Whitebank slope ‘irrelevant’ – NaylorDate published: Thursday, July 9, 2015
THE slope on Whitebank’s pitch will have no part to play in Oldham’s preparation, or game plan, for Sunday’s derby clash with Rochdale Hornets.
“Slope . . . what slope ?” was the gist of Scott Naylor’s reply when asked if the pronounced dip to the bottom end of the ground was regarded as an ally of the team that knows it best.
Under head coach Naylor’s leadership, Roughyeds have been beaten at Whitebank only five times in two and a half seasons — twice by Rochdale, twice by North Wales Crusaders and once by Oxford.
They went through the whole of last season unbeaten on home soil and when Crusaders won 38-28 last month — aided by two tries from Warrington’s dual-reg Super League super star Kevin Penny — it was their first league defeat at Whitebank since April, 2013.
Naylor is adamant, however, that the lie of the land at his club’s Limehurst Village home isn’t even a consideration when Lewis Palfrey wins the toss and has choice of ends.
“We never, ever talk about it,” added the Roughyeds boss. “The media might, we don’t. I suppose it could be regarded as an asset or a hindrance, depending on which way you’re playing. We prefer to totally disregard it.
“It wouldn’t make any difference if it was a 1 in 10 gradient. We consider many things when looking at game plans, but the pitch isn’t one of them.
“We don’t play any differently whether we’re attacking the bottom end or the clubhouse end and Lewis (Palfrey) definitely doesn’t factor it into his decision-making as captain of the side.
“Visiting coaches might think differently and actually tailor their game plan to take the pitch into account, but we don’t, I can assure you.
“Back in my playing days, a lot was always made of the sloping pitches at Batley, Featherstone and the old Halifax ground at Thrum Hall.
“But I’m not a big believer in that sort of thing.
“Whitebank is our pitch, our grass. We obviously know it better than anybody else because we train there on Saturdays and play there on Sundays, but whether its flat or has a slope bears no significance at all as to how we play.”
It doesn’t appear to bother Rochdale, either. Of the three derby clashes at Whitebank in Naylor’s time at the club, Hornets have won two, whereas Oldham have prevailed in each of their two games at Spotland.
Ian Talbot’s men also won the big one — the 2013 Grand Final at Leigh — to make it three wins apiece overall since the rival coaches took charge of their respective clubs.