Oldham Roughyeds 20 Whitehaven 0

Whitehaven's hopes of a top-five finish in Betfred League One took a severe knock at Oldham where Carl Forster’s men failed to score for the second game in a row.

They’re still only two points behind the chasing pack with five games of the regular season left, but they will have to play a lot better than they did at the Vestacare Stadium if they’re going to catch up.

You could count on the fingers of one hand easily, the number of times they seriously threatened to bust open Oldham’s resolute defence, one of the best in the division.

With Haven already 12-0 down, player-coach Forster was held up over the Oldham line early in the second half.

The visitors trailed 18-0 by the time Jordan Burns sent Dion Aiye clear with a clever reverse pass, but the PNG man somehow managed to drop the ball with the line at his mercy.

Other than those two instances, Oldham did enough to keep the Cumbrians at arm’s length, while themselves scoring three tries by Craig Briscoe, David Hewitt and Danny Langtree.

Paul Crook, who was kicking goals for Haven this time last year and helping them to reach the play-off final at Barrow, converted all three Oldham tries and then added a last-gasp penalty goal for good measure.

Forster made changes to the side that toiled at Odsal, recalling Aiye and Dan Abram after injury to the exclusion of Danny Green and Jordan Herve.

He switched Burns from full-back to wing; moved Callum Phillips from half-back to full-back; and recalled Abram in the halves to link-up with Stuart Howarth, who played heroically despite suffering a hairline fracture of an arm ay Odsal last week.

Changes in the pack saw new recruit Jordan Thompson in for his first start at prop; Aiye recalled at second-row, where he was partnered by Ellis Gillam; and Forster moving from prop to loose-forward where he played like an extra front-rower.

Forster was to comment later that he needed to look at the work of his “middles” who he felt had not laid down the foundation on which his half-backs and outside backs could capitalise.

He felt Oldham ran harder and tackled harder than his Haven side, who failed to benefit from a raft of penalties in the first half.

The penalty count finished 10-7 in Haven’s favour, but the visitors were 8-2 in front at one stage and they still trailed 12-0.

In a tough, physically-demanding opening quarter, an incident was placed on report after Oldham hooker Gareth Owen was flattened off the ball and required treatment before continuing.

Shortly afterwards, he was replaced by Matty Wilkinson, whose speed from dummy half caused the Haven marker defence all sorts of problems.

It was a Wilkinson break and a cleverly-delayed pass by Hewitt which opened up the defence for Briscoe to score Oldham’s opening try after 26 minutes.

Soon afterwards, they were in again. Winger Lee Kershaw, lurking in midfield, spit Haven wide open and Wilkinson again provided the final impetus leading up to Hewitt’s try.

There was little wrong with Haven’s determined defence in a game that was, for the most part, a physical encounter and an arm-wrestle between two tough packs.

The visitors seldom had the field position to seriously threaten Oldham’s line, but they worked hard off the ball to restrict the home side to one more try by second-row man Danny Langtree near the end.

Crook added his third conversion and then popped over a last-minute penalty to rub salt into an already gaping Haven wound.