THAT was better Oldham...much, much better.

After a nervy start, a well-below strength Roughyeds raised their game to at least match a strong Halifax side for more than an hour.

After the timid offering in the first pre-season friendly at Featherstone, this was a lot more like it - a performance that will have raised spirits and morale throughout the club ahead of next Saturday's Betfred Challenge Cup first round clash at League 1 side Barrow Raiders (12.45pm ko).

Sickness - unrelated to Covid - had caused the withdrawal of centre Ryan Ince and half-back Dave Hewitt while prop Phil Joy failed a fitness test.

In the starting line-up, five of the seven players outside of the pack were either new to the club or new to the game at this level - the exceptions were full-back Dan Abram and stand-off Lewis Charnock (but they totalled only 12 previous games between them).

Scrum-half James Barran, centres Max Roberts and Joe Hartley and wingers Tommy Brierley and Ben Holcroft were all on home debut against a Panthers side that will be expected to finish in the Betfred Championship's top few.

Hartley had a less-than-auspicious debut on the wing at Featherstone, but here was a different player; strong, confident, full of self-belief and looking very comfortable at centre.

Luckily, Roughyeds had fewer selection problems in the forwards. There was no Joy and no Matty Wilkinson, who will be out for some time after breaking a leg in pre-season training, but all the experienced new boys were in action.

Martyn Reilly, Liam Kirk, Luke Nelmes and Shaun Pick were all on duty in the 20 who were used, alongside old favourites like Liam Bent at loose, the two Dannys in the second-row, Langtree and Bridge, and Jack Spencer on the bench.

Also coming off the bench was the club's most experienced player, prop Jode Sheriffe. He signed a year ago, damaged a knee in pre-season and didn't play in the six games before lockdown.

The top forward, though, was Nelmes. He took it upon himself to 'police' Halifax's star newcomer Gadwin Springer, a big man with a reputation for never taking a backward step.

Roughyeds looked nervous early on and quickly went 10-0 down, but after that they matched Halifax all the way and scored three good tries by Abram, young Callum Green and Bridge.

Fax scored six tries to three, but they led only 10-6 at half-time and at least two of their tries were the direct result of individual Oldham errors.

Overall, and on a day when the result mattered little, but the performance mattered a lot, Oldham came up trumps.

Scorers: Oldham: goals - Abram (1), Barran (2); tries, Abram, Green, Bridge; Halifax: goals - Robinson (3); tries, McComb, Calcott, Barber, McGrath, Saltonstall, Woodburn-Hall.

OLDHAM: Abram; Brierley, Roberts, Hartley, Holcroft; Charnock, Barran; Reilly, Owen, Kirk, Bridge, Langtree, Bent. Subs (all used): Gregory, Nelmes, Spencer, Fletcher, Green, Sheriffe, Pick.

HALIFAX: Grix; McGrath, Rawsthorne, McComb, Saltonstall; Harris, Robinson; Calcott, Moore, Murray, Garside, Barber, Larroyer. Subs (all used): Bourough, Connor Davies, Curtis Davies, Fairbank, Morris, Springer, Tibbs, Woodburn-Hall.

Referee: Matthew Rossleigh.