Wednesday, 13 January 2016


The Oldham Chronicle reported Oldham’s surprise pre-season defeat at Keighley thus: “Oldham will need to improve on their second-half showing at Keighley if they are to retain the Law Cup at Spotland on Sunday. As pre-season warm-up games go, yesterday’s run-out at Cougar Park was little more than an exercise in preparation for more important battles, though a 16-8 defeat wasn’t on coach Scott Naylor’s agenda”.

Dean Lonergan: The man who ruined
5,000 Oldham Christmases. 
Indeed, with his side 8-6 up at the break and  21 players clearly desperate to play themselves out of contention for what will be an arduous season in the Championship, Naylor will be keen to settle on a formation that will battle bravely, but lose increasingly convincingly as the season progresses.

Sunday’s reverse came at the behest of a raft of second half penalties that starved Oldham of possession. Seven of them came in succession - so discipline clearly an issue.

Speaking in the Chron, Naylor said: “In the second half we gave away a lot of penalties and surrendered a lot of field position by making mistakes and when you do that you are going to lose. There were some very good individual performances, but in the second half we were very poor as a team. Big improvements will be needed if we are to hit the ground running at Rochdale next Sunday.”

“We lost because we didn’t respect the ball and we conceded penalties - lessons we need to learn quickly, given the quality of opposition we will be facing. I’m sure the players will have got a lot out of the game after their close-season break, but they’ve still got some learning to do - and fast.”

He went on: “Our next game is even more important – a derby with silverware at stake – and we know it’s important for the fans, too. If there’s one of these warm-up games they really want to win, it’s Rochdale by a mile.”

Having ducked the fixture for two years, OIdham are defacto Law Cup holders, having won narrowly in 2013 and we have their 2016 squad as:

Jack Holmes
Adam Clay
Tom Ashton
Jon Ford
Jamel Chisholm
Lewis Palfrey
Steve Roper
Phil Joy
Gareth Owen
Jack Spencer
Craog Briscoe
Danny Langtree
Will Hope
Sam Gee
Josh Crowley
Liam Thompson
Adam Files,
Kenny Hughes
Michael Ward
Richard Lepori
Danny Grimshaw

Despite a defeat, Hornets went pleasingly well against a pretty ordinary Salford side who sleepwalked through the first 35 minutes and look like they’ll be brutally spit-roasted by pretty much any Super League side with any real pace or power.

There’s no doubt that Paul Crook’s return to stand-off gives Hornets a more rounded half-back fulcrum - and keeps our most creative player on the field for longer, where he can make a difference. Elsewhere the pack looks pretty robust and there are clearly tries on offer out wide, so it’s fair to say that Killer’s side look in decent shape at this stage in its preparation.

But as Naylor and Kilshaw recognise - nothing is cut and dried when the A627M El Classico rolls around - regardless of its guise. This is a fixture that gets everyone jumping around and gets the blood rushing to the extremities. And Sunday recognises that 25 seasons have passed since quite possibly the greatest Hornets/Oldham derby of them all: on Boxing Day 1989.

Played in front of a near-capacity crowd of 8,150 - a Spotland record for a Hornets league game. Hornets won 24-12 on their way to finishing second in the league and gaining promotion to the top flight. Hull KR went up as champions - and Hornets edged Oldham into third place on a points difference of one point!

It was a day that promised much for both sides: a full-house local derby, both sides heading for promotion to the elite: a moment, it seemed, of boundless optimism and opportunity. Within a year Hornets were back whence they came - and within seven years Oldham were bankrupt with debts of £2,000,000.

So here we are. Hornets having flirted with Championship football, relegated only by the league restructure. Oldham looking to play outside the third tier for the first time in close on a decade. For many, that Boxing Day game is a literal lifetime away. But crackle of Rugby League’s most meaningful derby remains. See you all on Sunday.