Long Season Ahead For Dismal Oldham
The jeering at the conclusion of Saturday’s 1-0 loss against Stevenage was not because of the result (well, it was – one point from nine is not the start the fans had wished for). No, the negative, irritated reaction was due to the insipid performance from entire Oldham team
It was bereft of imagination or attacking instinct. It was dull, labourous and lacked an energy that might at some point make the opposition feel slightly uncomfortable. This was a well-oiled Stevenage which still has obvious traces of Graham Westley’s philosophy flowing through it. It is rough, powerful and ready to fight for three points. Ultimately, they were allowed to settle into their usual effective style without many questions being asked.
The single goal loss came from yet another defensive mishap. A long ball aimed simply away from the Stevenage’s penalty area was naively allowed to bounce by young James Tarkowski. The 19-year-old defender was then out-muscled, keeper Alex Cisak raced out and commited a blatant foul inside his area. Penalty awarded. Penalty dispatched.
Last Tuesday night, Athletic were on course for a 1-0 victory against an average Walsall side. However, with 10 minutes remaining club Captain Dean Furman inexplicably attempted a back-pass without realising a Walsall player blocked his path to Cisak. To the home support’s horror, George Bowerman was gifted the opportunity to bury the ball into the net, which he duely did.
Three days previous and Tarkowski was at fault again, bizarrely heading upwards rather than out. MK Dons, who won 2-0, were far from slick yet scored from the resulting corner. For the sake of his self-belief Dickov needs to take him out of the starting 11. Cliff Byrne, with his vast experience and steady, unforgiving nature, makes him a fine candidate to move in from right-back and partner the impressive Jean Yves-M’voto.
So three league games, three defensive calamities. It is very much like last season. Hard work a plenty, lapses of concentration in the dangerous and crucial areas more so. However, move beyond the defence and there are more ills. Take the midfield. With James Wesolowski’s torn hamstring, Dean Furman has a lost his influential partner. The energy was been sapped. There is little imagintion, movement and more worryingly no willingless to find space.
Saturday saw Dickov switch from his usual 4-4-1-1 to a more flat 4-5-1 with the inclusion of Carl Winchester, who formed a midfield three with Furman and Yousuff M’Changama. Despite a congested core, Stevenage were able to use their intelligence to constrict space on the Boundary Park pitch. Ok – so find some, you would say. It didn’t happen. And so Stevenage were able to organise themselves with ease.
It was also evident on Saturday that Robbie Simpson does not suit the lone striker role. Despite being generally ineffective, he did look slightly more threatening after the break when Dickov replaced Winchester with the powerful Matt Smith, allowing Simpson to drop into the hole behind Smith, who was instructed to lead the line and dominate aerially.
Ultimately, the performance as a whole was far from acceptable. To claim just a single point from two winnable home games is a dreadful return. The tempo that was set in the opening half against Sheffield Wednesday in the Capital One Cup has yet to be replicated. In truth it has become laboured, and this against sides such as Walsall, who are tipped to struggle.
If Walsall are supposed to find themselves towards the foot of the table, then Oldham, on this evidence, will not be far from them. Of course, the opening 10 or so games do not require fantastic results. As long as there is promise in the performance and style teams generally excel once they have gelled and formed strong partnerships. Results come eventually with good performances. Oldham might be waiting a while.
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