OLDHAM will be hoping it’s third time lucky when they go to Heywood Road, Sale, on Sunday (12.30pm) for a behind-closed-doors Betfred Challenge Cup second round tie against Swinton Lions.
They haven’t played at this South Manchester venue since 2017 when both teams were in the Championship.
Oldham won 22-18 at home early in the season, but with injuries biting hard they lost 26-4 at Heywood Road in mid-summer and then suffered a 29-6 mauling at the same venue in the Championship Shield on September 10.
Although Roughyeds had still to play Dewsbury, that 29-6 hammering effectively kept Swinton up while condemning Oldham to relegation. After the final hooter, the sight of a heartbroken Roughyeds chairman Chris Hamilton, sitting alone in the main stand and staring blankly into space, is still etched clearly in the memories of many fans.
One of them, Sean Whitehead, a former director colleague who knew more than most what the chairman was going through, went across to console him.
Since then there have been many happier times for the Oldham chief, none better than the Promotion Final win against Newcastle Thunder at the Vestacare Stadium, two years after that dark day at Heywood Road when the Lions roared and the Roughyeds whimpered.
In the autumn of 2019, it was Oldham’s turn to end the season in glory. The chairman was recovering from knee surgery but was in the stand for the big game. As victory was secured after a thriller, every Oldham player climbed up into the stand to shake the chairman’s hand and to wish him well.
Since then both squads have changed beyond recognition, as has the Swinton management.
Oldham, though, will still feel they owe the Lions big style after what happened in 2017 and the one thing they won’t want is for Lions winger Richard Lepori, man of the match in his side’s first-round win against Newcastle, to hit the headlines again.
There was a time when the Italian international was strutting his stuff for Oldham, either at full-back or on the wing. He was a firm favourite of the Oldham crowd and by all accounts he’s doing well at Heywood Road too.
Last week he made many clearing runs, safely cleaned up high balls and made numerous crucial tackles.
The Lions forwards, not as big as Oldham’s pack, also worked hard, but new stand-off Martyn Ridyard is the big threat and if Roughyeds can put him under pressure and let him know he’s in a cup tie they’ll be half way to celebrating a significant win.
There’s a twin prize for the winners — a third round appearance in the Challenge Cup and a semi-final spot in the AB Sundecks 1895 Cup.
+ The tie will be broadcast by the BBC on iPlayer, the Red Button and BBC Sport digital platforms.