AFTER two pre-season defeats by top Championship sides, Oldham got their 2021 season off to a flier with a promising win against League 1 favourites Barrow Raiders in the first round of the Betfred Challenge Cup at Bower Fold.

Raiders, a big, strong team at League 1 level, fielded former Super League players in left-wing Ryan Shaw, prop Adam Walne, loose-forward Ben Harrison and sub forward Callum Bustin, whose skills and experience complemented those of Championship-standard colleagues like full-back Tee Ritson, stand-off Jamie Dallimore and Aussie second-row man Jarrad Stack.

This tie, said Roughyeds boss Matt Diskin beforehand, was one that was “thwart with danger.”

You could see what he meant when speedster Shaw, who was at Hull KR as recently as last season, got a chance to fly from deep inside his own half.

He backed himself up the outside and, hugging the touchline, stormed past Tommy Brierley and Dan Abram to score a great try that kept Barrow hanging in there, somewhat fortuitously, at 12-6 down at half-time.

Dallimore, whose career started at Oldham, had gone off injured after 17 minutes, but you could see how much of a threat backs like Shaw and Ritson would have been had they been operating behind a dominant set of forwards.

Fortunately for Oldham they didn’t have that luxury.

Here, the home forwards reigned supreme and laid down the solid foundation on which the home side, worthy and deserving victors, surged into the next round of the Challenge Cup and simultaneously retained their interest in the 1895 Cup.

In the crucial battle of the raw-boned heavyeights up front, Barrow’s Adam Walne, Carl Forster, Ryan Duffy and Callum Bustin, struggled to combat Luke Nelmes, Liam Kirk, Shaun Pick and Tyler Dupree.

With 21-year-old Dupree coming off the bench to produce a stunning, man-of-the-match performance, this powerful quartet bossed the show and created the platform on which hooker Gareth Owen, halves James Barran and Lewis Charnock and the outside runners did the rest.

It was no coincidence that club captain Owen had his best and longest session for years -- something like 70 of the 80 minutes -- and that Charnock and Barran looked in tandem at 6 and 7.

Further out, Danny Langtree on the left and Danny Bridge on the right formed a formidable second-row.

Rookie centre Max Roberts, at 20 the second youngest member of the squad, did well and no doubt learned a few things on the way, while it was good to see Ben Heaton, his senior by 11 years, looking as skilful and as threatening as ever.

With better finishing, Oldham could have scored more than their three tries by Charnock, Langtree and Tommy Brierley, all of them converted by Abram, who also kicked a penalty.

The best try was Brierley’s just after half-time and while Pick was in the sin-bin for a late tackle.

Moving the ball swiftly from left to right, Charnock, Barran and Abram all handled at pace before Heaton displayed all the expertise and experience of a veteran to send in his winger, Brierley, with a sublime last pass in the tackle.

Scorers: Oldham - goals: Abram 4/4; tries: Charnock, Langtree, Brierley; Barrow - goal, Shaw 1/1; try, Shaw.

OLDHAM: Abram; Brierley, Heaton, Roberts, Ince; Charnock, Barran; Nelmes, Owen, Kirk, Bridge, Langtree, Bent. Subs: Gregory, Dupree, Pick and Reilly.

BARROW: Ritson; S Toal, Hulme, Tyson, Shaw; Dallimore, Johnston; A Walne, Swarbrick, Forster, J Walne, Stack, Harrison. Subs: Carter, D Toal, Duffy, Bustin.

Ref: Marcus Griffiths.