IF THIS was a play-off warm-up, maybe the Bulls can claim a slight psychological edge for the battle to come.

But the workmanlike win at the Vestacare Stadium was hardly a case of stamping their authority on a potential rival in the forthcoming shoot-out.

A stodgy scoreless second half against an opposition who finished with just 10 men will not have impressed John Kear.

Friday’s RFL revamp, for all its proposed chop and change, maintained the status quo as far as the promotion race in League One goes.

Unless Whitehaven pull off a shock at Bootham Crescent next week, and given how they struggled to get past Coventry yesterday that hardly looks likely, the Bulls are still going to have to take the long route to earn their ticket back to the Championship.

And the Odsal semi-final against the fifth spot in a fortnight could well throw up another clash with Scott Naylor’s Roughyeds.

If that’s the case, Oldham will not be trembling as they cross the Pennines after yesterday’s scrappy affair.

They could certainly claim the moral victory for digging in with depleted numbers to win the second half – and holding the Bulls scoreless in that time.

With no Greg McNally in the Bulls’ 19-man squad, Brandon Pickersgill resumed fullback duties. Jordan Lilley and youngster Matthew Storton also filled in again for the absent Sam Hallas and Matty Garside.

Kear has stated from the first restructure rumblings that it has not been a topic of conversation – at least in his presence.

He didn’t want the unnecessary distraction, which proved to be sound advice given the eventual ruling on how next year’s Championship will be formed.

The Bulls already have their plans for the next tier well underway, Jon Magrin’s announced return the latest in a line of deals done with the step-up in mind.

But there is still a job to be done in negotiating the potential pitfalls of a straight knock-out for the second promotion spot. Yesterday was a timely warning that they can’t take that as a given.

The Bulls had been training on Dewsbury’s 4G pitch to replicate the tightness of the surroundings.

But their build-up wasn’t helped by the traffic issues on the M62 which caused huge problems for the travelling fans. The Bulls took over two hours to get from Odsal – and the kick-off was put back five minutes.

Oldham’s attempt to catch them dozing with a short kick-off backfired with an instant knock-on.

The early skirmishes were predictably forward-dominated down the middle. Dane Chisholm and Joe Keyes looked to test the Roughyeds defence with a series of high kicks – but all were dealt with confidently.

Mikey Wood was forced off with an early bang and replacement James Green had only just appeared when Oldham grabbed the lead in spectacular style.

Jordan Lilley’s pass was picked off just over halfway by David Hewitt and the scrum half raced away to score unopposed under the sticks. Luke Hooley improved the lead – and the Bulls had their hands full.

It got more difficult when Hewitt’s kick to the corner was fumbled in the air by Jy Hitchcox and Matthew Reid swooped on the rebound for a second Oldham try.

Liam Kirk was flattened by a powerful goalline stop but the Bulls responded as Chisholm feigned one way and then sent in Storton with a delayed pass for his second senior score. Keyes landed the extras and the Bulls were in business.

Oldham’s defensive diligence was being tested and for once Hooley made a mess of a Chisholm bomb. But having forced the drop-out, the Bulls could not make it count as Ethan Ryan was wrapped up by two players as he looked to convert another angled kick from the Australian.

But the Bulls were hitting their stride and grabbed the lead for the first time with a superb solo effort by Hitchcox, taking a kick from his own 30m line and romping through the line to run it back.

As the growing momentum forced Oldham into mistakes, former Roughyeds loanee Tuoyo Egodo’s barnstorming run took the visitors back within range.

George Flanagan had only just come on and with his second touch of the ball, he finished with a trademark show and go.

Oldham imploded with another kick-off on the full – and again the Bulls seized the opportunity, Ross Peltier going in from close range.

After the sluggish start, when the Bulls looked to be still on the bus, they were now firmly in control at the half-time hooter.

Ryan, the division’s top scorer, was denied try number 33 when he put the ball down beyond the in-goal area as the Bulls looked for more to start the second half.

Naylor was making his frustration clear as his side’s season-long struggle to post points continued – and he was cursing again when a flowing build-up finished by Tooley was chalked off for a double movement.

Oldham’s self-inflicted problems magnified when Ben Davies was sent off, presumably for a verbal blast at referee Matt Rosleigh after he awarded another penalty.

Yet the 12 men briefly threatened as Matt Wilkinson raced from his own half, before Keyes and Hitchcox combined to drag him down 10 metres out.

The Bulls had been a bit lacklustre since the break and it was Oldham asking the questions even with depleted numbers. But they could not convert and Danny Langtree was held up on his back.

While the defence remained good, the Bulls still looked patchy. Egodo took a high kick and shaped to race the length of the field – only to fumble the ball.

Oldham failed to turn good field position into anything meaningful but handling errors prevented the Bulls showing any intention of making their extra man count.

It was becoming increasingly scrappy – but Oldham’s efforts finally earned their reward after 76 minutes with the first score of the half.

Adam Neal sent in Craig Briscoe and Hooley’s conversion cut the deficit to eight.

Elliot Minchella’s attempt to stretch his scoring run to a seventh game was cut short five metres out. Flanagan was tripped trying a quick play-the-ball – and that sparked a mass confrontation.

When the melee eased, Oldham found themselves down to 10 men as Luke Nelmes was sent off and Hooley shown a yellow. But still Bradford could not score.

OLDHAM: Hooley 8; Kershaw 7, Reid 7, Holmes 7, Johnson 7; Owen 8, Hewitt 8; Neal 7, Hughes 6, Joy 7, Briscoe 7, Langtree 8, Bent 6. Interchange: Spencer 6, Wilkinson 7, Nelmes 7, Davies 5.

BULLS: Pickersgill 6; Hitchcox 7, Gibson 6, Egodo 6, Ryan 6; Keyes 6, Chisholm 7; Kirk 6, Lilley 6, Crossley 7, Storton 8, Minchella 7, Wood 6. Interchange: Flanagan 7, Bustin 6, Green 6, Peltier 7.

Note: We apologise for the lack of live images from the Oldham game. This is because our photographer was unable to attend due to the major traffic disruption on the M62.