Written by Gary Skinner.
Oldham Athletic and Salford City fought out a 1-1 draw at Moor Park on Saturday.
Latics were looking for revenge after the 4-1 defeat at Boundary Park in December.
With Salford loanees Mani Dieseruvwe and Carl Piergianni both ineligible to play against their parent club, there was a re-shuffle in defence with Tom Hamer moving to centre half, Alex Iacovitti coming back into the team at left back with Zak Mills moving across to right back.
The midfield was made up of Maouche, Sylla, N’Guessan and Smith, with Azankpo and Rowe occupying the two striker positions.
Latics had sold their allocation of tickets and were cheered on by over 1300 of their supporters, but it was Salford who dominated the early possession and former Athletic player Adam Rooney came close to giving the hosts a very early lead but his shot from 22 yards flew just wide of the post with de la Paz beaten.
There was an even better chance for Salford after 11 minutes when Thomas-Asante easily wriggled free from a weak challenge by N’Guessan but pulled his shot wide of the post from one 8 yards out when he should have done better.
There was controversy in the 16th minute when referee adjudged that Zak Mills had fouled Rooney inside the area. Rooney took the spot kick only for de la Paz to make an excellent save down to his left, Rooney followed up with the rebound which the goalkeeper saved again but he could only paw the ball upwards and Thomas-Asante was there to head the ball home from very close range. Latics appealed for a foul on the keeper but the goal stood despite the protests, with Maouche and Wheater both being booked for dissent.
It was no more than Salford deserved however as they had got a grip on the game whereas Latics hadn’t got going at all.
Hamer managed a header that went well wide, but other than that Latics fans had to wait until the 35th minute for the first shot on target from the away team. A long range effort from Azankpo that was hit straight at Letheren in the Salford goal.
Salford had a chance to double their lead when de la Paz needlessly carried the ball outside of the area when hitting the ball downfield. Fortunately for Athletic though the defensive wall managed to block the shot of O’Connor.
The first half ended with the home side ahead in what was proving to be an uninspiring contest.
The second half started with no substitutions for either side, and it was Latics who created the first chance.
Rowe released Jonny Smith down the left wing and he managed to hit a firm cross/shot that Letheren could only beat away to safety.
Oldham made their first substitution in the 61st minute when Zak Dearnley was brought on to replace the ineffective Mohammed Maouche.
Salford created chances themselves with Thomas-Asante easily getting past Hamer but pulling his left foot shot across the face of goal and beyond the far post.
Further substitutions followed for Athletic with Missilou replacing Azankpo in the 69th minute and Nepomuceno coming on for N’Guessan after 73 minutes.
In the 75th minute Salford should have gone two ahead when after further good work by the impressive Thomas-Asante he played a through ball for Andrade to run onto, he played a beat back heel to Conway but de la Paz was able to rush out of goal and block the shot at close range.
The home team were made to pay for those misses when in the 83rd minute a pass from Sylla to substitute Dearnley was neatly flicked on for Danny Rowe to run onto. Advancing into the penalty area the chance appeared to have gone momentarily as Burgess closed him down but when the ball broke onto his left foot he was able to hit an unstoppable shot into the bottom corner of the goal in front of the ecstatic Oldham supporters to register his first goal for his new club.
The final seven minutes of the game, and an additional six minutes saw Latics bombard the Salford penalty area looking for an unlikely winner but it didn’t materialise and the game finished 1-1.
Latics will have been much the happier side with the result and Salford will certainly consider it to have been 2 points dropped rather than 1 point gained.
A very lack lustre performance from Latics, the only bright spot being Danny Rowe opening his account, hopefully the first of many for the club. With better service he looks to be a real goal threat and may yet be able to turn around the Latics’ fortunes. He can’t however be expected to do it all on his own.
The midfield in particular looks very light in terms of quality and creativity at the moment and the return from injury of the experienced Chris McCann can’t come soon enough.