FLEETWOOD 51, OLDHAM RUFC 10
DEPLETED Oldham RUFC were heavily beaten at Fleetwood in their final ADM Premier Division match of the season.
Yet, Oldham were still in with a chance until well into the second half when Adam Walker’s sending off and a yellow card for Greg Higgins saw them finish the game with 13 players as the hosts took control.
Fortunately, nothing hinged on the outcome with Oldham finishing eighth in the 12-club division and well clear of relegation having flirted with it until recent weeks.
Oldham were missing Arundale, Pickles, Davies, Froggatt and Fitton, players who would make most teams at this level better, so it was a lot of talent to be unavailable, though they still had a squad of 19 players.
On a beautiful spring day with just enough wind to challenge the kickers, Oldham were quickly out of the blocks and a Alex Jobson penalty gave them an early 3-0 lead.
That stung the home team into action, and it immediately became apparent why Fleetwood have rapidly climbed the table. They were fit, aggressive and well organised and it was no surprise when they created an overlap out wide and a winger had sufficient power and bulk to force his way over in the corner to give them a 5-3 advantage.
Fleetwood went further ahead from a scrum scoring by the posts and a conversion gave them a 12-3 lead.
You began to fear the worst at this stage, but Oldham had a word with themselves and managed to regroup and had some good periods with ball in hand and we were able to breach the Fleetwood defensive line when they went blind from a scrum and Owen Hewson went over in the corner. An excellent touchline conversion from Jobson made the score 12-10 with half time approaching.
More good attacking play soon saw Oldham have a scrum in the Fleetwood half, but a dropped pass gave possession away and Fleetwood who took full advantage to score under the posts shortly after for a half time lead of 19-10.
This half was effectively dominated by Fleetwood’s ability to take full advantage of the opportunities that came their way. Two of their tries were a direct result of Oldham mistakes or lack of discipline which was disappointing.
Oldham’s spirits lifted when they spent most of the first 15 minutes of the second half in and around the Fleetwood 22 and often close to their try line, and they began to believe they might get something out of the game.
But despite their very best efforts, Fleetwood managed to disrupt them at key moments, and they couldn’t increase their 10 points on the scoreboard.
The game was effectively lost shortly after Oldham were reduced to 14 men following Walker’s inexcusable red card for punching.
As Oldham tired, Fleetwood were able to play an expansive game, with some impressive support play and ran in a number of tries. Their task was made even easier when a late tackle resulted in a yellow card for Higgins as Oldham went down to 13 men.
It has been a tough season for Oldham who have struggled with player availability and used more than 50 in the first team and have never had the same starting 15 for two weeks in a row.
But they have had periods where the potential of the team could be seen. The biggest area where they need to improve is individual and collective fitness and the most frustrating thing is that this is the easiest thing to sort out.