IT’S still recent enough for ‘Haven fans to recall that Dan Abram was once one of theirs; a player who will be fondly remembered for twice landing last-minute goals off the touchline to give them wins over deadly derby rivals Workington Town.
He returned to the Recreation Ground last night and did it again, only this time for brave, gutsy Oldham, who won 16-14 to climb off the bottom of the Betfred Championship table and move five rungs up the ladder.
In a tight match and in cold, windy conditions that made kicking difficult, Jake Moore failed to improve the first of Dion Aiye’s two tries for the Cumbrians, then James Newton hit the cross-bar when trying to convert a third ‘Haven try by Jason Mossop.
No such problems for deadly-accurate Abram, who kicked four from four — two conversions and two penalties — and was also credited with a penalty try when following Danny Langtree to scythe through the home defence in the second half.
His speed took him through to home full-back Sam Forrester, who was sin-binned for a trip on his opposite full-back.
To the home side’s horror, referee Michael Mannifield awarded Oldham a penalty try, which ultimately gave Abram 12 of Oldham’s 16 points and earned him the man-of-the-match award in a vote by OuRLeague viewers.
Roughyeds’ other points came from a try by skipper Gareth Owen, who squeezed over in the fourth minute after a Dave Hewitt grubber intended for touch ricocheted off a ‘Haven defender back to the Oldham scrum-half, who had the presence of mind to pick up the loose ball, make vital yards and then get Owen on the score sheet.
An Abram penalty goal was the only other score in a first half which could and should have yielded more Oldham points on the back of clean breaks by Lewis Charnock, Matt Wilkinson and Danny Bridge.
Nevertheless, Roughyeds led 8-0 at half-time with the benefit of being wind-assisted in the second half. In the event the elements didn’t help them at all, both sides playing better into the wind than they did with the gale at their backs.
If Oldham were the better side in the first half, Whitehaven edged it in the second when they scored three tries — two of them to the powerful Aiye from close range — to the Abram penalty try.
Oldham, whose goal-line defence in the first half was superb, led from the fourth minute to the final hooter and deserved to win a tight, evenly-balanced match for that alone.
They battled and fought like tigers against bigger opponents in difficult conditions and on a ground to which few Championship sides will relish visiting in the coming months.
Two young players, James Worthington and John Hutchings, were ruled out by injury, but coach Matt Diskin still fielded a young side which included 18-year-old Jack Croft on debut at centre with three 20-year-old ‘middles’ on the bench in Jimmy Beckett, Matthew Fletcher and Titus Gwaze.
There was a mountain of experience on the touchline when Owen and middles like Phil Joy, Jack Spencer and Liam Bent were rotated in the run-up to half-time.
The young chaps did okay and stood up solidly against bigger and more experienced forwards, but the side generally lost a bit of its first-half momentum and played into ‘Haven hands by making errors in possession and giving away penalties.
The overall penalty count was 12-8 in Whitehaven’s favour, but it was in the second half, perhaps when they were getting tired, that Oldham started to concede and incur the wrath of the man in the middle.
The second-half penalty count was 7-3 — a huge factor in the way in which the Cumbrians were allowed to come back into it in the second half.
Scorers: Oldham, goals Abram 4/4; tries Owen, Abram penalty try; Whitehaven, goal Moore 1/2; tries, Aiye (2), Mossop.
WHITEHAVEN: Forrester; Thompson, Jessie Joe Parker, Mossop, Carter; Dixon, C Phillips; Shackley, Newton, Coward, B Phillips, Gillam, Wilkinson. Subs: Aiye, Kelly, Walker, Moore.
OLDHAM: Abram; Kay, Croft, Leeming, Johnson; Charnock, Hewitt; Joy, Owen, Spencer, Lantree, Bridge, Bent. Subs: Wilkinson, Beckett, Fletcher,Gwaze.
Ref: Michael Mannifield; Att: 532.
Photo: Ben Challis