IT’S easy to say it after the event, but Matt Diskin was so delighted with Oldham’s winning fightback in the Championship opener against Swinton Lions that he has since expressed his preference for two league points over an appearance in the semi-final of the 1895 Cup.

Five days before the Roughyeds’ stunning second-half display which turned a 10-20 interval deficit into a 28-20 league win at Bower Fold, the Lions beat Diskin’s men 23-14 at their ground to progress to both the third round of the Challenge Cup and the last four of the 1895 Cup, which effectively puts them one game from Wembley.

Diskin, however, got the win he wanted most in a flying start to the Championship campaign.

The Oldham boss is realistic enough to know that in a division of ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’; of some clubs with full-time professionals and others, like Oldham, whose players have jobs outside rugby, Roughyeds are unlikely to be involved in a race for promotion.

He has challenged himself and his squad, though, by going public with his season’s target - to finish as high up the Championship as possible and certainly high enough to be over and above a relegation battle.

Before Diskin came to Oldham, Roughyeds got promoted from League 1 with Swinton in 2015, but whereas the Lions have managed to stay up since - more often than not by the skin of their teeth - Oldham just managed to survive in 2016 and went down again in 2017.

After two more seasons in the third tier, they went up again at the end of 2019. Exit Scott Naylor, enter Matt Diskin.

The former Leeds Rhinos and Bradford Bulls star came on a two-year deal, but the 2020 season was written off because of Covid and his big test will be in the months ahead.

He has said himself it will be a roller-coaster of results and emotions and he knows his squad will have to possess mental strength in bucket loads to overcome the adversity and the challenges that the Championship will inevitably provide.

That’s why he was delighted with the manner of his side’s win against the Lions.

He said before the match, in which Roughyeds rattled up 18 unanswered points in the second half and achieved their objective of ‘nilling’ the Lions in the second 40, that his men would always be “tenacious in their endeavours.”

They were certainly that on Friday.

Gareth Owen

Gareth Owen

Club captain Gareth Owen set an inspirational example from stand-off and, to a man, the rest of the Roughyeds got behind their leader and took up the challenge.

Victory in the bag on day one, club chairman Chris Hamilton said: “I’m pleased most of all for the players. They were really down in the dumps after losing in the cup at Swinton, but they were determined to win second time round and they worked really hard in training during the week.

“What pleased Matt most was how they soaked up adversity and beat it.

“It was a great second-half performance and, hopefully, one that augurs well for the season ahead.”

Skipper Owen, clever in attack, industrious in defence, said: “We knew we could roll them through the middle. We needed to do better in good-ball situations, but we felt if we could do that, the points would come.”

There were defensive concerns first half, particularly out wide, and there was room for improvement still in the kicking department.

But in the main Oldham’s forwards did “roll them through the middle” and the points followed.

Take into account that Danny Langtree started on the bench and that Phil Joy, Luke Nelmes, Matthew Fletcher and Jode Sheriffe were not involved at all, and you have the numbers and the quality to believe that Diskin, with Hamilton’s support and backing, has assembled a forward pack that’s strong enough to realise the boss’s ambitions.

Martyn ‘Rambo’ Reilly again led the charge up the middle with strong supporting roles from Liam Kirk, Tyler Dupree, Jack Spencer and the lighter, bit no less industrious tackling machine that’s Liam Bent.

Further out, Langtree, Danny Bridge and Shaun Pick always posed threats, while there were huge contributions from man-of-the-match Owen, Dan Abram at full-back, two-try Ben Heaton in the centre, Dave Hewitt at scrum-half and energetic dynamo Declan Gregory, a hooker whose introduction off the bench in the first few minutes allowed Owen to replace the injured Lewis Charnock at stand-off.

There will be higher hurdles to come...but for starters this was just what Diskin wanted.