Written by Gary Skinner
Oldham Athletic were cruelly knocked out of the Carabao Cup on Tuesday night, conceding two goals in stoppage time in a 5 goal thriller against Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park.
Latics made several changes to the team that put in such a disappointing performance in the home defeat to Crewe on Saturday.
The changes were both in personnel and formation, with Laurent Banide opting for a 4-5-1 formation. Alex Iacovitti reverted to centre back, with Zak Mills dropping back into the right full-back position.
Mo Sylla came into the team in central midfield, Gevaro Nepomuceno was recalled to the starting line up on the left wing, with Dylan Fage on the right side of midfield.
Desire Segbe Azankpo started up front as the lone striker.
Blackburn made a bright start to the game and played some neat possession football without really causing the Latics defence too many problems early on.
It was Oldham who took the lead on 14 minutes when Nepomuceno was freed down the left, breaking clear of his marker before firing a low left foot shot past the keeper from the edge of the box.
The goal seemed to give Latics some belief and despite not having as much possession as the home side they were just as threatening when moving forward, breaking with pace and crisp passing.
Missilou almost put Athletic 2-0 in front but his header from a Maouche cross from the left flashed just wide of the far post.
Blackburn should have equalised only a minute later when a cross from the experienced Stewart Downing fell to Buckley only eight yards out but his shot was blocked on the line by Smith-Brown.
Rovers continued to press and a header from Brereton went wide of the post without troubling Woods in the Latics goal.
The first half ended with Latics 1-0 to the good and having certainly held their own against their more illustrious neighbours.
Picture courtesy of Lancs Live
The second half saw much of the same sort of action with Blackburn dominating possession but Oldham chasing and closing down with energy and enthusiasm, keeping most of the play away from the danger areas.
Branger-Engone replaced Nepomuceno and almost scored within 3 minutes of coming on. His attempted chip didn’t quite have the height to beat Leutwiler in the Blackburn goal.
Rovers continued to press though and the equaliser came in the 70th minute. Second half substitute Bradley Dack being able to capitalise on Smith-Brown’s mis-control on the edge of the area and fire his shot low to the bottom right hand corner of the Latics goal.
Dack thought he’d got another a few minutes later when he turned Rothwell’s cross into the net from close range, but the referee disallowed the effort for offside after consultation with the linesman.
Rovers began to look for a winner and Latics made another substitution, Scott Wilson replacing Segbe Azankpo, and it was Latics who took the lead in the 83rd minute when Maouche placed a fine right foot shot halfway up the Blackburn goal and out of the reach of the diving Leutwiler.
Tom Hamer became Latics’ final substitution in the 87th minute as they attempted to see out the remaining minutes. The fourth official showed 6 minutes of added time which must have surprised even the Blackburn supporters.
In the 92nd minute Sefil brought down Dack on the edge of the Latics penalty area but the referee allowed advantage to be played, the ball fell to Downing who struck a fine left foot shot past Woods and into the bottom left hand corner of the goal.
Blackburn now sensed that they could win the tie, while Latics were looking at a penalty shootout, however in the 5th minute of stoppage time a hopeful ball into the box was headed down by Danny Graham, it found Dack who passed to substitute Joe Rothwell for a tap-in, although there was maybe a suggestion of offside.
It was cruel on Latics who had run their selves into the ground and deserved at least a chance at penalties, but they can console themselves with a much better team performance. One that they can hopefully take into the league game at weekend away at Bradford.
The 600+ contingent of Oldham supporters staying behind to show their appreciation to the team, and perhaps there is a little more optimism about their league prospects.