And that is that. Oldham Athletic concluded their latest season in League One, a league they have grown extremely familiar with having been in its grasps since 1997, with a win against Play-off hunting Carlisle.
In year of inconsistency, Athletic supporters have seen their side take the lead at Anfield, waste 46 chances in an attempt to earn a Wembley trip in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy Final, and struggle tremendously in the league.
Like any other season, there are memories – both fantastic and heartbreaking. Robbie Simpson’s wonder goal in front of a packed Kop in the FA Cup 3rd round will live long in the memory of fans, despite it coming in an undeserved 5-1 loss. Yet everyone will also recall the defensive calamity that ended their Wembley dreams in the other Cup competition.
Injuries have certainly hampered manager Paul Dickov’s aims this season, but the ever-reliable Kieran Lee has stood out as Oldham’s best player. Though out of contract in a few short weeks and with hopes fading fast that he will sign an extension, his ability and determination to offer both defensive stability and an attacking threat from the flank marks him out the club’s best performer. A terrific professional is about to leave Boundary Park, and everyone wishes him well.
Veteran Finn, Shefki Kuqi splits terrace opinion. There is no doubt that his lethal goal-scoring form during October and November was vital in securing the lucrative FA Cup tie with Liverpool and on the journey to the Area Final of the JPT, adding to his league form during those two months which essentially salvaged Athletic’s League One status.
However, Kuqi’s form has mirrored the team’s post-Christmas collapse. His performances as the main striker of a depleted squad have been a disappointment. He has not scored a goal from open play, excluding his quite ridiculous effort against Rochdale where he hit the ball on the volley from around 35 yards out, since late November.
When the inquisition into an appalling five months is conducted, Paul Dickov will be forced to acknowledge that one of his main men’s inability to shirk a lack of confidence has played a huge role in the side’s late plummet down the league and straight into an unpredictable relegation squabble. It was never truly a fight as Wycombe’s survival odds were roughly similar to those of the racehorse Mon Mome in the 2009 Grand National. Facing the daunting prospect of playing both Charlton and Sheffield Wednesday in their last three matches Wycombe appeared to be doomed. However, as the saying goes: miracles happen – such as the one Mon Mome threw up as he passed the finishing post in first place with odds of 100/1.
Every season, no matter how poor and frustrating, has its sensational moments. Spectacular goals are always aplenty, unpredictable wins pop up (usually your club is knocked out of the FA Cup by Blyth Spartans), and amongst all those matches each season has one with contain about a dozen goals.
The Robbie Simpson wonder goal receives my vote. Every supporter will witness such a special moment every few seasons or so: a 3rd round FA Cup match at Anfield, with all its amazing history, with its legendary, if not overstated, Kop stand, and one of your players arrows a shot past Pepe Reina and into the back of the net. It was a wonderful strike and capped off some very neat football.
Unfortunately, every incredible moment must be matched by a horror one, such as Alex Cisak and Jean Yves M’voto’s bizarre lack of communication, which allowed Jack Lester to dash the hopes and dreams of an entire town, a town awaiting a first Wembley appearance for nearly twenty years.
Football fans will concur that football really is the funny old game it is perceived to be. A season of some truly drab affairs fails to dampen the English spirit. Finishing the ten-month long campaign, which obviously spans through the bitterly cold winter months, in sixteenth position in your club’s fourteenth successive season in League One would drive some supporters to the depths of desperation (i.e. to support the giants who reside in Manchester), but the belief in the lower leagues of any nation is unwavering.
A summer of upheaval, arrivals and farewells, and further tightening of the financial belts that have been stretched due to over-indulgence, awaits most clubs and their followers. But don’t worry – we’ll win the league next season.
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