Friday, 25 August 2017

Monday's Coming: The A627M El Clasico

We can’t deny that Oldham’s draw at Batley is one of the eye-catching results of the season.

Having trailed 22-nil after 20 minutes they clawed themselves back to 22-all - denied victory at the death by a coat of paint, when a drop-goal attempt came back off the post.

Needless to say, Oldham see this result as a precursor to a return to greatness.

Hand-off: Chris Hamilton celebrates the draw at
Batley in literal fashion...
"We have potentially turned the corner by showing any amount of character, determination and spirit.” Said chairman Chris Hamilton to the Oldham Chronic this week. "If someone had offered us a point before the game,” he went on: “… we would have snatched their hand off." But what would he have done with a severed hand?

The point gained at Mount (un)Pleasant, pull Oldham to within a point of Swinton, as the scrap for Championship survival tightens up (Swinton Lions, lost 30-16 at home to already relegated Bradford last weekend).

Oldham Coach Scott Naylor sees his side’s propensity to start slowly as an issue to be addressed. Also talking to the Chron. he said: “The point against Batley was enormous for us - but I'm hoping we don't start at 3.20pm again.

"The boys are under a lot of pressure, perhaps there are a few nerves, and we only relax when we feel there is nothing to lose. That shouldn't happen against Rochdale, though, as it's a derby game and we'll be giving it everything we've got.”

Naylor’s side looks likely to be boosted by the return of several recent injury-hit absentees. Second row Adam Neal looks likely to make a return from a two month hiatus with a broken jaw, with Kenny Hughes, Danny Grimshaw and Liam Thompson ready for a return to action.

Hornets come out of a disappointing trip to Toulouse with a rare nine-day turn-round - and a couple of extra days rehab is always very welcome at this late stage of the season.

The game at Blagnac was, in reality, a bloody shambles. An 8pm kick-off in a virtually empty ground, then an hour’s delay in the dark, followed by a more than dubious sin-binning - it’s custom made to give any team a disadvantage.

At 22-12 after an hour, it was a case of ‘next scorer wins’: TOXIIIC blowing hard and Hornets with the momentum. But a freak try and then the sin-binning (during which TOXIIIC scored four times) killed the game stone dead. At least the band (who Toulouse bus-in in an attempt to hide the lack of atmosphere) and the tannoy guy (who contravened the operating laws by loudly cheering on a 60 metre break) had a great night.

Our one great stat is that: every time we’ve lost in Toulouse, we’ve won the following week. So here’s hoping that continues.

Hornets will have Jo Taira back in contention - and Rob Massam edges closer to a return.

This season’s A627M El Classics have been fiery affairs, and trying to keep a lid on it this week is Gareth Hewer -  reprising his role in Hornets win at Bower Fold on July 23.

Other games this weekend are:
Bradford v Batley
Dewsbury  v Swinton
Toulouse v Sheffield Eagles

With four games to go in the Shield (and eight points to play for), every game now sends fans rushing for the calculators. But we like to keep things simple. Beat Oldham and Swinton - and match their results in the other two games and we’ll be fine.