This probably seems like a build up as to why we played so poorly in the match. Well its not! Just a statement of fact as whilst we did not play much of the scintillating football that was on display against Luton (matches like that don't happen often) we were a solid unit in the sort of conditions in which we often start to struggle.
The match was open but not much of a spectacle. Oldham were fairly direct with balls into the channels for their big on loan striker Zola to chase. He is totally different from Gianfranco and is big and all arms and legs. When we got the ball we tried to play, as usual, on the deck and at times produced impressive passing moves. These were interspersed with Carl Fletcher's raking long balls but due to the windy conditions these were not a accurate as usual.
The first chance fell to Feeney but my notes just state WHAT! so poor was his effort. James was then put through by good combination play but shot straight at the large Oldham 'keeper Pogliacomi (next easy to say on a cold day!) and then Feeney headed over from a good Hayter cross. It was not all AFCB and Oldham had chances as well but made nothing of them. Big Fletch then hit the bar when scoring was easier especially if he had gone for less power. Still we created chances and Wade headed over and O'Connor shot wide.
We were not dominating the play but just made more of the opportunities that we created. Oldham now had a spell of pressure and had two corners in quick succession after a save by Mossy from a header. Just as we appeared to have weathered this pressure it all went wrong. Broadhurst tried to shepherd a long ball out for a goal kick but it was never going to be a straight forward issue and Zola challenged and they both ended up in a heap with the ball in play and as they rose to get on with it Zola's arms seemed to block Broadhurst's attempt to get to the ball but nothing was given and Zola advanced a few paces before putting across a lovely ball for Vernon to slot home with precision. In my view there was no intent on Zola's part to obstruct Broadhurst but it was just the usual case of arms and legs all over the place and the decision went against us. Indeed the ref (G Laws of Whitley Bay) managed to irritate both sets of fans with his lack of signals and strange interpretation of some of the challenges.
Another of these produced a free kick to Oldham when a penalty to us looked the more likely, but we were at the other end of the pitch. Our heads had not dropped and Hayter had another shot saved whilst a shot from an Oldham player went wide. Then Wade went down in installments from a challenge from behind much to the annoyance of the home fans, it was a foul but had added theatrical value and resulted in wade receiving the bird for the remainder of the match. From the free kick O'Connor sent Elliott down the wing and his cross was turned in by Feeney for a deserved equaliser right on halftime.
The second half continued in the same vein with chances at both ends but it was never a riveting match to watch but I can't really explain why maybe lack of true quality was the reason. Oldham's Vernon could not match his earlier finish when the first chance of the half was skied horribly over the bar from a few yards out. Wade went on a few runs and then Browning was booked, as usual, for a crude challenge when an Oldham player got the better of him. Moss dealt with the free kick easily and from the counter attack O'Connor broke free but dallied and his shot was blocked by a defender, he should have done better. Oldham were being reduced to long range efforts but only one of these, from Zola, was close with Moss watching it past the post, not sure if he had it covered, the rest sailing high over the bar although one did produce a save from Moss. We continued to make chances and Browning had a shot which was saved. A corner was not properly cleared by Oldham and the ball was played to Elliott rushing forward and his 25 yarder produced a good flying save from Pogliacomi. From the resulting corning a delayed cross saw Carl Fletcher arrive late but not manage to get over the header and it ballooned over the bar much to his annoyance as the routine worked well. Wade was chopped down and a rare good bit of refereeing allowed play to continue for O'Connor to curl a shot just wide. Eyre the culprit was booked. Oldham still were going forward where possible and another shot went wide. With a few minutes remaining Sean decided to shut up shop and Maher replaced Elliott and a few minutes later Tindall came on for O'Connor, muscle for skill in both cases! Despite this we still spent more time in their half than they in ours during the dying moments.
My description of the play may make the match sound exciting but it never felt that way. As already mentioned the reason is difficult to find. Part of this may be that Feeney was subdued throughout the match, despite his goal. Whether this was due to the attentions of the Oldham defence or just that he could not produce anything like his Luton form I cannot say. Oldham are not a pretty team to watch so that may be part of it. Some fellow spectators said that they thought that they were the worst team we had played this season but I do not agree with this although they were poor.
AFCB: Moss, Cummings, Purches, Broadhurst, C Fletcher, Browning, Elliott, O'Connor, Hayter, S Fletcher, Feeney
Subs: Stewart, Stock, Maher (for Elliott, 84), Tindall (for O'Connor, 87), Thomas
Phil Nesbitt, Reading