IRRESPECTIVE of league points, must-win games, a battle against relegation and the appointment of a ‘special’ man to mastermind our climb out of the Betfred Championship bottom two, Roughyeds go to Whitehaven today feeling there’s nowhere better than the newly-named LEL Arena at which to launch the big revival.
It was the Cumbrians, you remember, who put us on our backsides when inflicting our first Bower Fold defeat of the season in May after we had beaten League One Barrow Raiders in the Challenge Cup and Swinton Lions and Halifax Panthers in the Championship, all at the Stalybridge venue.
We even afforded ourselves the luxury of describing Bower Fold as ‘Fortress Fold’ . . . until Whitehaven forced us to tear up the script with a stunning second-half performance up the slope.
They won 36-4 behind closed doors and we’ve never been the same since.
To concede 30 unanswered points in the second half knocked us for six mentally, so much so that we haven’t won since and if Gary Charlton’s men again do a job on us up at their place in today’s return fixture we’ll have gone nine league games without a win.
We “owe ‘em one” big style and apart from anything else, like Brian McDermott’s influence in the last three weeks, the Roughyeds players can take encouragement from the fact that Oldham have won seven of the last ten meetings between the clubs.
Even on home soil exclusively, where they have a reputation for being particularly difficult to beat, its two apiece in the last five years.
As for the respective teams, Oldham will field a similar line-up to the one that fell from grace in May, but there will be some significant changes in the ‘Haven team, who will be without two of their most influential players this season, full-back Lachlan Walmsley, an Aussie, and half-back Nikau Williams, a New Zealander.
Only four Championship players have scored more points than 22-year-old Walmsley (35 goals, seven tries), who is rumoured to be a target for both Toulouse Olympique and big-spending Newcastle Thunder.
Williams (20), a talented play-maker with a clever kicking game, is also thought to be catching the eye in the North-East.
‘Haven are bound to miss them in today’s game, but by way of compensation they can call on hugely-experienced Greg McNally, after long-term injury, at full-back and on recent signing Louis Jouffret, a Frenchman, at half-back.
He was with Avignon in the French Elite Championship, but when their season ended he re-joined the Cumbrians, for whom he played in 2015 and 2016.
Called up to train with the French World Cup squad, he had signed for Ottawa Aces before they chose to defer for a year their application for membership of League One.
Another overseas signing, Aussie forward Ryan King, made a long-delayed debut off the bench at Halifax Panthers last time out and won a man-of-the-match award.
He was injured in Australia after signing for ‘Haven, but he’ll be making his home debut against Roughyeds and he’ll be determined to make up for lost time.
“We’re both down at the bottom and Oldham will be desperate to close the gap on us.”
Oldham’s Lewis Charnock will hit 100 career appearances.