Two goals from Oldham in the last ten minutes turned an eventful match on it’s head as Crewe squandered a 2-0 lead to leave Greater Manchester with nothing.
After two very drab games, 300 Alex fans turned up hoping things would click and there’d be something to cheer about.
Holland made one change to the team that saw out a 0-0 draw against Millwall last week, Danny O’Donnell came in at centre back to replace George Abbey. Ryan Lowe remained up front with Lee Barnard, but Tom Pope made a return to the bench
It was clear though that no changes had been made to Holland’s tactics. It was the usual case of soaking up the pressure and allow oldham to drop back before attacking ourselves.
There wasn’t much action for the first 15 minutes. Oldham looked particularly blunt up front with Michael Ricketts offering very little in terms of threat for O’Donnell and McCready.
At the other end, Barnard started a match long battle with the Oldham back four. His bustling nature didn’t sit well with the experienced Sean Gregan and Reuben Hazell. When Barnard was given a ticking off for a sliding tackle (in which he won the ball), Oldham fans and players alike decided that Barnard wasn’t going to get away with it. Within a few moments a tangle on the half way line saw Gregan kick out at Barnard and Barnard kicking out at Gregan. The resulting squabble was calmed by the referee but Barnard had his cards marked.
Very little was given to Barnard for the rest of the game, whilst a lot of 50/50 challenges went against Barney. The referee clearly felt Barney was fueling it all. The one case that the referee couldn’t ignore though was a horrendous challenge on Barnard by Reuben Hazell. Barnard had as good as won a head on the half way line before Hazell came in from behind, with his elbows leading the way right into Lee Barnard’s neck. It took a few minutes of treatment before Barnard could continue, but the referee let Hazell go without a word uttered. For some reason, this even led Oldham fans to boo the Spurs loanee every time he touched the ball.
Not that Barnard was fussed as he scored his second Alex goal on the 17th minute mark. A through ball behind the Oldham defence forced ‘keeper Mark Crossley out of his area to clear, but as Crossley and Barnard met the ball at the same time the ball took a fortunate deflection off Barnard and into the back of the net.
Unusually, the goal gave the Alex a bit more zest for attacking football and within 10 minutes Byron Moore had doubled the lead. Another through ball saw Moore chest it down on the edge of the area to get clear of the defenders and angle a shot past Mark Crossley. A superb finish from the 18 year old, and his first goal of his career.
For the rest of the half we looked the much better side, and were quite comfortable in dealing with anything Oldham showed. It was a bit of a surprised when Oldham got a goal back. Failure to clear the ball from a corner eventually led to the ball dropping on the edge of the area to Mark Allott. Allott hit and hope through a crowd of players and found the bottom left corner.
From that point on you almost knew what was coming. It gave Oldham a much needed boost and seemed to take everything out of Crewe. The final 10 minutes of the first half were edgey for Crewe, and when we should have been breezing to half time we were almost pleading for the whistle.
A second half rejuvenation wasn’t to be neither. In fact, the team went further into their shell and typically allowed Oldham to push on. It’s not to say that they had many chances, but with Crewe you know that we can gift wrap a goal for any team.
We did have a chance to wrap it up though, and it was a case of next goal wins. A goal for Oldham would almost certainly see them push on for a winner, whilst 3-1 to us would have deflated them and we’d have breezed home. You knew it was to be the former though after a string of missed chances. Byron Moore broke down the left wing, got to the byline inside the area and sent the ball across the face of goal. Ryan Lowe was just too slow to get to it before it went behind Gary Roberts. Gaz picked up the loose ball though and sent a cross back in, Barnard missed his header and the ball fell back into the feet of Byron Moore who sent the ball back across the face of goal. It rebounded off various players and what looked a certain goal was cleared with relief by Oldham.
Other chances included a Billy Jones free kick that drifted inches wide and a superb solo effort from Lee Barnard on the edge of the area that was parried wide by a diving Mark Crossley.
With the clock ticking, Oldham made a couple of changes. The unimpressive Michael Ricketts was replaced by Matthew Wolfenden whilst goalscorer Mark Allott was replaced by Neil Kilkenny.
As the clock started counting down the last ten minutes, the team rountinely sat back hoping to see out the 2-1 win. However, it was never going to be. On the 83rd minute a piece of shocking defending allowed substitute Wolfenden to draw Oldham level. A cross from the left should have been cleared, but instead McCready and O’Donnell left Wolfenden completely unmarked and with the easiest header he’ll get.
Just to make sure we knew it wasn’t our day, Steven Schumacher missed a glorious chance to put us back in front. Mark Crossley struggled with a back pass on the byline, and although he managed to stop it going for a corner, Roberts took advantage and stole the ball. It was played back to Schumacher on the edge of the area who had only a empty goal to aim for – somehow he pulled his shot inches wide of the left post.
Holland sent on Michael O’Connor for the last few minutes, his first appearance since last season after a operation over the summer. Unfortunately, it was his poor passing that saw Oldham grab the winner. The ball was bouncing around the edge of the area, eventually falling for Kilkenny who placed the ball home securing the comeback for Oldham.
At 2-0 it should have been a routine win, but for various reasons it ended in disaster. Mistakes and poor tactics were mostly to blame. Shocking defending for their 2nd goal, poor finishing before and after and terrible passing prior to their winner all led to our downfall.
Dario though refuses to shoulder any blame, instead putting it all on the players. Why then, when up against it, are they told to sit back and soak it up? We showed for a brief period that attacking was the best form of defence. We had Oldham penned back for a good portion of the first half till they scored, but after that we rarely got out of our own half.
We’re told every week that things have to improve but if it’s not one thing it’s the other. When we find goals, we can’t defend and when we don’t look like conceding till next week then we forget how to score goals.
Holland’s tactics range from one extreme to the other. He either has all the players back defending, or it’s ‘gay abandon’ and we get scores like 3-2.
I don’t hold much hope for Tuesday night at Tranmere. Tranmere are 2nd in the league, having lost just once and with the 3rd best defensive record in the league. After conceding 3 goals at Oldham, I can only assume Holland will go defensively all over again and goals will not be order of the day.
Ben Williams 4/10
Let three rather average shots go past him. Whether other keepers would have saved them is debatable, but conceding three is poor going.
Danny Woodards 7/10
You wonder how far he can go if Jon Otsemobor can walk into Norwich’s first team. He’s such a good player going forward and defensively. Definitely gets caught out once or twice, but he always recovers without fail. He’s also dominant in the air, which is surprising considering his stature.
Danny O’Donnell 5/10
Shocking defending at times and looked shaky in the final quarter of the match.
Chris McCready 5/10
Shocking defending at times and looked shaky in the final quarter of the match. Showed good qualities as a captain though and gave the orders.
Billy Jones 6/10
A fairly quiet game for Billy, never excelling.
Gary Roberts 6/10
Typical energetic self but isn’t as dominant as we saw earlier in the season. He would benefit from playing in the centre but he by no means played badly.
Ben Rix 7/10
A good creative performance from yet another revitalised Ben Rix.
Steven Schumacher 5/10
A bit of a nothing performance from Schuey, coupled with his dreadful ‘finish’ in to win the game. Needs to start showing more with the amount of players who could play in his position.
Byron Moore 7/10
In and out of the game, but showed some class for his goal and to set up numerous chances. His goal maybe shows he’ll one day be back in his natural position up front. He isn’t a left winger after all.
Ryan Lowe 6/10
Played wider than usual but didn’t offer all that much.
Lee Barnard 8/10
Gave absolutely everything and looked a class act all afternoon. The constant stick he got from Oldham fans seemed to only keep him going. He brings others into play and with a more attacking team he’d score goals for fun. He’s also not afraid to get stuck in against players twice his size, a quality we haven’t seen from a striker since Rob Hulse.
‘Sign him up’ indeed.