Written by Gary Skinner – follow him at @GaryS1906
Oldham Athletic finally got their first point of the season at the fourth time of asking on Tuesday night with a hard fought draw against Exeter City at Boundary Park.
Laurent Banide made several changes to the team that lost heavily at Bradford, with Hamer, Wheater and Eagles all coming into the starting eleven. Wheater in particular has been sorely missed after being ruled out through injury since the opening game of the season.
Exeter came into the game with their confidence high after recording two wins and a draw in the first three matches of the new season and sat second in the League table, and after winning at Boundary Park last season they will have been looking for another win.
Both teams contributed to a lively start but it was Exeter who set the pace early on, although Latics certainly looked more resolute and were putting more ‘bite’ into their tackles than of late. Exeter almost took the lead through Lee Martin but his shot from the edge of the area was deflected just wide for a corner. Sylla had a weak shot saved for Athletic, and Bowman had a shot comfortably saved by Woods in the Oldham goal. Nepomuceno was causing problems for the Grecians defence and his left foot shot after cutting inside from the right wing was well struck but was just wide. The first half was evenly matched and did not reflect the different league positions of both clubs.
The second half saw a speculative long range effort by Branger-Engone which flew well wide, before Exeter began to exercise more control over the game and Matty Jay should have scored with a header from no more than two yards out but somehow managed to head the ball across goal and wide of the far post. Nicky Law fired a right foot shot wide of the Oldham goal as Exeter continued to pile on the pressure.
In the 70th minute Scott Wilson replaced the tiring Chris Eagles and seven minutes later Zak Mills came on for Gevaro Nepomuceno. Within minutes of coming on Mills was unlucky not to give Latics the lead when following a corner on the left, Wheater managed to get a head on the ball and after a scramble the ball fell to Mills only eight yards out who thumped the ball goalwards only for it to hit a defender on the line and bounce out to safety for Exeter.
At the other end Gary Woods made an excellent save to deny Jake Taylor. Exeter were pumping crosses into the Latics penalty area and Banide made his final substitution bringing on big centre half Sonny Sefil to help with the aerial bombardment.
With the game deep into stoppage time Exeter thought they had won it when Sparkes met Nicky Ajose’s cross with a close range header which was saved by Woods only for Jake Taylor to nod in the rebound. However, it was Latics that breathed a sigh of relief as the effort was ruled out for offside. There was barely time to restart the game before the final whistle was blown.
It would have been cruel on Oldham had they conceded so late in the game, as they had played much better than in the Bradford game and certainly deserved a point from this match. Latics goalkeeper Gary Woods was voted as the sponsors man of the match for the second home game running, but David Wheater must have run him very close. The experienced centre half didn’t miss a header all night and his experience at organising the defence was crucial to the clean sheet.
Banide is clearly still trying to find out what his best line-up and formation is but hopefully the first point of the season will improve the confidence of the team and they can start to climb the table.