I imagine that the majority of English football fans are scornfully glaring at Oldham Athletic and Chairman Simon Corney this weekend, following the sacking of Paul Dickov, a mere week after the magnificent 3-2 win against Liverpool. However, almost as well documented as goal hero Matt Smith’s rise from non-league, is the damning statistic that, following the defeat to Walsall, Oldham have taken 1 point from their previous 27. That run contained a variety of losses, included a thrashing by Yeovil, both Swindon and Brentford playing us off the park, and late winner conceded against Crewe, Doncaster and Coventry.
A poll on an Oldham fansite, prior to the giant-killing of Liverpool, showed that 90% of fans wanted Dickov gone. That win gave him a brief stay of execution, however most fans will be relieved that Dickov has stepped down. We are all genuinely sad to see him leave, he is a great, passionate and well-liked manager: hugely unusual when considering his managerial record. We all wanted him to do well. Throughout January, Corney showed his support through firstly, the rare decision to sack all of Dickov’s backroom staff, whilst keeping his manager. Secondly the signing of cult-hero Jose Baxter to a two and a half year contract was a massive coup; he has been one of our few shining lights this season, and holding off reported interest from Ipswich, Blackpool and other Championship clubs owes great credit to Corney, Dickov and Baxter himself. Finally, the deadline day loan signings of Lee Barnard and Chris Iwelumo further underlined Corney’s support of the club.With Baxter, Barnard and Iwelumo at the new manager’s disposal, firepower shouldn’t be an issue.
However, it wasn’t enough. After 30 minutes of near total-domination against Walsall, there was capitulation, and the 3-1 loss completed a full cycle of emotions from Reece Wabara’s winning header less than a week previously.
So where does the blame lie? Much of it must lie with the players themselves- Dickov had repeatedly stated that this group of players was the best he had during his two and a half year reign. I’m sure many of you saw James Wesolowski’s outstanding box-to-box midfield display against Gerrard, Allen and co. Lee Croft terrorised young Jack Robinson, and showed sheer genius to cut the ball back for Smith to poke home the second. Smith himself had, hands down, his best performance in a Latics shirt. Since the expiry of Matt Derbyshire’s loan, Smith has had his first real run of games since the return of Derbyshire, and although he is a fantastic target man (shown by his bulldozing performance against Martin Skrtel and Sebastian Coates) his lack of league experience and clinical forward play has, unfortunately, coincided with 8 of the 9 games without a victory. Despite the outstanding performance against Liverpool (emphasised by Corney as a one-off) Wesolowski, alongside central midfield partner Dean Furman, have all too frequently been overrun in games and have rarely, if ever, grabbed control of the game. Croft has lost the pace he had during his original loan spell back in 2004 and as such, made him less of a threat this season.
These are just a few examples, and unfortunately Wesolowski, Croft, Furman, as well as Robbie Simpson and Cliff Byrne, are our most experienced players, and have all gone missing far too frequently in League One. A cynic might say that Simpson hasn’t really performed as well since the permanent signing of him at the end of January 2012, after his loan spell from Huddersfield. Furthermore, Youssuf M’Changama, who has been one of our best players during this run, has been sidelined for the remainder of the season. His place is likely to go to youngster Carl Winchester, or Paul Murray, signed on a free following his release from bottom of the league Hartlepool.
So, what next? Phil Brown is the bookies’ favourite to take over, however when taking over in a similar situation with Preston in 2011 (albeit being in the Championship) North End were relegated. Other front runners include former gaffers Iain Dowie and John Sheridan. Could they inspire these players to turn the season around, and avoid relegation into League Two? We’ve seen with neighbours Stockport County how fatal relegation to League Two can be – all too quickly you can fall into the abyss of non-league. But that doesn’t bear thinking about…
Written by Joshua Bowker, We Are Going Up’s Oldham Athletic Blogger
This is Paul Dickov’s third season at the helm of Oldham Athletic now, and probably going to be the most difficult. On a much smaller budget, due to the loss of local teams – Rochdale, Huddersfield and Sheffield Wednesday – through promotion and relegation, has led to chairman Simon Corney claiming an extra loss of £600,000 through ticket sales.
Dickov has a huge challenge ahead assembling a squad. After another summer clear-out and upheaval of the playing staff, Oldham’s squad was left looking threadbare. The departure of key players including last season’s top scorer, Shefki Kuqi, two-time reigning player of the year, Kieran Lee, and the longest serving player, Chris Taylor, along with many others decimated the squad. Positives included the extension of captain Dean Furman and striker Robbie Simpson’s contracts for the coming season. Also, the signings of Jonathan Grounds and ex-Scunthorpe legend Cliff Byrne have bolstered a young defence, where a huge season is expected of James Tarkowski and Jean-Yves M’voto, the former who Dickov claimed reminds him of Richard Dunne, despite being only 19 years old. The season-long loan signing of winger Lee Croft from Derby County adds to a midfield with an already strong centre-midfield partnership of Furman and James Wesolowski. Cristian Montaño has recently been signed from West Ham to operate on the left side, which had looked weak through pre-season.
Can Dickov have a successful 3rd season?
The main worry ahead of the new season is where the goals will come from. The three out and out strikers on the books, Matt Smith, Dan Taylor and on-loan Jordan Slew have just seven league goals between them. Much will rely on Simpson, playing just off the striker, to both create and score unless a more experience head can be brought in to help the three young strikers. However, in the two games this season against Sheffield Wednesday and MK Dons, the threat of Simpson had clearly been identified and nulled, with MK Dons using a rather heavy hand, leading to the dismissal of Anthony Kay.
Robbie Simpson will be key in 2012/13
The main problem may not be the first team, but rather the lack of depth and reserves. The Furman-Wesolowski partnership in centre midfield would be the envy of many clubs in the division, however both had various injuries throughout last season. Keeping them fit could be essential for Latics. Any sort of injury crisis is going to hit hard, with the majority of the substitutes’ bench in either their first or second season as a professional, and with very little experience. Youth team graduates Connor Hughes, Kirk Millar, Glenn Belezika, Carl Winchester and David Mellor are all inevitably going to have a part to play this season.
Off the field problems continue to hinder the development of the club. Boundary Park remains a 3 sided stadium (although plans have been announced to re-build the final stand). The £600,000 quoted by Corney seems a huge amount, and the playing budget seems to drop year-on-year hindering the development of the squad. As an extra surprise, the Football League sent over a £100,000 bill, for a pension scheme from 20 years ago.
So, what are the prospects on the football side of things? In the League, much depends on injuries, and the traditional horrendous run of form between Christmas and March, which Dickov has overseen in the last two seasons. The dreaded “R” word is not a total impossibility, especially with concerns over where the goals are going to come from, although another season of mid-table mediocrity is more than likely. Although already out of the Capital One Cup, a decent run in the FA Cup or Johnstone’s Paint Trophy would be great, especially after the loss in the Northern Final last year.
Dickov still retains the support of 90% of the fans, although there are sections who berate him, despite him working on an ever-shrinking shoestring budget. This season is quite simply going to be his biggest yet…
Written by Joshua Bowker, We Are Going Up’s Oldham Athletic Blogger
February is that time of year when the majority of New Years Resolutions have bitten the dust, the decadence of Christmas and New Year has disappeared into the distant past and all there is to look forward to is a commercial celebration of chocolate and stuffed toys and a strange egg and flour based feast.
For some this is masked by continuing success on the football pitch. Cup runs and promotion campaigns have the capacity to brighten the darkest of winters. Not for Oldham Athletic fans though. Discarded with the gym memberships this year were the dreams of Wembley and a season with consequences outliving the snow.
Upon wakening from the almighty hangover caused by watching forty-seven chances created over 180 minutes yield just one goal against a particularly feeble Chesterfield side, both managed by a former player and manager and consisting of no less than three former players, it became clear that the Latics’ season has taken a turn for the concerning.
With just one league goal scored and one point gained since the 3-2 win over Notts County on New Year’s Eve, it is becoming apparent that something needs to be done to prevent a repeat of last seasons February and March barren streak.
This situation has disconcerting echoes of that terrible two month spell at the beginning of 2011. The defence is reasonably tight – young stopper James Tarkowski having recently been compared by Paul Dickov to a young Richard Dunne – presumably a compliment, though one could argue otherwise. The creative areas of the field seem in good health too, with plenty of chances being carved by a combination of Chris Taylor, Robbie Simpson and the resurgent Filipe Morais.
What is lacking is that most fundamental of requirements: goals. Those optimism tinged days of the early Autumn when Shefki Kuqi and Robbie Simpson were dovetailing beautifully to supply the goals are a long way off now, and thoughts are turning to a potential late arrival to the relegation battle.
These thoughts may belong to the pessimists but it is clear that manager Paul Dickov needs to do something to get his young side firing and away from from danger. The loan system is often the first port of call when attempting to remedy such a situation, occasionally with fantastic results: the signing of Simpson being a case in point. It isn’t a perfect solution though, and it is hard to believe Dickov would be keen on pitching what would undoubtedly be a fairly green loanee into a squad largely consisting of players already lacking in experience.
This would point to a change of shape or focus within the team. Not an ideal situation, but in Kuqi, Simpson and the soon to return Reuben Reid Latics have the personnel to provide goals.
Dickov’s task, one of the toughest yet in his embryonic career, is to help them do so.
It is when handed assignments such as this more than when the goals and points are flowing free that fans and boards alike can truly assess their managers. From now until May Paul Dickov’s moves will be assessed very carefully as the board decide whether he is the man they want at the helm in August for the dawn of the 2012/2013 season.
Written by Christopher Platt, We Are Going Up’s Oldham Athletic Blogger
In many ways last Thursday morning was a microcosm of life as a Latics fan. A 6:30am alarm call saw me at Boundary Park for 7:00, where I, along with over a thousand others, queued for hours in the interminable wind and rain to get my hands on a ticket for Friday’s FA Cup third round game at Anfield.
Oldham Athletic supporters, indeed football supporters in general, are the worlds sickest masochists. Who else would put themselves through the weather conditions this corner of Lancashire can throw at you in December – causing two supporters to leave the queue with hypothermia – to ensure their presence at a game all and sundry will assure you is to end in emphatic defeat?
This madness is all part of the pursuit of fleeting moments of joy, such as this weekend’s late win over Notts County. After Boxing Day’s dire showing in the 1-0 defeat to then-managerless Hartlepool United one could have been forgiven for thinking Latics would struggle to score, let alone win for the rest of the season. Yet Paul Dickov’s side responded well to their festive setback, with Filipe Morais and Zander Diamond grabbing the goals that turned the Magpies’ 2-1 lead into a 3-2 home win.
This is not the first time Dickov’s side have bounced back in this manner. It has been a sign of the excellent never-say-die spirit in the Boundary Park changing room that following this season’s most disappointing set backs there have been positive results. A 4-1 thumping at Colchester United prompted a run of four games unbeaten, two consecutive defeats to Brentford and Exeter City were followed by unexpected victories over Scunthorpe United and MK Dons, plus a 2-0 home reverse to Bury was the catalyst for an unbeaten six game run featuring four victories.
So back to Anfield, where this spirit will be required in buckets – nay, tankers – when Latics travel along the M62 on Friday to meet their illustrious Premier League opponents. Whilst Oldham’s recent form has been patchy and key midfielder James Wesolowski is a doubt for the game Liverpool are due to welcome back their own midfield powerhouse Steven Gerrard. Whilst usually one would expect the Reds’ inspirational leader to sit out a game against lowly League One opponents it seems likely he will start in an effort to get minutes under his belt to prepare him for the second half of the season.
A look at the names on the team sheet the last time Liverpool played League One opposition earlier in the season at Exeter indicate that Gerrard is unlikely to be the only big name facing Dean Furman and his colleagues on Friday. Pepe Reina, Charlie Adam, Maxi Rodrigues and Luis Suarez all played that night, so it seems reasonable to expect Oldham to face a similar line up.
This may all seem rather daunting, but it is worth remembering one thing – on Friday some bookmakers had Blackburn at 20-1 to win at Old Trafford, with Latics at 14-1 to come away from Anfield with a win. As Rovers proved the bookmakers aren’t always right. Liverpool may be welcoming back Steven Gerrard, but Dickov can call upon Shefki Kuqi, Chris Taylor and Dean Furman with a sell-out 6,100 away following to spur them on. Whatever the result, it should be a night to remember.
Written by Christopher Platt, We Are Going Up’s Oldham Athletic Blogger
Some weeks in football are best described as simply a bit daft. After a routine 2-0 home win over Wycombe, Paul Dickov’s Oldham Athletic headed off for two consecutive away games. They packed up the kit, the half time jelly babies, even the box that Dickov stands on to look Jean-Yves M’voto in the eye. The one thing they left piled up at the side of the road outside Boundary Park was their senses.
After seeing out a professional home victory against a struggling team, the boys in blue travelled to Deepdale ready to entertain. Half an hour into the game one could question exactly who they were trying to entertain. It certainly wasn’t the travelling 1,310 Latics fans as Preston raced into a two goal lead with both goals scored within four minutes. By half time however the away following were much happier when their side emulated Preston’s lightning quick double salvo to make the score 2-2.
There were rapidly increased heart rates, profuse sweating & raucous renditions of numerous Latics chants at half time. And that just from me in my front room.
Forty-five minutes later, after a comical goal put Latics behind again & a thunderous late strike from James Wesolowski salvaged a point the Oldham fans went home delighted, convinced they’d witnessed the thriller of the season.
That was until Saturday anyway. Carlisle versus Oldham at Brunton Park. Now I don’t think in my decade following Latics I’ve ever known them to beat Carlisle, particularly in Cumbria. So you can imagine the surprise when the away team race into a three goal lead. The Cumbrians pulled a goal back before half time but it was still just a simple job to keep hold of the lead and take the points in the second half.
Apparently not. In a carbon copy of last season’s corresponding fixture Ivorian Francois Zoko popped up to snatch a draw deep into injury time. 3-3. Again.
This time the 3-3 felt like a defeat. If you’ll forgive the use of a tired platitude it was two points lost rather than two gained.
November, though, is a new month. A month that starts with a Lancashire ding-dong when Bury visit Boundary Park on Saturday. The Shakers have been in indifferent form of late and their struggle to keep clean sheets combined with Latics’ eight goals in three games might fool you into thinking this could be a goal-fest.
You’d be wrong though. And not only because I’ll be attending. This Latics team – indeed any Latics team since the early days of John Sheridan’s reign, if not the height of Iain Dowie’s tenure – simply do not seem to enjoy playing at home.
Home wins in recent years have invariably been hard earned and workmanlike, with a number of surprising away results coming from a team playing with a distinctly superior sense of freedom. The last week has shown this, with a comfortable yet somewhat flat home victory being followed by two exciting games yielding six goals. Admittedly the defence hasn’t been too solid and the whole team collapsed at Brunton Park, but despite this the team still appear to be more comfortable away from the OL postcode.
The reasons for this division are debatable. Some might argue that a three sided ground isn’t the most welcoming environment to play in. However I see that as the exact reason Boundary Park should be a fortress that visiting teams should dread and be keen to get away from as quickly as possible. Others, including myself, argue that there is a negative atmosphere that emanates from the home support, with more angry cat-calling than encouraging chanting & singing. There’s nothing wrong with negativity per se, but it is to see how a blizzard of boos & cries of “get on with it you dozy sod” can motivate a set of grown men into playing at a higher level.
Maybe it will just take one performance. Maybe an early goal, followed by another couple to round off a comprehensive win complete with a clean sheet would satisfy those fans with a penchant for negativity and make them think twice before they next tell a player just how his grandmother could tackle better. Only time will tell.
This is certainly the right time to tell, as the Latics embark on a sequence of four consecutive winnable home games. Bury, Crewe, Burton Albion & Chesterfield will all come to Boundary Park with the belief that a point would be a decent result and in turn Paul Dickov will tell his team that each of them are beatable.
A win in all four is slightly unrealistic. However four points and a place in the draw for both the FA Cup 2nd round and the Johnstones Paint Trophy Northern Semi-Final is surely not. I’m convinced that is the least Dickov will demand, however it will take an improvement in home form for that target to be realised.
Written by Christopher Platt, We Are Going Up’s Oldham Athletic Blogger
Goals scored in the final minutes of a match can conjure up a whole variety of emotions for fans, players and coaches. Whether it is a dramatic late winner or an equaliser on a cold, rainy Tuesday evening away fixture, those associated with the scoring team celebrate wildly whilst their opponents are left feeling gutted.
Such a situation happened at Bramall Lane on Sunday as Gary Madine’s 87th minute goal rescued a point for Sheffield Wednesday as they fought back from 2-0 down in the Steel City derby. This week Toppo’s Top Ten takes a look at some of the most dramatic late goals scored in the Football League.
The goals selected here came in the final moments of matches and changed the outlook of them for the teams involved. Football provides great entertainment and in these examples show just why the sport can be so enthralling and so cruel in equal measure.
10: Gary Madine
It is in Sunday’s Steel City derby where the top ten begins and with Sheffield Wednesday’s goal-machine Gary Madine. The Bramall Lane encounter was the first time Sheffield United and Sheffield Wednesday had met in the third tier of English football for over 30 years – it proved to be a memorable game.
United went 2-0 up within twenty minutes thanks to goals from Stephen Quinn and Ched Evans – a dream start for Blades boss Danny Wilson, a former Wednesday player and manager. However his day was to turn to disappointment as Wednesday salvaged a point within four second half minutes.
On 82 minutes Chris O’Grady nodded home from Ben Marshall’s assist to give the Owls a glimmer of hope. Four minutes later United failed to clear properly and the ball was lofted into the penalty box, after a scramble it dropped to Gary Madine who squeezed an effort inside the far post to level the match and send the visiting Wednesday fans into wild celebrations. From two goals down, Gary Megson’s side left it late but managed to take home a point.
9: Adam Clayton
Earlier this season West Ham United and Leeds United played out an entertaining 2-2 draw at Upton Park, the Hammers searching for a third straight win while Simon Grayson’s Leeds were looking to kickstart a stuttering campaign. Carlton Cole gave West Ham the lead with a well-taken header after six minutes, but Ross McCormack levelled matters for the visitors fourteen minutes into the second period.
Patrick Kisnorbo’s own goal looked to have given West Ham their best start to a season in 12 years, but Leeds had one final say. A cross from the right was not cleared by the Hammers’ defence and Jonathan Howson curled an effort at goal which smacked off the crossbar. The ball bounced down towards Adam Clayton and the midfielder made no mistake, lashing home from 10 yards to give his side a point. Clayton and his teammates ran to celebrated with the joyous United fans congregated behind Robert Green’s goal.
8: Darren Powell
The 2004 Division One play-off semi-finals saw Crystal Palace and Sunderland play out a memorable tie across two legs. Palace won the first 3-2 at Selhurst Park and travelled to the Stadium of Light days later, where Mick McCarthy’s Mackems were hoping to overturn the one goal defecit.
Kevin Kyle gave Sunderland the lead on the night three minutes before the break as he chested down Jason McAteer’s cross and fired home, before Marcus Stewart put Sunderland ahead on aggregate minutes later, as another McAteer cross was not cleared by the Palace rearguard. Stewart headed beyond Palace stopper Nico Vaesen to give his team the perfect lift going into the break.
Iain Dowie’s Eagles now needed a goal to remain in the tie and poured forward in the second half, but could not find a breakthrough until the final few minutes. After Shaun Derry’s free-kick was palmed away, the midfielder took the resulting corner and swung the ball into the box. Rising highest at the back post was Palace defender Darren Powell who headed the ball into the net off the crossbar to level the scores, send the Palace fans mad and take the match into extra-time, which the Eagles eventually won 5-4 on penalties.
7: Josh Simpson
An amazing Championship match from two seasons ago saw Peterborough United and Cardiff City share eight goals and included a stirring fightback from the hosts which seemed highly unlikely at half-time. Struggling Peterborough went into the break 4-0 down to Dave Jones’ high-flying Cardiff side and looking completely out of the match.
Whatever Posh manager Mark Cooper said during the break surely resonated with his players as goals from Josh Simpson, Charlie Lee and George Boyd made it 4-3 with a minute of normal time remaining. It seemed as if Peterborough had left it that little but too late to complete a comeback, but Simpson had other ideas.
A long throw was launched into the Bluebird’s penalty box and after they failed to deal with it, Simpson reacted quickest to fire into the back of the net and complete a remarkable turnaround from the division’s bottom side.
6: Brian Deane
On the final day of the 2003-04 Division One season there were play-off places up for grabs. Crystal Palace were sitting 6th, in the final spot while Wigan Athletic, Sheffield United and Reading were just outside the top 6, looking to get into the end of season lottery.
Iain Dowie’s Palace lost 2-1 at home to Coventry City while at the JJB Stadium, Wigan seemed set to capitalise on the Eagles’ loss as they were a goal up against West Ham United with a few minutes to go thanks to Neil Roberts’ strike. However in the 90th minute, veteran Hammers striker Brian Deane popped up at the far post to nod in Michael Carrick’s free-kick to guarantee his side a play-off spot, knock Wigan down to 7th and propel Palace back into the top 6 to snatch a play-off place.
Palace capitalised on their good fortune with that dramatic Darren Powell inspired win at Sunderland in the semi-final before beating Brian Deane’s West Ham 1-0 in the Cardiff finale to return to the top flight after six years away.
5: David Hopkin
Crystal Palace lost the 1996 Division One play-off final to Leicester City thanks to a late goal from Steve Claridge but a year later the Eagles would benefit from a late strike to gain promotion. The 1997 final pitted them against Sheffield United at Wembley and it was a tense affair with neither side giving much away throughout the 90 minutes.
In the final stages of the match Palace pressed forward and won a corner. Simon Rodger’s cross was headed away by the Blades’ defence, the ball falling to David Hopkin 25 yards from goal. The Scottish midfielder controlled the ball and then hit an instant curling shot which bent into the far top corner of the net, beating Simon Tracey in the United goal. With 89 minutes on the clock, it proved to be the goal which sent Palace back into the Premier League.
4: Mart Poom
In 2003 Estonian international goalkeeper Mart Poom returned to Pride Park to face former employers Derby County, where he would mark the occasion with an amazing goal. Poom, now with Sunderland went up for a corner in the final minute of the Division One fixture with his side losing 1-0.
Black Cats’ midfielder Sean Thornton took the kick and swung it in towards the far post, where Poom ran in to power home an unstoppable header. The big ‘keeper lept like a salmon above everyone else to earn his side a draw and become an instant fan favourite at the Stadium of Light.
3: Steve Claridge
Steve Claridge joined Leicester City from Birmingham for £1 million early in 1996 and within months he became a legend at Filbert Street, netting the winning goal in that year’s First Division play-off final against Crystal Palace in dramatic fashion.
It was Leicester’s fourth play-off final in five years, having lost three and won one. They fell behind to Palace at Wembley in the 14th minute when Andy Roberts netted but Martin O’Neill’s Foxes fought back in the second half and finally found an equaliser when Marc Edworthy brought down Muzzy Izzet in the area and Garry Parker netted the resulting penalty-kick.
The match went into extra-time where the main drama did not come until the last minute. O’Neill subbed off goalkeeper Kevin Poole and sent on reserve stopper Zelijko Kalac, expecting the big Australian to be a better penalty saver as the game looked to be heading to a shootout. When the game resumed a long free-kick was partly cleared by the Palace defence and the ball fell to Steve Claridge who volleyed into the net from 20 yards out with less than a minute of the game left.
Leicester were promoted and some Palace players claimed they were put off by the substitution, losing their concentration at a vital moment.
2: Paul Dickov
The Football League play-offs have a habit of throwing up dramatic moments and perhaps it’s most memorable came in the 1999 Division Two play-off final between Gillingham and Manchester City. Gillingham were aiming to reach the second tier for the first time in their history while City were aiming for an instant return to Division One after their shock relegation a year before.
What followed was one of the most dramatic matches ever played underneath Wembley’s Twin Towers.
After a goalless 80 minutes, Gillingham took the lead through Carl Asaba and six minutes later Robert Taylor made it 2-0 to Tony Pulis’ side. The Kent outfit looked set to make history, even after Kevin Horlock grabbed a 91st minute goal for City to make the scores 2-1.
City continued to press and hit a long ball forwards with just seconds left on the clock. It found its way to Paul Dickov and the striker hit a shot which clipped a Gills defender and rose high into the net to send the City fans and players into raptures. Amid bedlam around Wembley, Joe Royle’s City had completed the most unlikely of comebacks and took the match into extra-time. No more goals were scored but the Sky Blues went on to win promotion via a penalty shootout. Where would they be now had this goal not gone in?
1: Jimmy Glass
For sheer drama, few football moments will beat Jimmy Glass’ last minute salvo for Carlisle United in 1999. The Cumbrians were battling with Scarborough to stay in the Football League come the final day of the 1998/99 Division Three season and needed to better their result to have a chance of staying up.
Carlisle fell behind in their match at home to Plymouth Argyle but managed to equalise in the second half. Meanwhile Scarborough’s game with Peterborough United was also 1-1 and that is how it finished, with some of their fans celebrating safety on the pitch. However, the match at Brunton Park was still going and at 1-1 with less than a minute remaining Carlisle were staring non-league football in the face.
With ten seconds to go United forced a corner and Jimmy Glass, their goalkeeper brought in on loan from Swindon Town went up for it. The ball was crossed in and after Scott Dobie’s effort was parried away, the rebound fell to Glass who smashed the ball home with his right foot from four yards out to preserve Carlisle’s Football League existence. An incredible moment.
Written by Steven Toplis, We Are Going Up podcast member and blogger
Tweet Steven at @steven_toplis with your suggestions for Toppo’s Top Tens.
So after four days of the 2011/12 season, what have we learnt? Unsurprisingly, not a great deal. League One seasons invariably take time to take shape as we have little idea who will be fighting to leave & stay in the division until closer to Christmas. It is a relatively safe bet, however, that Sheffield United will be one of Latics’ sterner tests at Boundary Park this season.
On the face of it it was a test they failed. Having remained toe to toe with the Blades for the first half, Athletic’s perennial weakness at set pieces saw them fall behind shortly after the break when Harry McGuire headed home from a corner. From that point on the team lost their shape and to the ire of Paul Dickov several heads dropped, resulting in a second goal being scrambled six minutes later by Richard Cresswell.
However Dickov was keen not to linger on the negatives, pointing out that Latics had the better chances, simply failing to make the most of them – a feature of the 2010/11 season lingering on into 2011/12. Whilst rumours abound that a striker will be signed to remedy this problem the only new arrival this week was James Wesolowski, signed on a free from Peterborough having made 39 appearances in midfield as the Posh were promoted to the Championship via the play-offs in May.
Wesolowski was thrown straight into the team to play Carlisle in the League Cup first round as Zander Diamond issued a rallying cry for Latics to end their terrible run in cup games, having not won a cup tie since the FA Cup win at Goodison Park in 2007. This rallying cry fell on deaf ears as the public of Oldham seemingly eshewed the opportunity to watch live cup football in favour of kicking over bins & shouting at police, with a crowd of just 1,786 witnessing yet another cup run end before the pies got cold.
The game seemed to follow an all too familiar pattern, as Latics edged the first half, going ahead through Reuben Reid’s penalty, only for all their hard work to be discarded with the orange peel at half time as the Cumbrians were allowed to play their way back into the second half. Jon-Paul McGovern’s well taken free kick shortly before the hour was enough to take the game to extra-time, although Matty Smith almost put Athletic through late on as he hit the bar from a Taylor cross. Both sides then had their chances to win the tie in extra time before Carlisle prevailed in the penalty shootout.
The exit, although disappointing, is no great catastrophe. More concerning is the manner of the defeat as a solid first half that should have laid the foundations of a win was allowed to drift into a draw and ultimately a penalty shoot-out defeat. All too often Dickov’s side have performed well in the first half, only to stink the place out in the second forty-five.
It’s hard to put your finger on the reason for this, though the lack of experience in the side may have something to do with it. Alternatively one might argue that it is simply because the players are not good enough to put two good halves together, but surely the squad (and that of previous seasons) is no worse than the majority of the rest of the league, and they seem to manage it.
If Dickov does find the solution a fruitful season could be ahead, as his team has shown before that when they play well, they are a match for the best in the league. However like the little girl with a curl, when they are bad they are horrid.
Huish Park will be the next place for Dickov to find that elusive second half performance as his team take on Yeovil Town. The trip to the Glovers, who Latics haven’t beaten in their last six attempts, signals the start of a testing week for Latics in which they face another away trip to face Scunthorpe United & the much anticipated home derby against Rochdale.
It will be crucial for Latics to get their first points of the season on the board from those two away games in order to settle the nerves for what is sure to be an engaging derby. Dale took all three points at Boundary Park last term, ultimately finishing nine places and twelve points ahead of Oldham. Little short of an embarrassment for a club competing in the Premier League just 17 -years ago whilst their neighbours languished in Division Three. Dickov will be keen to get a result to placate the fans and restore the natural order in this small corner of Lancashire.
Written by Christopher Platt, We Are Going Up’s Oldham Athletic Blogger
So here we are, a new season is creeping up on us and it’s time to asses our clubs’ chances of success in the coming nine months. Over the summer players have come and gone, in some cases managers have trodden the same path, and the twenty four League One squads are beginning to take shape. Down at Boundary Park these changes have given the supporters little cause for excitement, though at the same time no evident reason to panic.
We have an energetic and enthusiastic young manager in Paul Dickov, who has maintained the support of the vast majority of the fans even in the throes of last season’s dire February and March which saw four points picked up in twelve games, with just three goals scored. However we have a team that echoes Dickov’s inexperience, and this inexperience could well be the defining factor in Latics season.
This inexperience is demonstrated by the fact that the senior member of the team expected to start the league opener against Sheffield United on August 6th will be 26-year-old new boy Zander Diamond – whilst the eldest member, by some distance, of the whole first team squad is 30-year old Warren Feeney.
However when the going gets tough they can struggle, as we saw during last year’s 12 game barren run when the whole team (particularly the rookie strikeforce) simply did not know how to deal with such poor form as more experienced heads may have.
That’s not to say, however, that this Oldham team lacks experience in terms of league appearances. Mercurial winger Chris Taylor has made 204 league appearances for the club, becoming an indispensible member of the team in the five years since he inspired an unlikely 3-0 home victory against Nottingham Forest on his debut as a 19 year old. Indeed Taylor has taken the captaincy on a number of occasions, an honour which some would argue has brought his game to another level.
The man with the armband this season will be Dean Furman, having been given the responsibility following Reuben Hazell’s departure over the summer. South African Furman is a fine example of a lower league phenomenom: the former trainee of a ‘big club’ who leaves for first team football and more responsibility at an early age. In Furman’s case the big club was Rangers, and the added responsibility the captaincy after just two full seasons at the age of 23. At the back is another former ‘big club’ trainee in 23 year old Kieran Lee: former Manchester United reserve team captain & one of the first names on the team sheet having started all but three games last season.
The team has the ability, on their day, to rip apart any League One team with the crisp passing ethic that Dickov has impressed upon them. However when things aren’t going their way we’ve seen that they have the mental fragility to crumble, as evidenced in 0-6 & 0-5 home defeats to Southampton and Peterborough respectively in 2010/11.
I refer back to last season repeatedly as unusually in our time at this level we look likely to start the season fielding much the same team as ended the last. So far the only notable additions are 22-year-old ‘keeper Alex Cisak, 21-year-old towering striker Matt Smith (who spent last season combining studying for his degree with bagging 12 goals in 14 appearances for Solihull Moors) and the aforementioned Zander Diamond. All three will be expected to make a significant contribution in their first season.
This method of incrementally building a squad is not a luxury often afforded to lower league managers – who simply aren’t given enough time, but that’s a subject for another day - so it remains to be seen whether the addition of just two promising youngsters and a proven SPL centre-half will be enough to keep Athletic away from the drop zone, never mind propel them towards the outskirts of the play-offs.
One thing is for sure: the few hardy souls who regularly make the trip down Sheepfoot Lane to Boundary Park will be entertained, frustrated and angered in equal measure over the next 9 months… and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Written by Christopher Platt, We Are Going Up’s Oldham Athletic Blogger