Written by Gary Skinner @GaryS1906
Dino Maamria’s reign as Oldham Athletic’s new head coach got off to the perfect start with a well deserved 3-1 over Morecambe FC at Boundary Park on Saturday. With Laurent Banide and his assistant Bouziane Benaraibi both being relieved of their duties on Thursday afternoon, there was little time for Maamria to make much impact on the squad but he appears to be a very enthusiastic and passionate character and the team worked hard for their victory.
Zeus de la Paz made a rare start in goal with Gary Woods being injured. Zak Mills was recalled to the starting line up at right full back against his former club, with Tom Hamer moving inside to partner David Wheater at the heart of the defence. Mo Sylla was back in the side in his defensive midfield role.
Latics made a bright start to the game, forcing their first corner after only 15 seconds. Mills had the first shot on target after a quick interchange of passing between Maouche and Branger-Engone had given him space but his left foot shot lacked power and was straight at Roche in the Morecambe goal. At the other end Mills had to deal with an awkward bounce from a cross by ex Latics forward Lewis Alessandra, heading the ball behind for a corner.
Maouche then produced an excellent turn and shot from the corner of the box that required a fine save by Roche as Latics looked for the opening goal in what was a lively start to the game by the home side. It was Oldham who continued to press and Missilou headed over the bar after getting onto the end of a cross from Morais.
When the goal did come in the 33rd minute it was no surprise. Alessandra fouled Missilou midway into the Morecambe half. The free kick from Branger-Engone found Mills out wide, cutting inside his left foot cross was met by Maouche rising high to head home for what was a deserved lead.
Iacovitti had a powerful 20 yard shot turned over the bar by Roche before half time. Latics going in at the break one goal to the good and full value for their lead.
The second half saw more of the same from the home side, dominating possession when going forward and defending strongly when needed. Sylla in particular was standing out for his defensive work rate along with Mills who was getting forward to great effect.
The second goal came on 51 minutes, a cross from Mills found Azankpo in space and as the ball fell to his feet he showed composure and calmness before smashing the ball into the top corner from close range, giving Roche no chance.
Morecambe now had to throw caution to the wind to a degree and they began to show more urgency up front. Tanner on loan from Manchester United tried his look from 20 yards but dragged his shot just wide of the post. Latics were looking to add to their lead, no doubt mindful that they had drawn both of their last two games 2-2 after being 2 goals ahead in both.
With gaps appearing at both ends of the pitch, Maouche had a shot saved when perhaps the angle was against him. At the other end Alessandra had a long range shot fizz just over the crossbar.
On 78 minutes Morecambe got a goal back with two of their substitutes combining. Leitch-Smith twisting and turning in the box to get away from Wheater and crossing for Shaun Miller to tap in from close range. It was looking like being a nerve wracking finish for the Latics fans but it was Oldham who finished the game the stronger, looking to extend their lead rather than defend.
Branger-Engone curled a left foot shot just wide of the post, and the same player showed determination and resilience in the final minutes to battle for the ball in the middle, before carrying the ball forward and playing a lovely weighted pass to substitute Johnny Smith who lashed the ball home for his first goal for the club since his loan move from Bristol City.
That was the last meaningful action in a game that Latics ran out worthy winners and ensured that Dino Maamria had got off to a winning start as Oldham head coach. There is definitely cause for a little more optimism at Boundary Park. The team do finally seem to be beginning to gel and in recent weeks their points tally could easily have been four points better. Perhaps now with Maamria’s attacking philosophy and infectious enthusiasm better times might lie ahead for the Oldham faithful.
It’s only a start, but it’s a good start. Watch this space!
Image courtesy of Oldham Times