|1 Barrie George
2 Kevin Elvin
3 Gareth Ormes
4 Steven Spencer
5 David Chadwick (capt)
6 Billy McCartney
7 Mark Rawlinson
8 Simon Carden
9 Rory Patterson
10 Steve Torpey
11 Adie Orr
12 Robert Nugent (for 2)
14 Tony Cullen (for 7)
15 Tony Coyne (for 10)
|After the previous match saw United sink to their first defeat Karl Marginson decided to freshen things with a handful of changes in the line-up. Oldham had been flying high early in the season so were not to be underestimated. Kev Elvin resumed at right-back, Rob Nugent making way at centre back for the return of the club captain, David Chadwick. Mark Rawlinson kept his ever-present record up with a start on the right of midfield, Scott Holt making way. Darren Lyons, who had worn the 9 shirt versus Norton, was not included but to many peoples surprise was not replaced by Joz Mitten; instead Margy went with a 3 pronged front line of Patterson, Torpey and Orr.
Although kick-off was not officially delayed the teams were still in the changing rooms as the advertised kick off time ticked by. The referee got things underway very quickly once the teams emerged resulting in the match commencing a mere 5 minutes late.
United might have got on the scoresheet inside 15 seconds as Adie Orr pulled a cross back from the by-line on the United left, Simon Carden was well placed in support but his shot wasn�€trade;t too well struck. The visiting keeper, Dave Carnell, was grateful to stop the initial effort and to see the loose ball cleared from danger by a blue-shirted defender. The league leaders started brightly with Patterson also forcing a save inside the first 5 minutes but things went rapidly downhill thereafter as Oldham grew in stature during the rest of the first half and created several presentable opportunities.
Lee Neville, wearing 7 but playing wide on the Oldham left, was often involved and might have scored a first half hat trick. On 2 or 3 separate occasions Neville broke clear down the inside left channel but either shot wide or saw a goal bound effort repelled by Barrie George.
Oldham Town�€trade;s captain, Paul Taylor, tried his luck from 30 yards out with a freekick on the half hour but, with Barrie George scrambling, his shot went just wide of the right hand post. Soon after and an in swinging Oldham corner was taken by Neville on the right, the nicely flighted cross found Jonathan Phillips less than 6 yards from goal inline with the near post but somehow he contrived to head wide when under little pressure.
The ever witty Manchester Road End crowd decided to take a leaf from the �€�big�€trade; United supporters by offering some tongue in cheek tactical advice to the manager just before the break. �€�4-4-2�€trade; & �€�Attack, Attack, Attack�€trade; being chanted by some. I�€trade;m sure that most present knew that the problems were not down to formation or to negative tactics but something much more elementary �€“ too many players not playing well enough.
Another scare as the half drew to a close, this time James Curley got in down the Town right flank. His pass inside picked out Neville who again fired wide from a decent position. Barrie George seemed to pick up a knock during this attack and needed lengthy treatment before resuming.
The second half commenced with United attacking the Manchester Road End. The Reds seemed a bit sharper as the second half progressed. Surely the manager and coaches had offered a few choice words at half time to �€�encourage�€trade; the leaders to turn things up a notch or two. The main difference seemed to be a much better ability to compete in midfield. In the early stages Oldham�€trade;s 5 man midfield harassed and harried United�€trade;s 4 but now the Reds seemed to be enjoying a little more time and space.
The only goal of the game came after 54 minutes and a really well crafted goal it was too. Adie Orr used strength and guile to hold up the ball with his back to goal. He then laid the ball out wide to Kevin Elvin who was supporting well from right-back. Elvin carried the ball forward for a few strides before looking up and hitting an early cross into the box. The ever adventurous Carden was pushing forward in the inside right channel as the ball dropped to him. The FC United number 8 shaped himself well to steer the ball goalwards with a right footed volley. The shot was not particularly powerfully struck but it was immaculately placed and looped up and over Carnell and into the net just inside the left post. A deft finish to an incisive attack providing a barely deserved lead. 1-0.
Just one minute later and Adie Orr put the ball into the net again but this time the linesman�€trade;s flag was raised indicating that Orr had started his run a fraction too early. At this stage Oldham were a little shaken and United might have pressed home an advantage but the home team�€trade;s momentum was never allowed to build as injury further disrupted things. This time Torpey overstretched as he tried to pounce on a misplaced Oldham pass near their area. Torpey suffered another hamstring pull and was replaced by Tony Coyne.
Patterson was involved in another couple of promising looking attacks but again nothing accrued. Just after the hour he drove a cross in from just outside of the area and a couple of red-shirted players only just failed to make contact near to the far post. A few minutes later and an FC United freekick was delivered into the area from near halfway. Patterson leapt with Carnell and got his head to the ball. The header looked to be goal bound but went just past the farpost with Elvin sliding in just fractions too late to turn the ball inside of the post.
Neville was a bit quieter in the second half but again got in behind causing more anxiety. This time Barrie George came to the rescue with a brave dive at the feet of the Oldham number 7 as he attempted to dribble past �€�England�€trade;s number 1.�€trade; Patterson then went on a fine run down the right flank. Despite some desperate attempts to rob him of the ball he continued forwards and looked to be well marshalled by the Oldham defence as he got to the by-line but despite their numerical advantage over him Patterson still wriggled clear before dragging his shot tamely wide. Shortly afterwards an episode that seemed to ignite the record crowd as Patterson and Taylor debated about what the Oldham captain ought to have done with the ball instead of allowing Patterson to pressure him into conceding a corner. Taylor looked to have recovered his composure but then blotted his copybook with a poor challenge on Rawlinson resulting in a yellow card from Mr. Bailey.
The match played out with neither side creating any other opportunities. Oldham will feel that on another day they might have salvaged a point or more from a game that saw them fashion better chances than the leaders. Poor finishing left them with nothing to show for a gutsy performance. United looked to have started where they had left off in the Norton defeat with a general malaise across the whole side but the second half performance was much improved. Karl Marginson will be looking for the team to build on this improvement further as Daisy Hill visit Gigg Lane on Saturday.
It�€trade;s another difficult match from which to pick a man of the match. Adie Orr never stopped running, Mark Rawlinson was solid as always, Kevin Elvin had a decent game and provided a super ball in to Carden for the goal. Barrie George probably just edged the others, for me, as he made a few very important stops and was quick off of his line on a few occasions in the second half as the game was stretched and Oldham threatened to break in behind the United backline.