Oldham v Blackpool

Date published: Monday, June 7, 2010

AN inspirational performance by Roughyeds earned them a 40-26 win against Blackpool Panthers at Whitebank on Sunday (June 6) and lifted Tony Benson’s boys to top spot in Co-operative Championship One.

Panthers had a last-gasp chance to land an easy penalty which would have given them a bonus point but Tom Hemingway missed it so Panthers returned to the seaside empty handed after suffering their second defeat in eight days.

Roughyeds, meanwhile, are back in the title race with another home game to come this Sunday, June 13, when Doncaster are the visitors.

Benson’s boys had a team-selection surprise in store for fans when it was announced for the first time only shortly before kick-off that Neil Roden would be back after injury for the first time in five weeks.

News of the midfield maestro’s return was kept in-house until as long as possible because Tony B didn’t want the Panthers to be forewarned about what he was planning in the pivotal half-back positions.

In the event Roden did a five-star job and, remarkably for a 30-year-old whose training had been severely restricted for five weeks because of a broken toe, he lasted the full game.

Matty Ashe missed out because of a hip injury and because of his coach’s insistence that the Kiwi takes all necessary precautions to make sure he is fully fit and refreshed when on-loan Gregg McNally goes back to Huddersfield soon.

McNally’s all-round performance against Blackpool was the best of his three in Oldham colours. He landed seven goals from eight shots; scored an opportunist try; and set up both of the Roughyeds’ two first-half tries by Lucas Onyango and Marcus St Hilaire.

Oldham’s performance was far from perfect — as TB was quick to point out afterwards — but the team’s thirst for success and its insatiable appetite for individual and collective graft could not be faulted.

There were faults, like conceding penalties in possession and sometimes looking suspect defensively out wide, but Roughyeds recovered from an average start — just like they did at Workington in their previous game — to take a grip either side of half-time and to finish worthy winners.

Unusually in the modern game, they took every opportunity in the first half to pick up points from penalty goals, but then abandoned that policy in the second half when they were playing down the Whitebank slope.

TB was to explain afterwards that part of the game plan was to play up the slope in the first half and to stick with Panthers on the scoreboard by whatever means possible. The plan after half-time, with the slope in Roughyeds’ favour, was to go at Blackpool hell for leather and to keep them constantly under pressure.

Panthers had most of the ball and territory in the first half hour when they went 10-4 up with tries on either wing by Tom Woodcock and Damian Munro against a couple of penalty goals by McNally.

Roughyeds were to demoralise them, however, with a sensational purple patch in which they scored five tries in the last ten minutes of the first half and the first ten of the second period.

McNally and Paul O’Connor, another top performer on the day, gave Onyango room to get over in the corner. McNally kicked a beauty off the touchline to convert, and then added his third penalty.

He also dabbed an inch-perfect kick to the corner for St Hilaire to go over near the flag, but this time his conversion attempt went wide.

Roughyeds slipped up in allowing Munro to score his second try on the stroke of half-time, but they resumed for the second half on fire with Joe Chandler, McNally and Dave Ellison all touching down while lots of fans were still queuing for their interval pies (Holland’s, of course) and peas.

Neil Roden’s grubber into the in-goal dropped just right for Chandler to follow through and touch down.

Another kick, this time by McNally, had Martin Ainscough in all sorts of trouble at full-back and McNally followed up to regain possession and swivel over near the posts. His goal gave Oldham a 28-14 lead and that was stretched to 34-14 when Danny Whitmore’s clever play from dummy half sent big Dave Ellison crashing over on the charge.

Blackpool came back creditably to cut the deficit significantly with tries by Hemingway and Kurt Haggerty, both improved by Hemingway, but Roughyeds went away again with a superb solo try by O’Connor.

A big hit in midfield forced the ball out of the Panthers’ grasp and O’Connor picked it up to spot a gap, go clear and then put his head back to go under the posts from inside his own half. It was just the tonic Oldham needed at that time and it was appropriate that action-man O’Connor should provide it.

With Roughyeds leading by 14 points as the game edged into its final 15 minutes they twice opted to go for tap penalties instead of goals. One school of thought reckoned an extra two points at that stage would have minimised the risk of Panthers snatching a bonus point with a penalty goal of their own.

TB, however, had total and absolute faith in his view that with Oldham playing down the slope in the final stages of the game, and leading 40-26, it was far more beneficial to keep Blackpool pinned down at that end of the field.

There was drama in the dying seconds when Onyango was penalised for obstruction. A goal at that stage would have given Panthers a point but Hemingway failed to put the ball between the Holland’s Hs. Justice was done, some would say.

Scorers: Oldham — goals, McNally 7, O’Connor 1; Tries, Onyango, St Hilaire, Chandler, McNally, Ellison, O’Connor; Panthers — goals, Hemingway 3; tries, Woodcock, Munro 2, Hemingway, Haggerty.

Oldham: O’Connor; Onyango, St Hilaire, Fogerty, Gillam; N Roden, McNally; Boults, M Roden, Kerr, Hodson, Chandler, Clarke. Subs: Ellison, Sutton, Heaton, Whitmore.

Blackpool: Leather; Woodcock, Mayberry, Ainscough, Munro; Haworth, Hemingway; Holland,Clough, Hobson, Walker, Alcock,Haggerty. Subs: Keavney, McCully, Halliwell, Ratcliffe.

Referee: Mr Tim Roby (Leyland); Att: 923.