Oldham Athletic’s battling qualities impress boss Lee Johnson despite League One defeat in North West derby

By Matthew Lees

Despite failing to take advantage of one of their games in hand, Oldham Athletic manager Lee Johnson was encouraged by his team’s efforts against Preston North End.

Latics travelled to Deepdale for a Lancashire derby but ended up pointless through Nicky Wroe’s penalty and Will Hayhurst’s late strike as they pushed for an equaliser.

However, Johnson noted his side’s spirit and determination as they looked set for a point until Jonathan Grounds handled substitute Jeffrey Monakana’s cross in the penalty area 72 minutes in.

“There was passion in our performance, but sometimes when you are down there you don’t get the breaks,” said Johnson.

 “We need that bit of luck and the break needed to get a goal.

“I am sure the fans will go home gutted, like ourselves, but at the same time having seen an improvement and the boys gave their best to get us out of trouble.

“The boys were up for it, their fight was good and they were putting their heads in where it hurts.”

After Saturday’s first half horror show, fit-again Lee Croft and Cliff Byrne – only his second start since Paul Dickov’s February 3 resignation – replaced Connor Brown and James Tarkowski.

However, the changes failed to make a difference as Athletic slumped to another defeat despite a decent first half display.

“The reason we are down at the bottom is because we can only reach the 65/70 minute period and then we die,” Johnson added.

“We have to score when we are on top in matches as we have been in quite a few of the games since I have been here.

“We had some good chances, good runs, attacks and corners and our set-piece delivery was good. We were just dying for somebody to get on the end of them.

“We shouldn’t be down there, but we cannot keep saying that.”

Byrne was subbed after just 38 minutes with muscle spasms and top-scorer Jose Baxter received his tenth booking of the season suspending him for the next two games to compound Oldham’s misery.

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