Oldham 28 York 34

Date published: Monday, May 10, 2010

TRY as they might, Roughyeds were unable to put the icing on the homecoming cake in our historic game against York City Knights at Whitebank Stadium.

There was huge pressure on our lads to make it eight wins from eight on the club’s special day and as often happens on these occasions the weight of expectation perhaps proved too much.

The absence through injury of Neil Roden and the harsh dismissal of Wayne Kerr conspired  to hit us hard in a 34-28 defeat, this despite a brave 12-man effort in the second half to salvage something from the wreckage of the first 40 minutes.

We played for nearly half an hour with a man short yet twice hit back to draw level at 24-24 and then at 28-28 only to suffer the agony of conceding a last-minute winner in the form of an opportunist try by York’s pacy winger Dennis Tuffour.

It finished six tries apiece, but York’s Lee Waterman kicked beautifully to convert five tries while on this occasion an inconsolable Matty Ashe, whose goalkicking has been a significant feature of everything Roughyeds have achieved this season up to now, could manage only two from six.

It takes bottle to accept this uniquely individual role — and in any goalkicker’s career there are bound to be times when things go horribly wrong, just as there are days when it would appear every single kick is destined to find the mark. That is an occupational hazard of the goalkicker.

Matty wasn’t on his own. Several colleagues were nervous and edgy in the first half — some more than others — and there was a lack of direction on attack as well as a failure to replicate aggressive and enthusiastic defence, which has been a prominent feature of our performances all season.

For much of the half we were slow and indecisive in key areas and the supply line of quality ball to the outside backs was often cut off at source.

A failure to retain possession gave York loads of ball in Oldham’s half and for the first time in eight league outings the Roughyeds’ defence looked decidedly dodgy as it leaked four tries in the first half an hour — three of them in a ten-minute spell midway through the half.

Having turned round 24-16 down, Roughyeds made a determined bid to get back into the game only to suffer the departure of Kerr in the 53rd minute when he was sent off for a challenge on Tuffour.

It appeared to be little more than an instinctive reaction by the Oldham prop as the winger sidestepped him, but after consulting his touchjudge the referee brought out the red card and Roughyeds, then trailing 24-20, faced an even harder task.

The scores were locked up at 28-28, with both sides attempting to snatch victory with drop-goal attempts, when a last-gasp Oldham attack turned sour on them and ended with Tuffour streaking in for the winner to the Roughyeds’ utter dejection and despair.

But back to the start. There were only four minutes on the clock when York scrum-half Paul Stamp scuttered through an unusually-hesitant defence to put Danny Ratcliffe in for a try which Waterman goaled.

Roughyeds had the advantage of nine first-half penalties to York’s three, but they failed to make it count despite tries by Kerr and John Gillam in the 8th and 16th minutes, both converted by Ashe.

Kerr crashed in from close range on Martin Roden’s short ball and when Mick Fogerty produced a stunning break out on the left to send in Gillam by the posts Roughyeds went 12-6 in front.

The first of Tuffour’s two opportunist tries followed midway through the half. Hitting Ashe’s chip-over kick at speed he caught Oldham’s advancing chasers on the wrong foot to break clear and score from long range.

Oldham then went close to scoring twice when first Fogerty and then Martin Roden were held up over the line. Awarded a penalty, Roughyeds opted to keep up the pressure rather than go for the two points.

They were made to pay when the subsequent attack came to nothing and Joe McLocklan turned defence into attack for York with a superb 40-20.

Lewis scored from McLocklan in the next set and within three minutes York were in for their fourth try when Ratcliffe joined the line to send centre Waterman crashing in down Oldham’s right side.

Roughyeds got back into the game when man-of-the-match Paul O’Connor sent Lucas Onyango in at the corner after half an hour.

The home side had the benefit of the slight slope in the second half and they soon made it count.

Dave Ellison’s stunning, side-stepping break down the middle was followed by a stray pass, but Oldham forced Tuffour into touch and from the scrum Danny Whitmore sent O’Connor over for the first of his two tries.

Roughyeds suffered two more setbacks with Ashe’s failure to find touch from a penalty and then Kerr’s dismissal.

But they fought like fury to overcome adversity and they were rewarded when Scott Mansfield moved beautifully from dummy half to unleash Joe Chandler with the sweetest of passes.

Receiving that sort of service for the first time, Chandler made one of his trademark breaks to put Fogerty over in the corner to level things up at 24-24.

This wasn’t the first time Mansfield got Oldham on the move with swift hands and movement from dummy half.

Oldham were fighting back in fine style, but York made their extra man count when Lineham went over in the corner.

Still showing pluck a plenty Roughyeds came again when Ashe and Whitmore set up another try for O’Connor down the left-centre channel. 28-28, game on.

Having already lost Kerr (sent off) and Jason Boults (injured), Roughyeds lost their third prop when Ellison was laid out in a tackle by Brett Waller. A penalty was awarded, but the referee ignored Roughyeds claims for a card as Ellison received treatment before being led gingerly off the field.

As the game edged into its final minutes Whitmore failed with a drop goal attempt under great pressure from two advancing York defenders.

At the other end McLocklan was similarly off target before Waterman tried one from long range, the ball just dipping underneath the crossbar.

Oldham thus regained possession and got back to half way as the seconds ticked down to the hooter, only for Tuffour to crash-tackle O’Connor as he took a flat pass from Whitmore.

In the clash of heads the ball went loose and O’Connor went down as Tuffour picked up to race away to the Oldham line.

It just about summed up Oldham’s day, but their battle against adversity in the second half earned them a bonus point — and took them to the top of the Championship 1 table. Not entirely an unprofitable day then.

Scorers: Oldham —goals, Ashe (2); tries,¬† Kerr, Gillam, Onyango, O’Connor (2), Fogerty; York — goals, Waterman (5); tries, Ratcliffe, Lewis, Waterman, Lineham, Tuffour (2).

Oldham: O’Connor; Onyango, Heaton, Fogerty, Gillam; Whitmore, Ashe; Boults, M Roden, Kerr, Robinson, Chandler, Clarke. Subs: Ellison, Sutton, Mansfield, Hodson.

York: Ratcliffe; Tuffour, Wilson, Waterman, Lineham; McLocklan, Stamp; Applegarth, Lee, Fallon, Ross, Lewis, Blakeway. Subs: Hardbottle, Waller, Duckworth, Stearman.

Referee: Mr P Brooke (Manchester); Att: 1,110