Oldham captain Gareth Owen has revealed he apologised to Matt Diskin following his departure as coach.
The ex-Batley chief parted company with the relegation-threatened Roughyeds after a run of seven successive defeats.
He had been at the helm since October 2019, when he replaced long-serving Scott Naylor, who had just led the club to promotion from League 1.
Oldham have since brought in former Leeds and Toronto supremo Brian McDermott to work alongside existing assistant coach Brendan Sheridan.
Hooker Owen has hailed McDermott’s arrival, saying: “Chris Hamilton (the Oldham chairman) could hardly have brought in someone better.”
But the former Salford player added: “Matt Diskin and I built up a good relationship, and I think I speak for all the lads when I say we were gutted to see him leave the club.
“Matt is a great coach and we all enjoyed working with him, and with the squad which he had built, we shouldn’t be in the (league) position we are in.
“I think that’s down to us as players, because Matt put us in a position to be able to win games, but we were making too many errors, losing games and losing confidence as a result.
“We showed what we are capable of by beating Halifax, but we failed to follow up in other matches we were in a position to win.
“That we didn’t win them was down to us as players, because it’s not the coach making the errors, but it’s usually the coach who carries the can.
“I really feel for Matt that it didn’t work out, and I’ve apologised to him on behalf of the squad, because we all accept we weren’t playing to our potential.”
Oldham, whose first match since the arrival of McDermott was against Bradford at Bower Fold, have a blank weekend before the visit to Whitehaven on Sunday week, July 25.
“We have nine matches to go, and we know every one of them will be tough, because this division is so competitive,” added Owen.
“But we know we are capable of picking up the wins which will keep us in this league, and we’re aiming to build a bit of momentum.”
BRADFORD BULLS coach John Kear is seeking further loan cover after losing another halfback.
Already without Danny Brough, who has had surgery on a torn bicep, the Odsal side are now missing Jordan Lilley due to a fractured rib.
Promising youngster Billy Jowitt, who played stand-off against Widnes last month, is also sidelined, having broken an arm.
Former Leeds player Lilley, whose partnership with Brough was key to a run of seven successive wins for the Bulls earlier this season, was injured during the 30-16 home win over Batley.
He was ruled out of the visit to Oldham and is expected to miss at least three more matches, starting with the home clash against Featherstone on Sunday week.
Kear recently brought in former Bradford halfback Joe Keyes on loan from Hull KR, but with injuries and Covid issues taking effect, there are fewer players available and plenty of clubs chasing those who are.
“Broughy and Lilley looked great, then Keyes and Lilley looked good. But we can’t get two halfbacks on the field at the same time,” said Kear.
“It’s very frustrating but that’s how it is at the minute. Hopefully at some stage we can have a run of fixtures when we don’t pick up any injuries.”
Kear’s pack options have been boosted by the return of hooker George Flanagan following a ten-match ban for grabbing the testicles of a Featherstone player during a Challenge Cup tie in March.
The 34-year-old, who still maintains his innocence, said: “What’s happened has happened but I am still bitter about it. I had three or four weeks when I just didn’t want to play rugby anymore.
“I don’t like to be perceived as a bad person and I got a lot of negative reviews and comments.
“Everybody at the club has been around me, supported me and kept me involved in things.”
FEATHERSTONE ROVERS duo Thomas Minns and Jack Bussey are facing lengthy spells on the sidelines.
Both suffered injuries – in centre Minns’ case a broken leg – during Rovers’ 63-14 home win over promotion rivals London Broncos.
The setbacks took the edge off an eleventh win out of eleven league games this season for James Webster’s Wembley-bound side.
Having visited Widnes, Featherstone face York in the 1895 Cup final at the national stadium on Saturday.
Former Leeds and Hull KR player Minns has been with the club since last season while loose-forward Bussey, who has an ankle injury, started his second spell at Featherstone in 2019 after stints at London Broncos and Toronto.
“The first half was really good, against a decent side,” said Webster. “We’ve scored 240-odd points in our last four games so I will take that, and we are a side that can build momentum well.
“Some of that is down to having done a huge amount of work on structure, effort, push and support play, and credit to the boys for that.”
Ex-Hull, Toronto, Leigh and Hull KR back Craig Hall claimed a hat-trick against London Broncos and said: “We’re building up those wins, and I think getting to Wembley has played a part in that, because the players know they have to turn up week in, week out to retain their places.”
Webster says the final has only just come to the forefront of his mind as he plots a double of 1895 Cup success and promotion to Super League.
“I haven’t thought too much about Wembley, because we’ve had big league games, and they will continue after the final,” he explained.
“We take each match in turn and pick the strongest side we can.”
Featherstone have confirmed forward Frankie Halton will join Hull KR on a two-year deal next season.
The Ireland international, who is comfortable at prop or in the back row, joined from Swinton ahead of the current campaign.
YORK CITY KNIGHTS coach James Ford believes the “toughness and togetherness” of his Wembley-bound squad will help the ambitious club through their current tough patch.
The Knights picked up further injuries, to forwards Will Jubb and Joe Porter, in the 28-26 home loss to Newcastle.
Ford has moved to bring in two Leeds youngsters, hooker Corey Johnson, 20, and centre Corey Hall, 18, on loan.
York headed to London Broncos aiming to avoid a sixth straight league defeat ahead of Saturday’s 1895 Cup final clash with Featherstone at Wembley.
Former Hull KR hooker Jubb damaged an arm while prop Porter, plucked from the amateur game in 2017, sustained a knee injury.
Jubb returned to the pitch knowing his arm was potentially fractured, with Ford explaining: “He wanted to go back out there and try and help the boys get the win.”
A lack of available halfbacks forced York to play winger Ben Jones-Bishop at stand-off and forward Chris Clarkson at scrum-half.
“With no recognised halves and losing players to injury at points of the game, it was a real challenge,” said Ford.
“It’s obviously disappointing to lose, but I’m really proud of the boys’ effort and how tough they are. The performance wasn’t pretty, but it was never going to be.
“Clearly, we didn’t ask enough questions with the ball and we didn’t throw enough shape at Newcastle.
“But there are some reasons there and not excuses. I’m really proud of the toughness and togetherness. Individually, I thought the boys showed they’re ready to fight.”
Ford added: “There were periods in the first half where we didn’t touch the ball for ten minutes with six agains and penalties, but we hung in there.
“We made metres and defended well – we did that in abundance, we probably just didn’t kick the ball as well as you would do normally.
“But we’ve got a middle unit at scrum-half and Ben Jones-Bishop at stand-off. You throw some halfbacks in and I think you’ve got the makings of a good side.”
BATLEY BULLDOGS coach Craig Lingard says the club’s fans might have been seeing double during the derby at Bradford had a closed-season signing bid come off.
Oli Burton, the 19-year-old on-loan Leeds hooker, lined up against twin brother Joe, who scored his first career try in helping the Bulls to a 30-16 success at Odsal.
But the pair, whose dad Danny represented Halifax, Dewsbury and Hunslet and whose elder sister Abi is an England rugby union sevens international, could have been playing alongside each other.
That’s if Lingard’s attempt to recruit versatile back Joe, who like Oli is a former England Academy squad member after he left Leeds, had been successful.
“I know their dad, and I’ve followed the progress of both twins closely,” explained Lingard. “We spoke to Joe when he became available, but he ended up joining Bradford, and has made some progress there.”
While Joe recently committed to Bradford until the end of next season, Oli is aiming to use his Batley experience to boost his chances of a first-team call-up at Leeds.
“You can see from the way he goes about things in training, he’s been in a really good development system at Leeds,” added Lingard, who has returned to Leeds to land teenage back rowers Oli Field and Levi Edwards.
“The idea of signing him on loan was to give him a taste of a first-team environment, and to provide some cover.
“But we had fitness concerns over both Alistair Leak and Ben Kaye for the Bradford game, which presented an immediate opportunity for Oli, and I had no hesitation about playing him.”
It was a second successive defeat for Batley, who had won seven out of nine in the league before going down 22-12 at home to Halifax.
Fresh from hosting table-topping Toulouse, they visit Dewsbury on Thursday for the first competitive Heavy Woollen derby since August 2019.
Batley were 16-10 home winners on that occasion.
LONDON BRONCOS medical chief Nick Naylor says the glut of long-term injuries at his club and throughout the Championship comes as no surprise.
Interim coach Tom Tsang, promoted following the departure of Danny Ward last week, is without both winger Ed Chamberlain and hooker Sam Davis for the rest of the season as he tries to maintain a push for the play-offs.
Davis’s fellow hooker Matty Fozard faces a further two months out while back rower Sid Adebiyi isn’t expected to return until September.
Meanwhile halfback Cory Aston is under assessment for a foot problem which kept him out of the 63-14 defeat at Featherstone which preceded Ward’s exit by mutual consent.
Head of medical Naylor said: “Frequent injuries are par for the course at the moment.
“It’s mainly due to the Covid-19 pandemic, which has had a huge impact on injury in professional sport – not just Rugby League.
“In the Championship, players have gone from no competitive play since March 2020 to a shortened pre-season and then a full fixture list from March 2021.
“It’s a quick turnaround and it’s difficult for all clubs to deal with. Not carrying through the season-to-season physical robustness adds to the problem but it is something we can manage.
“Players in the treatment room will work on a carefully structured recovery plan with our dedicated medical team to return to training as quickly but safely as possible, but no injury case can be rushed.”
After his first match at the helm at home to York, former Coventry coach Tsang now has a blank weekend before the next game at home to Widnes on Sunday, July 25.
The Broncos are pushing to regain the Super League status earned by Ward through victory over Toronto in the 2018 Million Pound Game in Canada.
They confounded the critics by winning ten out of 29 top-flight matches, only to suffer relegation in the final day of the season.
NEWCASTLE THUNDER have been busy reorganising their training regime – and director of rugby Denis Betts believes it’s been a key factor in a recent improvement in results.
Thunder, promoted to the second tier through an application system after Leigh’s elevation to Super League, went into their home clash with Dewsbury on the back of three wins in four.
Eamon O’Carroll’s side also defeated Swinton and Oldham in a run which followed four consecutive defeats.
Former Widnes coach Betts explained: “We have moved to a hybrid training system and we are doing more of it.
“At the moment, we have a number of players from Yorkshire, Humberside and Lancashire, and under our previous model, they were travelling for a combined 22 hours for two hours of training a couple of times a week.
“We’ve transitioned from League 1 to the Championship, which is a completely different animal, a very tough competition, and we weren’t training enough. We needed to do more to get the best out of the group and to help avoid injuries.
“To take away travel time, we are getting players to stay over. It was Wednesday, Friday, now it’s a full day Wednesday, stay over for a half day on Thursday, and prepare on a Saturday and stay over for the game.
“Teams are built on being teams and spending time together. Covid is a challenge to part-time sporting teams, but now thanks to staying over, we are starting to build some bonds.
“It takes time but we are on that path now, and we want to get to a place where we can move to being a full-time squad.
“It’s a case of build it and they will come. We have a great facility and environment and we offer an opportunity. We will lose and gain people like all sporting organisations, that’s the journey we are on.
“We don’t want to be a team dropped in and playing, we want to be part of North-East, to have players who live in this area and are part of the community.”
HALIFAX PANTHERS winger James Saltonstall says the Shay faithful played a key role in the one-point win over Widnes which pushed the Panthers up to fourth ahead of their home clash with Whitehaven.
It was an eighth win in twelve league games this season and fifth in a row for Simon Grix’s side, who now have a blank weekend before tackling Sheffield on Sunday, July 25 in a clash which will take pace at Wakefield.
Former Warrington player Saltonstall, who joined hometown Halifax in 2015, scored two tries as his side fought back from 16-6 down at half-time, eventually winning with a late Liam Harris field-goal.
“The fans really got behind us during a tough time in the match. They have been brilliant in recent weeks and the atmosphere they have created home and away has been great,” said the 27-year-old.
“We’ve hit a bit of form and have beaten some sides close to us in the table, and that’s helped us move up and created confidence in the group. Now we want to push on over the second half of the season.”
WIDNES VIKINGS coach Simon Finnigan says his side only had themselves to blame for failing to win at Halifax.
Finnigan was highly frustrated to see a ten-point half-time advantage slip away and the game settled 17-16 in the hosts’ favour by a late field-goal.
And he wants his side to learn their lesson fast as they aim to maintain a recent overall improvement.
“It was a tight game, but it should never have been allowed to become a tight game,” said Finnigan.
“Credit to Halifax, they took their chances, but some of our decision making with and without the ball gifted them momentum and territory.
“We are similar teams, and any swing was always going to be important. What we did at the start of the second half proved costly.
“We’ve had a few similar games, and we need to learn to see them out in as comfortable a way as possible.”
Finnigan called try-scorer Jayden Hatton “terrific” and hailed experienced Matty Smith, who again played loose-forward.
But he added: “While some individuals were very good, too many weren’t.”
DEWSBURY RAMS can take positives as well as a point from their first draw of the season and Sheffield’s third, according to coach Lee Greenwood.
The Rams were unable to turn an 18-4 half-time lead into a victory as the Eagles hit back to make it 18-18 through a late penalty-goal.
“We spent a lot of the game in our own half and Sheffield were down our end most of it,” said Greenwood.
“I’m not sure how we were 18-4 up, but it was down to some good defence and Sheffield dropping the ball.
“Really it was only a matter of time, and I’m amazed it took them so long to score their second try (after 59 minutes), but that is a testament to our defence.
“Once they got in they scored another one straight afterwards, you are looking at Sheffield probably going on to win the game.”
Greenwood, whose side have a home derby against Batley on Thursday after visiting Newcastle, added: “At the moment, it is scratchy.
“We have players playing everywhere and players dropping out before kick-off. We name a team on the Friday, train with that team and then it all changes.”
SHEFFIELD EAGLES can climb the table on the back of toughening up and further dominant displays by seasoned star Matt James, according to his fellow forward Joel Farrell.
Former Dewsbury second rower Farrell returned from injury to help the Eagles claim an 18-18 draw at his first club – their third of the season – winning the late penalty from which his younger brother Izaac kicked equalising two points.
“We’ve been too nice recently and nobody has been giving it to the opposition,” said the 27-year-old Jamaica international. “I thought I’d rattle some cages and get under their skin.”
Sheffield trailed 18-4 at half-time and Farrell added: “We need to fix up our errors and penalties (conceded). If we do that, we should be flying.”
Former Featherstone man James has returned this season after a leg injury sidelined him for almost two years.
The 34-year-old prop charged down a last-gasp Dewsbury field-goal attempt, and Farrell said: “Matt was the best forward on the pitch by a mile. He’s getting back to his old self and it’s great to watch him.”
Having visited Swinton, Sheffield are next in action against Halifax on Sunday week, July 25, in a game which will take place at Wakefield because of ongoing pitch maintenance work at the Keepmoat Stadium, Doncaster, the Eagles’ home for this season.
Mark Aston’s side recently played Toulouse at Trinity’s Mobile Rocket Stadium.
TOULOUSE OLYMPIQUE continue to await an RFL verdict on whether their next scheduled match, at home to Dewsbury on Saturday week, July 24, can go ahead.
It’s one of four home matches which remain on the fixture list of the promotion-chasing French side, who went into their match at Batley with a 100 per cent record.
Coach Sylvain Houles has accepted that because of the problems posed to part-time clubs by Covid travel guidelines, it could next season before his players run out at the city’s impressive Stade Ernest Wallon, where they have agreed a long-term deal to play alongside rugby union’s European champions Stade Toulousain.
“It (the stadium) takes your breath away,” he said. “It’s a stunning venue for Rugby League and it’s agonising for the players that they can’t yet perform there.
“But we have to tell ourselves that one day we will be playing regularly on that fantastic pitch.”
WHITEHAVEN assistant coach Jonty Gorley says the benefits of gaining consecutive wins in the Championship for the fist time since March 2016 outweighed the frustration of another second-half dip.
The Cumbrians followed up their 37-12 home victory over York by beating Swinton 36-22 back at the LEL Arena, where they led 18-6 at the turn, meaning they went into their game at Halifax in eleventh place.
“To concede three tries early in the second half meant we made it harder for ourselves, and we’ve had a habit of not kicking on after a good first half,” said Gorley, who arrived at Whitehaven along with coach Gary Charlton in October 2018.
“But overall we showed resilience and got another win, and I think that two months ago, we might not have got that result, which shows we are making progress.
“You can’t really complain at back-to-back wins.”
Gorley was pleased to see influential prop Marc Shackley return from a hamstring injury.
“He was feeling it, but it was his first game since the first (league) game of the season, so it’s no surprise,” he said of the 32-year-old.
Whitehaven are back in action at home to Oldham on Sunday week, July 25.
SWINTON LIONS have signed winger Owen Buckley on loan from divisional rivals Widnes.
The 6ft 4in 22-year-old came through the Vikings development ranks before making his debut in the 2018 Super League clash at Hull.
He has featured five times this year, crossing once, to take his overall club figures to 20 appearances with eleven tries.
Buckley was in the Swinton squad for the home clash with Sheffield.
Stuart Littler’s side are next in action at York on Sunday week, July 25.
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