The A627(M) derby has been the subject of press scrutiny this week, as the somewhat ordinary form of both Oldham and Hornets could well see one of Rugby League's oldest rivalries slugged out in next year's 'League of (Slow) Death' alongside a miscelleny of development teams and RFL follies playing in some of the game's deepest UK backwaters.
Artificially sustained by a staggering 5 bonus points, Oldham sit three points ahead of Hornets having won a game fewer - evidence if any were needed that the bonus point system rewards failure. But, with games fast running out, both teams will be praying for the almost inevitable implosion of one of the 'shit or bust' teams currently hogging the top four.
Coming into the game on the back of a 2-point defeat at N.W. Crusaders (where Hornets won, scoring 50 earlier in the season), Oldham are on the crest of a slump at the moment, now seven games without a win. And as if their on-field form wasn't concern enough, a string of vandalism attacks at Whitebank, culminating in extensive damage to the perimeter fence and the burning down of the club's office have hit the club hard .
Tony Benson has also seen his squad stripped to the bones through injury and has drafted in loanees winger Chris Holroyde (Halifax), prop David Tootill (Hunslet) loose-forward Lewis Reed (Keighley) and utilty Colton Roche (Leeds) to make up the shortfall.
If either team is to maintain a realistic chance of catching the top four, a win is imperative on Sunday, so that gives this usually tasty fixture a bit of added spice.
Thus far, Hornets have found Whitebank's… er… idiosyncratic conditions difficult to overcome, but Sunday requires sleeves rolled up and a win of any colour, by any means possible. And if we can deny Oldham the bonus point, that'll be a job well done.