Written by Gary Skinner @GaryS1906
Dino Maamria was able to celebrate his second win as Oldham boss as the Latics overcame Walsall at Boundary Park on Tuesday night.
With Mohamed Maouche, Tomas Egert and Mohamed Sylla all suspended for the fixture, Maamria had to make changes and he opted for a 4-4-2 formation. Jamie Stott keeping his place at centre half, Filipe Morais coming straight back into the team and Callum Wilson joining Desire Segbe Azankpo up front in a two pronged attack for the first time, a move that many supporters had been asking for.
The first half showed little change however from recent performances with Latics struggling to get on top of the visitors and goalmouth action was scarce at either end. Half chances and speculative efforts were all that either side had to show. McCann coming closest for Athletic with 25 yard drive just before half time that was turned away for a corner by Rose in the Walsall goal.
Early in the second half however came a pivotal moment in the game when, following a long ball from Iacovitti to Wilson, Walsall central defender Matt Sadler inexplicably jumped and handled the ball deliberately. The red card that followed was inevitable and it took Latics only two minutes to make the most of the numerical advantage.
Iacovitti produced a mazy run on the left flank, beating several Walsall defenders before reaching the bye-line and pulling the ball back for Wilson who smashed an unstoppable shot into the top corner from ten yards out. His first league goal for Athletic certainly put a spring in the strikers step and the whole team were suddenly on the front foot, with confidence flowing after taking the lead.
A second goal followed in the 69th minute. Again following a cross from Iacovitti, picking out Azankpo in the box who managed to place his left foot shot into the far corner of the goal.
Latics looked much more comfortable after the second goal and almost got a third but Smith was out muscled in front of goal by Sinclair after Rose had kept out Azankpo’s effort.
Walsall came close to pulling one back in the 79th minute when Scarr had a right foot shot from the edge of the area but De la Paz in the Latics goal was able to turn it around the post for a corner.
In the 86th minute a piece of Latics history occurred when Zac Emmerson replaced Azankpo to become the youngest ever player in an Oldham shirt at 15 years and 73 days. A proud occasion for the youngster whose first touch was cheered by the crowd. Reece Gaskell, another product of the academy also came on to replace Scott Wilson. Both look like being promising prospects and the manager has stated that academy players will be included regularly in the future as he attempts to get the best out of his squad going forward.
In the end Latics ran out worthy winners, although it has to be said that for most of the second half they had a numerical advantage, but they certainly made the most of it, and their confidence should have received a boost after the two previous disappointing league defeats. A tricky away trip to Port Vale awaits on Saturday but they can go into the game with a little more optimism than of late, and hopefully they will have something to build on after this victory.