IT was a tale of two teams, in two halves, and two goals scored by two trialists, as Latics stepped up their pre-season programme with a 2-0 win at Stalybridge Celtic.

For the second game in a row Keith Curle’s men faced Northern Premier League Premier Division opposition and came out on top.

And again Curle opted to utilise a large number of trialists, with six in the first half and five in the second.

Latics found themselves with some defending to do in their first friendly at Hurst Cross, with former Morecambe and Salford striker Jack Redshaw particularly impressive for the home side.

But it was a more comfortable night for League Two Oldham at Bower Fold, even though that was not reflected in the scoreline.

Curle’s side only had one goal to show for it in the first half, despite dominating possession.

It took a few fluffed attempts before Nicky Adams found some accuracy with his corner deliveries, but once he did he caused problems to push Stalybridge even further onto the back foot, and Will Sutton was unlucky not to score from one of them. The young defender’s glanced header was on target, but it bounced off a defender – who knew little about it – and Stalybridge were able to clear.

In the end Latics’ breakthrough came from open play as two trialists combined to score in the 29th minute, with the Stalybridge keeper advancing for a 50-50 ball inside the box and finding it chipped over him and landing in an empty net.

The goal was notable as the trialist providing the assist was a certain Dean Furman, the one-time Latics skipper who is back training with his former club after leaving Carlisle.

Harrison McGahey might have added a second soon after as he was picked out by Adams’ excellent corner at the far left post. The defender rose, unchallenged, but could not direct his firm header on target.

Stalybridge, managed by former Cardiff, Wigan and Tranmere striker Simon Haworth, had barely had a sight of goal in the first half. But despite more recognised Latics personnel making up the XI after the break, with Dylan Fage, Carl Piergianni, Sam Hart, Callum Whelan, Zak Dearnley and Davis Keillor-Dunn all starting the second half along with five trialists as Curle made wholesale changes, the non-league side offered more of an attacking threat after the break.

Fortunately for Latics, they could convert it into goals.

Latics should have just doubled their lead on a counter. Dearnley delivered a terrific ball from the right channel to Trialist J in acres of space but a Celtic defender tracked back quickly. Trialist J tried to find him to slot the ball home but frustratingly hit a dead end.

The winger tried to atone for a missed opportunity with a couple of exciting runs, including one that led to a fluffed chance for Dearnley, but there was a chance for Celtic at the opposite end before Latics doubled their lead as Luke Barlow flicked a header narrowly wide on the hour.

Trailist H made it 2-0 to Latics soon after, confidently burying Whelan’s excellent through ball in the 63rd minute.

Piergianni had a let-off when he misjudged the bounce of the ball and brought down Sope Awe as the Celtic striker threatened to sprint away, as the subsequent free kick dropped over the bar.

Dearnley came close to adding a third but was denied by an excellent save from the keeper.

Latics move on to their first home friendly, against League One Wigan Athletic, on Saturday. But fans must wait to get back inside Boundary Park after a decision was taken to play the game behind closed doors due to the cost implications of stewarding under coronavirus restrictions,  which will be lifted the following Monday.