Oldham moved out of the League One relegation zone for the first time since September with an entertaining victory over bottom side Coventry. It wasn’t pretty at times, and luck was certainly with Latics, but John Sheridan’s men ground out another crucial win.
Here, with help from Coventry fan Mick, I look at how both teams performed and who stood out. With Latics finally out of the bottom four, I’ll also look at what they need to do in order to stay clear.
Again, I’ve teamed up with Trust Oldham to provide a matchday blog with detailed player ratings. Have a look at that here.
Story of the Game:
Oldham made a bright start and were rewarded as Aaron Holloway found Ryan Flynn, who beat his man and sent a low cross into the box which could only be turned into his own goal by Kevin Foley.
Coventry were level within a minute though, as Marcus Tudgay strode forward and unleased a sweet, dipping strike past Connor Ripley. The goal seemed to galvanise the visitors, who had the better of play for the remainder of the half.
The Sky Blues’ best chance fell to Callum Reilly, who played a one-two with Tudgay and was unlucky to see his curling shot come back off the crossbar. Paul Green came close from a Chris Taylor cross, but the half time whistle was definitely welcome for the home side as Coventry continued to cause problems in the box.
Despite John Sheridan presumably rallying his troops at the break, it was Coventry who came out stronger, as George Thomas picked the ball up in the box and saw his shot tipped onto the post by Ripley.
Oldham didn’t really have a hold on the game until Sheridan made a double substitution, bringing on Ollie Banks and Michael N’Goo for Ryan Flynn and Ousmane Fane. The changes made Latics more balanced and they offered more in attack.
Led by bursting runs from Aiden O’Neill, Latics went close with deflected Paul Green and Chris Taylor efforts. They were rewarded for their attacking changes on 66 minutes, as Coventry keeper Reice Charles-Cook dropped a simple cross straight into Peter Clarke, who bundled Latics ahead.
O’Neill went close from outside the box, before Ryan McLaughlin picked up possession in the middle, took the ball past the Coventry back line, and slotted the ball cooly past Charles-Cook.
The game wasn’t finished though, as Ryan Haynes sent in a perfect cross for fellow Coventry sub Kwame Thomas to rise and head past Ripley. The goal set up a nervy finish, but Oldham just about held on for a crucial three points.
How did the teams perform?
On the balance of play, Oldham were probably second best, but when they did attack they were more clinical than Coventry. Aaron Holloway’s injury after 18 minutes seemed to put an end to any game plan, and it wasn’t until Michael N’Goo was brought on that a proper shape returned to the side.
Before that, the makeshift forward line of Ryan Flynn and Ryan McLaughlin wasn’t working and Coventry were picking up every second ball. It was only after N’Goo and Ollie Banks came on and the team reverted to a more standard 4-4-2 that Oldham’s crucial winning goals came.
As for Coventry, with a little more luck the Sky Blues could have taken at least a point from Boundary Park. Callum Reilly and George Thomas both hit the woodwork, and Peter Clarke’s goal came from a Reice Charles-Cook mistake.
Both goals from Tudgay and Thomas were well taken, and Russell Slade’s men certainly didn’t look like a team bottom of the league. Mick says: “Cov can count themselves unlucky today, but simple mistakes at the back cost us again. The first two Oldham goals were given to you, but we’ve also hit the post and bar.”
“Slade made three changes to the back four from the midweek Checkatrade Trophy win, and that just stopped any momentum we had. We’ve only got ourselves to blame for that performance as it was a game we really should have won.”
Who Stood Out?
Where would Oldham be this season without Peter Clarke? The captain is his team’s top scorer with 5 goals, and he constantly impresses at the back. He seems to have grown even stronger since Anthony Gerrard arrived to partner him at the back, and both veterans impressed again. However, usually-reliable Connor Ripley and Brian Wilson had shakier games than normal.
Sheridan brought in loanees Rob Hunt, Aiden O’Neill, and Chris Taylor in January, and all three impressed in their first home game. O’Neill in particular, who always looked to push forward, showed promising signs of things to come.
For a more detailed look at how Latics players performed, look at my Trust Oldham Matchday Blog, with player ratings.
Mick says: “Marcus Tudgay took his goal very well, and looked dangerous on the few times he got on the ball. Jodi Jones and Kwame Thomas also looked lively when they came on, but it was too late by then.”
“I don’t think anyone really stood out though, and as I said before mistakes cost us the game.”
Oldham Athletic: Ripley; Wilson, Clarke, Gerrard, Hunt; Fane (N’Goo, 60), O’Neill, McLaughlin, Taylor, Flynn (Banks, 60); Holloway (Green, 18).
Coventry City: Charles-Cook; Foley, Rawson, Clarke, Haynes; G.Thomas (Lameiras, 86), Reilly, Rose, Reid (Jones, 72), Gadzev (K.Thomas, 69); Tudgay.
Coventry now sit ten points adrift of safety with the worst goal difference in the league. The Sky Blues face a difficult trip to AFC Wimbledon on Tuesday, before fixtures against four of the bottom eight – Gillingham, Swindon, Bury, and Shrewsbury. Survival is looking unlikely, but with the opportunity to take points off the teams they have to catch, relegation isn’t confirmed just yet.
If they play like they did against Oldham, and cut out mistakes, then they will give themselves a chance. A Wembley final in the Checkatrade Trophy did wonders for Barnsley’s promotion push last year – could it have the same positive effect for Coventry?
For Oldham, Charlton are up next on Tuesday before another relegation six-pointer at Swindon on Saturday.
John Sheridan has returned character to Oldham’s side, and having finally moved out of the relegation zone, the aim will be to stay out of it. Sheridan will hope Aaron Holloway’s injury isn’t serious, as the team lacked his hold up play after his early substitution. However, with options in attack provided by Taylor, Flynn, McLaughlin, N’Goo and unused sub Tope Obadeyi, the team probably has enough to manage.
Sheridan doesn’t guarantee pretty games, but he knows how to survive in League One. He says he expects his team to win their home games, and after three wins from four at Boundary Park since he returned, this could be the key to staying out of the bottom four.
After January’s win over Gillingham in Sheridan’s first game back, I said positive results against Shrewsbury, Chesterfield and Coventry were essential to give Latics a chance of survival. Despite defeat at Shrewsbury, wins against Chesterfield and Coventry (and another against mid-table Peterborough) have followed to ensure Latics’ League One status is now in their hands. Avoid defeat at Swindon on Saturday, and Sheridan could well be on his way to masterminding a second great escape in as many years.