Promotion push begins at home — NealDate published: Friday, July 3, 2015
ADAM Neal has targeted wins in each of Oldham’s five remaining games at Whitebank as key to a top-two finish — and promotion.
Starting with League One form side York City Knights on Sunday, they are all against northern teams who also fancy their chances of going up.
Rochdale are here on Sunday week, Keighley Cougars on August 2, Barrow Raiders on August 23 and Swinton Lions on September 6.
“Generally speaking, we play better at home so at the very least we’ve got to target winning all those,” said pack leader Neal, only 25 but the most experienced of Oldham’s young forwards and the ‘daddy’ of up-and-coming props like the Joy brothers, Michael Ward and Nathan Mason.
As league leaders, albeit on points difference and having played a game more than second-placed Keighley Cougars, Roughyeds know they are there to be shot at.
Added Neal: “The top-eight clubs are all capable of beating each other, which makes it a fantastic competition. Six clubs are separated by only two points. How tight is that ?
“York will be seeking their fifth win in a row. In terms of age, youth and how they like to play, they are a similar side to us. They like to play it fast, and so do we.
“But we’re feeling pretty confident right now and with home advantage it’s a crucial game for us in terms of where we want to finish up at the end of the season.
“We had a bit of a blip when Keighley and North Wales beat us, but we had a good talk internally and a bit of soul-searching and then we went out and showed what we could do at Swinton, especially in the first half.
“That performance restored a lot of confidence in the dressing room. We don’t say a lot outside of those four walls; we prefer to just get on with the job quietly.
“But it’s common knowledge what we are striving to achieve at the end of the season and it’s fair to say that, within the group, we firmly believe we can do it.
“We face a tough July and a lot will depend on how we fare against York and Rochdale, two games in which we will have our fans right behind us. That counts for a lot at Whitebank.”
Neal missed the Gloucester game because of a stomach bug, but he is back in rude health and will be available for selection.
This time last year he was out of rugby, having temporarily turned his back on the sport following disappointments at Salford where he made 45 Super League appearances as a full-time pro.
“I thought I was being messed about a bit, so I headed off in a different direction and set up my own business in Walkden as a personal trainer.
“At first I didn’t miss rugby, then one day I was watching a game on television and I suddenly thought, ‘I should be doing that’.
“My business was going well so I had to look for a part-time opportunity and I’ve got to say that signing for Oldham was the best thing I could have done.
“I’m absolutely buzzing about how things are going. I’m at a good club with smashing team mates and good coaching.
“I’m branching out in business and I can combine it with rugby at a club where I’m happier in the sport than I’ve ever been. I’ve got the best of both worlds and it’s just great.”
Third-placed York have the best defensive record in the division by far and are second behind Oldham in terms of points scored.
Best of their eight wins from 11 games were the home victories against North Wales, Rochdale and Swinton, but they are still looking to beat one of their top-eight promotion rivals away from home, having lost at Keighley, Swinton and Newcastle.