Oldham Athletic 2 Oxford United 1
Oxford United's terrific away run ended with a 2-1 away defeat at Oldham Athletic this evening. After seven wins from eight games on the road, the Yellows were finally undone by two Lee Erwin goals despite a Chris Maguire penalty and plenty of late pressure.
Simon Eastwood started as he left off at Peterborough with a crucial save from Aaron Amadi-Holloway in just the second minute as the home side started brightly, Chris Taylor thrashing a volley wide in the seventh minute and Eastwood again getting down smartly to gather a Ryan McLaughlin drive on 13.
It was lively stuff and in between those efforts Chris Maguire had driven a free kick just over the bar at the other end. Moments later Conor McAleny floated past two defenders to force home keeper Conor Ripley into his first save of the night as the Yellows came to life but Kane Hemmings then missed a golden opportunity when he touched a Rob Hall cross the wrong side of the post, seemingly unaware that he had the freedom of Greater Manchester, not just the penalty area, to work in.
Maguire went even closer with a second free kick from similar range on 28 minutes, rippling the roof of the net this time, and it was interesting to see the contrast in styles between United’s slick passing and Oldham’s more pragmatic and direct approach, perfectly understandable on a pitch more brown than green.
Eastwood made another good save from Amadi-Holloway on the half hour but on 36 he finally had to admit defeat as the Latics took the lead. Amadi-Holloway created it when he skidded into just enough space to twist and power in a shot that flashed past the startled Eastwood before he could move. The ball smashed against the bar and could have gone anywhere but bounced down on to the line then up into the six-yard box where Erwin was perfectly placed to nod home to make it 1-0.
United responded and Maguire and McAleny again went close with efforts in the opening minutes of the second half before on the hour a deflection flew across the area into the path of Maguire. Instant touch, round the sprawling Ripley and a penalty as the Scot was felled. Up he stepped to beat Ripley all ends up and make it 1-1 and game very much on.
In recent games United have come on strong and been able to steamroller teams once they got on level terms but tonight they couldn’t build up a head of steam and ten minutes later were a goal down again through a simple-looking goal. McLaughlin’s ball was delivered deep to the far post and Erwin battled through a crowd of people to meet it and head back across the stranded Eastwood and into the bottom right corner to make it 2-1.
The Latics have pulled away from danger under John Sheridan and looked strong and well-disciplined. With their lead restored they were happy to soak up pressure and defend as a solid unit when required, looking to draw United into over-committing men forward in their desperation to get something out of the game. It meant that United had to try and pick their way through two banks of four blue shirts at times. Set pieces brought a free kick from Maguire deflected wide and a curling effort from McAleny into the arms of Ripley and there was plenty of late drama but for once no late goal, despite the last five minutes becoming a siege in the Oldham area with the home side happy to smash the ball as far away from danger as possible.
No excuses, no lack of effort, just a tight game by two committed teams with the home side edging it. Ten games left and time to regroup. United now face two home games in a row, against Scunthorpe and Bolton, both above them in the league. Be there.
Report by Chris Williams, pictures Darrell Fisher, stats by OPTA
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