Oldham fell to another frustrating home defeat on Saturday against an organised Bristol Rovers side. After an impressive midweek victory over league-leaders Scunthorpe, boss Steve Robinson had stated his intent to push on. Instead, the lacklustre Latics recorded their fourth 2-0 reverse in seven games.
Here, with the help of Bristol Rovers fan Steve, I look at whether the Pirates deserved their win or if it was a poor Latics display that sent the three points back to Bristol.
Story of the Game
Oldham started the game brightly, with Freddie Ladapo and Paul Green having half chances at goal. However, Bristol Rovers soon took control of the game and went ahead thanks to Charlie Colkett. The Chelsea-loanee found himself completely unmarked from a corner as he lashed in an impressive shot at the back post.
In the second half, Oldham played with more attacking intent, but a low cross from Carl Winchester and a Lee Erwin free-kick were the closest they came to an equaliser. In-form Rovers striker Matty Taylor missed an open goal after allowing Peter Clarke to recover from his mistake, but his team soon secured the points.
Jake Clarke-Salter rose unchallenged from another corner three minutes from time to send the noisy visiting fans home delighted. By that point, the game was beyond Oldham despite Ryan Flynn forcing another good save by visiting keeper Kelle Roos before full time.
Steve says: “It was quite an entertaining game that was well refereed (which is very much a change for this division). I think overall 2-0 was a fair reflection of the play overall but it just as easily could have been 3-1 or 4-2 because both sides created chances and both sides had periods of domination.”
How did the teams perform?
As home fans have become accustomed to, Oldham were fairly unconvincing in attack despite periods of pressure in both halves. Even when the momentum was with Latics, Robinson took off the only attacking threats in Winchester and Freddie Ladapo.
At the back, Latics were unorganised when defending set pieces despite Robinson identifying Bristol Rovers’ threat in that very department before the game. That allowed the Gas to score two unchallenged goals to cap off an organised and hardworking performance.
Steve says: “I think the key to the result was that a lot of Oldham’s domination was caused by the way you switched play using the full width of the pitch. A lot of Rovers’ play was more directly aimed down the middle and I felt we looked more likely to score.
“It was clear to see that your problems are in taking chances, although we were thankful for Roos in goal producing a couple of excellent saves to hold on to our lead. I think it would be true to say that we missed a number of chances whereas your misses were down to good goalkeeping.”
Who stood out?
It’s hard to name an Oldham player who would earn a rating higher than 5/10. Winchester and Ladapo looked lively, but were taken off early for the pace of Ryan McLaughlin and Darius Osei. Cameron Dummigan was perhaps Man of the Match, offering good support from full-back, and Lee Erwin grew into the game after a poor start.
However, too many key men like Ryan Flynn, Peter Clarke and Connor Ripley had off-days which ultimately prevented Latics from stamping their control on the game – especially when the latter two combined to present Taylor with his missed open-goal.
For Bristol Rovers, striker Rory Gaffney rarely put a foot wrong and held the ball up well. At the back, Lee Brown was solid at left-back and Peter Hartley was his reliable self in the centre.
Top-scorer Matty Taylor was unconvincing, though, despite being presented with a number of chances. He should have scored his open goal, and angered home fans with some pathetic play-acting when he lost a 50-50 battle with Flynn.
Steve says: “In midfield, the tireless Sinclair ran all game as he always does and constantly broke your moves down. Our goalkeeper made some excellent saves to keep a rare clean sheet but I thought the class of Hiram Boateng shone out for the first hour. He showed his full selection of tricks and when the ball was with him something was happening. I honestly can’t remember him wasting a ball and if his overall fitness improves I see him being one of the best midfield players in this division.
“What stood out for me was the overall height of Oldham’s team in all areas of the pitch and this will cause many teams problems as many of them possess good control of the ball. It impressed me the way you switched the play, using the full width of the pitch in the periods that you held the superiority.”
Oldham make the short trip to Rochdale for next week’s local derby. The recent revival of three wins in four has masked the goalscoring problems that have been present all season. Robinson continues to maintain that his side matched the opposition during each defeat, but that excuse is wearing thin and improvements are needed quickly.
Steve says: “Our next game is another tough one at home against Peterborough who are probably one of the most inconsistent teams in the division and are capable of winning 4-0 but just as easily capable of not turning up. We have only lost once at home this season (to Bolton) and we have only had one League defeat in the last 20 home games so it will be nice to be back on home soil.