On a weekend when Oldham as a club originally had no fixtures scheduled it would have seemed reasonable to accept that one or maybe two games may be re-scheduled for then due to the bad weather.
Oldham as a club have now fulfilled 5 games in 3 days, something which I think is absurd especially as the extra game was for our third team to make the long journey to Southport on Bank Holiday Monday.
Team manager Chris Davies must be buying shares in a mobile phone company with the amount of texts and calls he has made but despite all this going on in the background, a stalwart group of players made the journey to fulfil the fixture.
After several more phone calls and car juggling the squad finally made it to Southport at 3:05 pm, only 5 minutes after kick off was due but the home side were just happy to see some kind of team turn up. Unfortunately there were only 10 players available from Oldham so credit must be given to Southport who having a decent sized squad lent us 4 players so we could play this as a full on game.
Southport having no other club fixture this day were obviously going to be a big challenge and with the numbers available to them and the borrowed players it was obvious from the start that the Oldham 3rds were going to be up against it.
So with a late kick off, the game was finally underway. The first 10 minutes saw Southport score 2 trys, mainly due to their obvious discipline and teamwork, Oldham’s scratch side were taking a while to settle down and this left gaps for the Southport runners to attack.
Oldham regrouped and for the next 10 minutes the game became fairly balanced with Keith Chaddwick taking the ball on at every opportunity and driving the pack forward when he could. It was also nice to see newcomer Callum Smith, getting well involved in the rucks and mauls on his club debut. Sadly Southport then scored again and you could feel that the Oldham squad were getting a bit disheartened but still they kept at it and again tried to get back into the game. A great rampaging break from Jack Sayle after a quick pick up from the base of a ruck got Oldham deep into the Southport 22. Unfortunately the last ditch covering tackle was good and the support not quite quick enough to keep the move going, but Oldham definitely felt they could still compete despite the score line.
Always looking for an opportunity was Jon Maslen and following Chaddy’s lead took the ball on against the Southport defence on the blind side, with a decent pass out to the supporting winger Oldham looked likely to score but the cover tackle just managed to squeeze the runner into touch.
Southport scored a couple more trys before half time to put the game effectively beyond Oldham but the half time talk focused on getting some points on the board.
Southport swapped the loan players at half time and again thanks to those that pulled on the red & white to help us out.
Second half – re-jigged pack and re-jigged back line started to make some breaks and retain the ball more.
Mark Fitton and Louis Fitton linked well to create several breaks getting over the gain line but not quite having the space to take the ball further. Oldham were trying all the tricks to get past the Southport defenders. A Lineout on Southport’s 5 metres line saw Sayle catch the short ball and drive to within a yard of the line but sadly the defence held firm.
James Ball having moved into the pack started to prove a nuisance in the rucks and mauls, stealing the ball and driving forward on several occasions. Team Captain Paul Blomfield at scrum half was always looking for the gap but again breaking the gain line was not enough as the support wasn’t strong enough to keep the moves going.
Oldham did manage to keep Southport in their own 22 for periods and when there was a kick out to relieve the pressure Wayne Hadfield was always a threat looking to run the ball back at them from anywhere on the pitch. Adfield also put in some try saving tackles and was covering a lot of ground in defence.
Southport’s strength in their squad started to tell and they scored several more trys as the game wore on but Oldham were still putting in some big tackles when they could, Carl Gemmell having moved out to Centre was on hand to knock down several attackers with some really strong tackling but the support from the home side was always good and several more trys went over.
As the game came to a close the Oldham players kept their heads high, despite their earlier dip and a huge thank you to all ten of them who travelled and played.
Final score: Southport 2nds 80 v Oldham 3rds 0
The Oldham team had stuck at it and worn the shirts with pride. We were disappointed not to have scored but it’s difficult in these circumstances with a scratch side on a bank holiday Monday, many miles away from home.
Perhaps the league will look at the results from ALL this weekends fixtures and learn some lessons.
Any one of the 10 could have taken the Man of the Match for Oldham, however the squad unanimously agreed for a joint award, maybe they just wanted 2 jugs of beer, so well done to Keith Chaddwick and Wayne Hadfield, both of whom showed their determination and never say die attitude in the face of some very stiff opposition.