IF Oldham’s three pre-season games so far have proved anything they have shown that Roughyeds should be good enough to make an impact on Betfred League 1 this year and perhaps live up to their billing as bookies’ favourites to win promotion.

They have also given a clear indication that head coach Scott Naylor will have to do a lot of soul-searching to come up with his strongest 17, following the Roughyeds’ narrow 22-18 loss at Swinton Lions.

Take the full-back spot. New signing Richie Hawkyard had two cracking games in the wins against Barrow and Rochdale and followed up with the first of Oldham’s four tries at Swinton before going off at half-time with a calf problem.

Enter Kyran Johnson, who immediately grasped the opportunity to show Hawkyard isn’t going to have it all his own way in the pursuit of the full-back role.

Johnson had a blinder of a second half, using his pace over distance and speed off the mark to make massive yards on kick returns and to cause mayhem in the Lions’ rearguard whenever he joined up with the Roughyeds attack.

It was Johnson who was main man in the build-up to centre Zack McComb’s fourth try in three outings and it was Johnson who scored his side’s fourth and final try near the end with a scoot to the corner past a bewildered Lions defence.

Take the half-backs. Once Paul Crook is fit after a broken toe, the boss can go with any two from four – Dave Hewitt, Crook, Anthony Bowman and the latest signing, Adam Brook, who got a second-half debut at Swinton after only one training session and a Captain’s Run with his team-mates.

For 20 minutes or so he partnered Hewitt but when the former St Helens man was taken off, Brook and Gareth Owen operated as midfield pivots with Brook taking on lead role as field kicker and principal decision-maker.

It was a big ask of the new boy, but he stood up to the challenge and did not look at all out of place in leading his new side around the park with confidence and no small amount of self-belief.

There was little to choose between the sides. Each scored four tries and the only difference was in goal-kicking on a day when a fierce wind made it almost impossible to land goals from out wide.

Lions marksman Oscar Thomas kicked three out of four, two of them from very comfortable positions near the posts, but three of the four Oldham tries – by Hawkyard, Lee Kershaw, McComb and Johnson – were scored near the corner flag with the result that Hewitt (one goal, one miss) and Brook (two misses) didn’t have good days when attempting to kick goals.

That was the big difference in winning and losing, and considering Swinton were far stronger and better prepared than either Barrow or Rochdale, the Roughyeds did well to match them all the way.

It was 10-10 at half time, Rob Fairclough and Matty Ashton having scored tries for Swinton with replies from Hawkyard and on-loan left-wing Kershaw for Oldham.

In the second half, when the sides continued to score tries in turn, Oscar Thomas scored for Swinton; McComb went in for Oldham; Jack Hansen replied for the home side; and finally Johnson crowned his superb second-half show with his try in the corner for Oldham.

On a day when Roughyeds used 20 players and made lots of changes performance was more important than the result.

Next up is Newcastle Thunder at the Vestacare Stadium on Sunday (3pm).

Hawkyard (calf), Luke Nelmes (gashed head), Hewitt (thigh) and Danny Grimshaw (hamstring) will be monitored ahead of the fourth and final pre-season warm-up game for the Roughyeds, who start their league campaign with the visit of Workington Town on February 17.