds believe they have the men to give them a push.