OLDHAM’S hard-to-fathom habit of playing to full potential for only part of a game was never more evident than in their defeat at Newcastle.

It was a stark reminder of what happened on the opening day of the season at home to Workington when they started and finished badly and were pipped at the post after leading 28-20 with only a quarter of an hour left.

There was a similar scenario, in reverse, at North Wales Crusaders where they struggled to cope with atrocious conditions for most of the game and came from well behind to win it in the last few minutes.

At Newcastle on Sunday they led 22-6 after 32 minutes and then switched off to concede 22 unanswered points – 18 of them in a one-sided second half that was full of error and poor decision-making and in complete contrast to their slickness and confidence of the first half hour.

It was a classic case of that line from the old fairy story – when Roughyeds were good they were very, very good and when they were bad they were rotten.

Little wonder coach Scott Naylor was an angry young man at his post-game media briefing.

He is pulling his hair out in a bid to see his squad hit some sort of consistency – a level they will have to reach pretty quickly if they are to retain realistic hopes of finishing top of Betfred League 1 and gaining promotion automatically.

They have slipped from second to fourth with Sunday’s defeat, but the top six are separated by only two points, so it is tight and tense with much riding on their next game, a Good Friday clash with leaders Hunslet at the Vestacare Stadium (3pm kick-off).

Naylor’s men got off to an exciting start at Kingston Park where Newcastle were celebrating 20 years since their inception as a new club in Super League, then called Gateshead Thunder.

Party-poopers? Oldham looked for all the world like they would be when tries by Scott Law, Aaron Jones-Bishop and Lee Kershaw, two of them converted by Dave Hewitt, gave them a 16-0 advantage inside 17 minutes.

Thunder got a try back by young winger Alex Clegg – the first of his three – but an Anthony Bowman try, goaled by Hewitt, put Roughyeds in what should have been an unassailable 22-6 lead with half-time only eight minutes away.

That is when they showed their lack of professionalism and complete lack of street-wisdom.

By letting in Kieran Gill for a soft try on the stroke of the interval hooter they invited Thunder back into the game and the home side took advantage of the half-time break to regroup and make Roughyeds pay for their generosity.

It was now Oldham’s turn to be on the back foot and, with it, came a tendency to panic, make mistakes – such as twice failing to find touch from penalties – and show their vulnerability which a now-confident Thunder exposed to the full.

Clegg went on to complete his hat-trick in a one-sided second half in which Oldham’s Jack Spencer was sin-binned for a high shot – a decision that many would view as harsh.

The home side hit the front for the first time with a Jymel Coleman penalty goal midway through the second half and there was no real hint of an Oldham reply, although Jones-Bishop did get over in the corner only to have the try disallowed.