Oldham 6

Widnes Vikings 36

WAS it stage fright ? Too much respect for opponents? Or just one of those days?

Whatever the reason, Oldham fell short of what was expected of them at Bower Fold on Sunday . . . not because they were beaten by top-five play-off aspirants but because they didn’t even give them a serious scare.

In mitigation, Roughyeds could reasonably claim that nothing went right from the day before the game when Ed Smith withdrew with a back complaint, causing late changes to a three-quarter line that was already without the injured Cam Leeming and John Hutchings.

There was another major setback when captain Gareth Owen was sin-binned early in the game – harshly, it has to be said – and Widnes took full advantage by scoring 12 of their 16 first-half points while Roughyeds were a man down.

To make a game of it Oldham needed to score first after half time but young forward Matthew Fletcher was pushed into touch on tackle one and that gave Widnes unexpected momentum from which they increased their lead.

It was stretched even further to 28-0 before Roughyeds scored their only try, 11 minutes into the second half, with young on-loan prop Jimmy Beckett crashing over from first receiver, having taken the ball several metres out with a lot to do to get over.

Beckett and Fletcher, the two 20-year-olds, looked seriously good when coming off the bench after half an hour to replace front-line props Phil Joy and Jack Spencer.

Notwithstanding his one major clanger straight after half time, Fletcher had an exceptional second half for one so young playing a ‘middles’ role. He’s on a two-year contract and he looks a real find.

The same can be said of Beckett, who was awarded Oldham’s best-player award, but of course he’s only on loan and he belongs to Featherstone Rovers.

In general terms the Oldham forwards were the team’s strongest unit. The halves, Dave Hewitt and Lewis Charnock, were kicked to death by the Vikings mercurial half-backs Matty Smith and Danny Craven, while the home side’s outside backs struggled to hold their opposite numbers.

Whenever Widnes fired the ball wide at speed Oldham’s defence on the edges looked at best dodgy and at worst very poor. There were too many one-on-one missed tackles on bigger, stronger, faster opponents.

Of the seven Widnes tries, left-winger Jack Johnson scored two and there were others from full-back Jack Owens, right centre Jake Spedding and right-winger Deon Cross – a good day, indeed, for the Vikings backs.

Oldham had their chances at the other end of the field, especially in the first half, but they gave away field position too easily and came up with several grubber kicks into the in-goal area which went dead, thus giving Widnes several seven-tackle sets.

It’s a game of inches and it might have been a different story had Danny Langtree won one of several touch-down chases instead of being nudged out of the way by defenders – the legality of which is up for debate – as he stretched to ground the ball on the right side of the dead-ball line.

Another chance came and went when Charnock broke down the middle and fed the supporting Declan Kay, who got to the line and was held up.

Credit terrific Widnes defence for that one; the sort of determined rearguard action they will need to produce regularly if they are to achieve their goal of play-off qualification.

In the later stages there were two more major setbacks for Oldham with first Danny Bridge and then Charnock leaving the field with injuries, never to return.

Bridge went straight down the tunnel with a severely dislocated thumb while Charnock hobbled off with a knee injury, which was later placed in an ice pack.

There were later reports that centre James Worthington was also on his way to hospital after the game for precautionary x-rays on a suspected broken jaw.

The scoreline might have been a disappointment to Oldham, but not the crowd figure of 1,726 – the best home league gate for a long time.

OLDHAM: Abram; Kay, Worthington, Johnson, Aaronson; Charnock, Hewitt; Joy, Owen, Spencer, Bridge, Langtree, Bent. Subs: Wilkinson, Fletcher, Igbinedion, Beckett.

WIDNES: Owens; Cross, Spedding, Roby, Johnson; Smith, Craven; T Chapelhow, Tomkins, Moran, Wilde, Baker, Dwyer. Subs: Lyons, Edge, Grady, Farnworth.

Scorers: Oldham – try: Beckett (51); goal: Abram 1/1.

Widnes – tries: Johnson (9, 62), Owens (17), Spedding (25), Grady (41), Cross (46), Wilde (76); goals: Owens 4/7.

Referee: J Smith.