Written by Gary Skinner.
Oldham Athletic had to come from behind to gain a deserved win over Crawley Town at Boundary Park on Saturday.
It was a vital game for the Latics if they were to go into the busy Christmas and New Year fixtures with some momentum.
Dino Maamria had to make some enforced changes to the team that lost 2-0 away at Swindon Town the previous week.
Jamie Stott is likely to be out for several weeks with a hamstring strain so Tom Hamer moved across from right back into the centre back position, with Zak Mills coming in at full back.
Mo Sylla replaced the injured David Jones in central midfield, and with Filipe Morais ineligible to play against his parent club, Maamria opted for a front pairing of Desire Segbe-Azankpo and Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro, the latter having missed the game at Swindon due to illness.
It was Latics who started the game brighter and they should have gone ahead after 10 minutes when a ‘slide rule’ pass through the middle by McCann sent Azankpo through on goal. The striker managed to round the keeper but was outmuscled by Crawley centre half Jordan Tunnicliffe who was able to put the ball out for a corner when the Latics player should really have done better.
Latics were enjoying the lions share of possession but it was Crawley who took the lead after 17 minutes – slightly against the run of play – when full back Young was allowed too much time and space to run at the Oldham defence and after being allowed to advance into the penalty area he placed an accurate shot past de la Paz and into the bottom corner of the net.
The goal was a setback for Latics as they had attempted to take the game to Crawley in the early stages, however it was the visitors who were now in the ascendancy and Latics’ confidence appeared to have been knocked as they became a little rushed in their play and composure was lacking.
On 35 minutes Maouche tried his luck from 25 yards, his shot bouncing just in front of the Crawley keeper who spilled the effort but the defence was able to hack the ball to safety before Akpa Akpro was able to react.
That was the last piece of action for the Oldham striker who was substituted a few minutes later. Dino Maamria clearly not happy with his efforts in the first half.
Latics almost equalised in the 38th minute when Wheater rose highest to head a corner across goal, Iacovitti headed goalwards but Azankpo could only head wide of the post.
There was time for one more effort from Crawley but Daniel George’s shot from outside the box flew over the bar with de la Paz having it covered.
The first half ended with the Latics fans disappointed and wondering just where the required goals were going to come from after the interval.
The second half began as the first half had with Oldham on the front foot, but this time they were able to maintain the momentum and really get a grip on the game.
The equaliser came in the 49th minute, a Smith corner was met by a towering jump by Wheater who sent a powerful header into the bottom corner.
Dino Maamria had clearly given some of the team a ‘rocket’ at half time and there had been an immediate effect.
The midfield in particular began to dominate with Sylla doing much of the ‘dirty’ work in the middle, allowing McCann to show his experience, picking passes and excelling in central midfield along with Smith who was always willing to run wide, fluctuating between both flanks.
Maouche was also much more prominent in the second half although occasionally he may have been guilty of trying too hard and losing possession before his final pass.
Ten minutes later Latics went ahead. A strong challenge by Iacovitti near the halfway line saw the ball break to Wilson who took the ball forward before releasing Maouche on the edge of the area, the midfielder then finished smartly past Morris in the Crawley goal.
The visitors had a chance to equalise when Bloomfield made a powerful run through the Oldham defence, taking the ball into the penalty area but could only blaze his shot high and wide from a good position.
Latics almost put the game out of reach when Maouche had a shot that was deflected, Morris made a good save but before the danger could be cleared Smith set up McCann but his goal bound effort struck teammate Azankpo on the six yard line and Crawley escaped.
Latics were very much on top now, although a one goal lead is never comfortable enough.
With nine minutes to go Wilson had a great opportunity to make it 3-1 but he delayed his shot long enough for a defender to partially block it and send it over the bar for a corner.
Six minutes of added time had the Oldham fans biting their nails but in the end they hung on for a crucial victory.
Games are coming thick and fast now starting with Morecambe away in Boxing Day, followed by two consecutive home games, Salford on the 29th and then Scunthorpe United on New Years Day.
Dino Maamria will be desperate to take as many points as he can from those games in order to climb the table heading into the second half of the season and with the January transfer window looming, which must surely bring some extra firepower in the forward line to help the ‘goals for’ tally.