In a season of struggles, arguments, ups and downs and big-name signings, Oldham Athletic staying in League One was a success.
With a bitter-sweet cup tie at Premier League Liverpool starting the year, the years ends with Paul Dickov’s men hovering abouve the relegation zone.
Having ended 2011 with a 3-2 victory despite being two goals down against Notts County, Oldham Athletic entered 2012 with hope and optimism with a trip with Anfield and a potential Wembley cup final. Latics’ first fixture of the New Year was against the league’s bottom side Chesterfield, but Oldham could only draw 0-0 despite the Spirerites having not won since September. Seven-time FA Cup winners Liverpool were next up for Oldham as 6,136 fans travelled down the M62 for the Friday night fixture. For two minutes at Anfield, Latics dared to dream with Robbie Simpson’s 30-yard screamer sending the fans wild. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hAU9xJVWJDs
The joy was short-lived as Liverpool went onto win 5-1 in a fascinating contest. Oldham returned to Cup action at Chesterfield in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy Northern Area final and had to overturn a 2-1 deficit after the first leg. In front of the Sky cameras at Boundary Park, Latics dominated as they searched for the goals to send them to Wembley but former Oldham manager John Sheridan had the last laugh as Chesterfield nicked it with an aggregate 3-1 score.
With January offering so much anticipation, in February Oldham had to face up to the reality of having just the League to play for. The disappointment was increased when the first three games of the month were postponed due to the cold weather. Latics had to wait fifteen days before they could kick a ball in anger after their cup exit and beat Walsall 2-1 on Valentine’s Day. After suffering humiliation at the hands of MK Dons with a 5-0 hammering, Oldham bounced back immediately with a 1-0 victory against Tranmere Rovers. The final game of the year’s shortest month saw the launch of the Golden Ticket initiative which offered five games at Boundary Park for just £15 over 28 days. First of the ‘golden games’ was against Colchester United which was drawn 1-1.
Just four games were played in February meaning Latics were playing catch-up in March as they had to play nine games. The month started with a tough game against Sheffield United who were unbeaten at Bramall Lane. Just before kick-off Manchester United youngster Reece Brown, brother of Wes, was signed on loan. In an astonishing game, former Sheffield Wednesday striker Shefki Kuqi scored an injury-time penalty to secure victory over the nine-man Blades. This was after United had been 2-0 up with less than half-an-hour to play. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7VmFyPmbXNk
After the euphoria of the win in Yorkshire, Oldham went five games without a win. However, Kuqi scored an incredible goal as Latics lost 3-2 in the battle of the 409 bus route against Rochdale. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uXCW_S7a8NM
Bournemouth were the victims when Latics finally won again 1-0, which led to the Cherries sacking their manager Lee Bradbury. The Golden Ticket offer finished when Oldham lost 1-0 to Leyton Orient. With only one win and picking up just four points during the period, some fans had reason to complain about the lack of value despite the offer. Fans were left to drown their sorrows in Hooters as Latics lost 1-0 to Notts County.
Despite being April fool’s Day, it was no joke that Oldham entered the month in bad from and were seriously in danger of being sucked into the relegation zone. Loanees Andrea Mancini, son of Manchester City manager Roberto, Luca Scapuzzi and Nathan Clarke had long left Boundary Park and were not returning. Josh Parker and Matt Smith had also gone out on loan despite Oldham struggling for goals since Kuqi’s volley against the Dale. Over the Easter period Oldham played league leaders Charlton Athletic and promotion chasers Sheffield Wednesday. After Jean Yves M’voto was sent off, Oldham lost 1-0 to nine-man Charlton. Then Latics’ poor from in front of the TV cameras continued as they were outclassed by the Owls at Hillsborough, losing 3-0 on Sky. It took a 90th minute penalty by Simpson to secure a 2-2 against Wycombe Wanderers to secure League One survival. Fans were so relieved that they knocked an advertising board to the floor as they celebrated at Adams Park. With nothing to play for a drab 0-0 was played out against local rivals Bury at Gigg Lane.
The final game of the season took place at Boundary Park with Oldham ending the campaign on a high. They beat Carlisle United 2-1 thanks to James Tarkowski’s first ever goal and Oumare Tounkara’s only goal during his second loan spell at the club. Manager Paul Dickov ended his second season at the club in 16th place, one place higher than the previous campaign. Defender Kieran Lee announced his intention to swap Boundary Park for Hillsborough as he joined Sheffield Wednesday. Midfielder Keanu Marsh-Brown joined League One rivals Yeovil Town soon after being released. Having made 254 appearances for his boyhood club, Chris Taylor also departed as he joined Millwall.
After suffering the disappointment of losing popular players Lee and Taylor, Latics fans were boosted by the news that James Wesolowski had signed a new two year contract. This came on the back of the news the club had taken up their one year options on captain Dean Furman and goalkeeper Dean Bouzanis. Oldham made their first summer signing with full back Connor Brown joining from Sheffield United despite never making a first team appearance at Bramall Lane.
Experience was needed in Oldham’s defence after the departures of Paul Black, Zander Diamond, Brown and Lee. Former Scunthorpe United captain Cliff Byrne was signed. Latics also ended the long-running attempt to sign up Comoros Islands’ Youssouf M’Changama, with the midfielder penning a 12-month contract. Pre-season began with a win over non-league Mossley. Premier League Champions Manchester City were welcomed to Boundary Park in Oldham’s fourth pre-season game. A City team which included Holland captain Nigel De Jong was beaten 2-1. England trio Joe Hart, Joleon Lescott and James Milner plus French pair Samir Nasri and Gael Clichy also played.
Oldham finished pre-season unbeaten, giving them confidence ahead of their first game of the season against recently promoted Sheffield Wednesday in the Capital One Cup. Once again on Sky, Oldham crashed out despite having a 2-0 first-half lead. Jordan Slew, who signed on loan from Blackburn Rovers, scored on his full debut. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ParIVQ5UOPs
New signing Cristian Montano, from West Ham, made his debut as Oldham lost 2-0 to MK Dons in the first league game. Former Latics loanee Lee Croft also re-joined on loan from Derby as Dickov attempted to bolster his squad.
Four games into the new season and Oldham were without a win. 15 years after their last trip to Fratton Park, Oldham beat Portsmouth 1-0 thanks to a deflected goal from new signing Jonathan Grounds. This was followed by another cup exit at the hands of Chesterfield as the Spireites came from behind to win due to a Matt Smith own goal, after he had put Oldham in front. Having been one game away from the final in the previous season, Latics were knocked out of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy in the first round as they looked for revenge over Chesterfield. Captain Dean Furman received his first cap for South Africa against Brazil. Dickov added to his squad by signing former Everton wonder-kid Jose Baxter after a successful trial. http://www.sharethematch.com/News/Will-the-new-Rooney-shine-at-Oldham/271719
He continued to add to his squad with the acquisitions of Matt Derbyshire and Reece Wabara on loan. http://mancunianmatters.co.uk/content/14095413-jose-baxter-and-matt-derbyshire-signings-boost-oldham-athletic-ahead-notts-county-c. Eight league games into the season, Oldham were sat in the relegation zone after just one win which put pressure on Dickov given he told fans to judge him after ten games.
Latics’ best performance of the season so far came at the Alexandra Stadium as they beat newly promoted Crewe Alexandra. This sparked a four game unbeaten run. Latics once again blunted the Blades at Bramall Lane when Smith equalised in the 96th minute. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V1RjUgi6MAE. This was despite Furman once again being called up for international duty. http://mancunianmatters.co.uk/content/04105824-oldham-athletic-boss-paul-dickov-insists-club-still-fighting-delay-dean-furmans-sou.
The unbeaten run came to an end as Oldham lost 2-1 to Carlisle United. City defender Wabara extended his loan spell after impressing. Fans were not the only ones noticing the rich vein of form for Oldham during October as both Dickov and Baxter were nominated for awards. http://mancunianmatters.co.uk/content/14116741-double-nomination-nod-boosts-oldham-athletic-jose-baxter-and-paul-dickov-monthly-aw
Sandwiched in between Halloween and Bonfire Night, a potential banana skin awaited Oldham in the FA Cup first round against non-league Kidderminster. This gave fans the opportunity to sample the famous Aggborourgh pies. http://www.sharethematch.com/News/Kidderminster-pies-worth-every-penny/326585.
While the supporters were tucking into their food, Latics progressed into the next round by winning 2-0. A defeat to local rivals Bury started a three game winless run which once again put Dickov under pressure. This included the return of unpopular former manager Ronnie Moore, who wound up the faithful by winning. A last minute penalty from Baxter secured a priceless 2-1 victory over the League’s bottom side Hartlepool United, which was followed by an unconvincing win against fellow strugglers Shrewsbury Town. November ended with the first of a league/FA Cup double header against Doncaster Rovers as the original league game was called off due to international call-ups.
Boundary Park was the venue for the second match against Doncaster in the space of four days. Oldham gained revenge for their league defeat by knocking Donny out of the FA Cup. Buoyed by a next round tie with Nottingham Forest to look forward to, Latics travelled to Colchester United searching for their first win at the Weston Homes Community Stadium. They returned from Essex with three points for the first time since 2002. The planned Santa Race during half time of the home game against Swindon was called off due to the poor weather. The players added to the sense of disappointment with a poor display. Only Paul Di Canio’s antics on the touchline gave fans something to cheer. Matt Derbyshire ended his loan spell having scored six goals in 20 appearances.
Oldham are currently in 16th place with games against Yeovil, Doncaster and Crewe before the end of 2012.