Written by Gary Skinner.
Oldham Athletic fell to a 2-1 defeat against promotion chasing Crewe Alexandra on Saturday.
The Latics made two enforced changes to the starting line up from the consecutive home wins against Mansfield Town and Bradford City.
With Zak Dearnley failing to recover from his injury sustained in the Bradford match, Mohamed Maouche kept his place up front alongside Danny Rowe, and Zak Mills came in at left back due to Cameron Borthwick-Jackson suffering from illness.
An enthusiastic away following of over 1,250 Latics fans were keen to see if their team could extend their recent run of form against a side who hadn’t lost at home since November and are aiming for automatic promotion.
It was Crewe who settled into their rhythm quickly, creating attacks from either side of the pitch but Charlie Kirk in particular was causing problems for the Latics defence down the left wing.
The first real threat on the Oldham goal came in the 12th minute when Finney won a header on the edge of the penalty area, the ball fell to Kirk who attempted to lob the ball over de la Paz but his effort was just too high and landed on the roof of the net.
Latics hit back with a quick counter attack from deep inside their own half involving Maouche, Smith and Hamer, ending with Hamer trying his luck from 25 yards but his effort flew wide of the post.
Crewe continued to cause problems for the Latics defence and both Hamer and Piergianni had to make important interceptions to clear the danger.
Oldham were creating half chances and Smith and Nepomuceno had shots on goal but lacked the power or precision to trouble Jaaskelainen in the Crewe goal.
The home side should have taken the lead in the 37th minute when a searching ball from Pickering just evaded the outstretched leg of Sylla leaving Finney with a clear run on goal, however after advancing to the corner of the six yard box he pulled his right foot shot horribly wide with only the goalkeeper to beat.
The first half ended with Piergianni rising highest to head a Tom Hamer cross wide of the goal.
It had been a fairly even first period but the home side had created more chances.
The second half was only three minutes old when Latics took the lead.
Missilou played an excellent pass out wide to Nepomuceno whilst under pressure, the winger then brought Danny Rowe into the move and the forward played a pinpoint return pass behind the full back for Nepomuceno to run on to. His low cross took a slight deflection before finding Jonny Smith running in and tucking away a neat finish from ten yards out to the delight of the large contingent of Oldham fans.
Latics almost got a second five minutes later but Hamer’s goalbound effort struck teammate Missilou and deflected away to safety.
On 53 minutes Crewe were given a free kick just inside their half following what appeared to be a fair challenge by Smith and they took the free kick quickly to break down the right wing with Walker who was able to dribble into the penalty area before laying the ball off to Jones who’s shot was blocked on the edge of the box by Sylla, Crewe retained possession however and Kirk found Pickering wide left, his low cross was cleared for a corner by the excellent Piergianni. Smith was still clearly unhappy with the initial free kick decision and he complained once too often to the referee and was shown the yellow card.
From the resulting corner Latics failed to clear their lines despite several opportunities to do so, the ball eventually found its way to Jones who cut inside onto his right foot beating Hamer before hitting a low shot that bobbled on its way to goal but de la Paz couldn’t hold it and the ball seemed to go into the goal off the keepers arm in what looked to be a bad goalkeeping error.
The home side were now pressing for a winner and Latics were suddenly defending deeper and deeper without providing many attacking opportunities for themselves.
Pickering hit a shot over the bar from the edge of the box and substitute Chris Porter header over but from an offside position.
Crewe were now dominating possession and the Latics players were looking weary. It wasn’t until the 82nd minute though before Dino Maamria made his first substitution. Johan Branger-Engone replacing Mohamed Maouche.
Oldham were hanging on and when the fourth official indicated seven minutes of added time it was the last thing that the players and away supporters wanted.
In the 95th minute Crewe almost got the winner when Callum Ainley’s shot from 25 yards was turned away for a corner by de la Paz.
Unfortunately it was only a brief reprieve however. With only seconds left on the clock, Kirk took the ball into the Latics area on a jinking run, evading challenges from Missilou, Hamer and Wheater before hitting his shot low into the bottom corner, beating de la Paz at his near post.
There was just enough time for the game to be restarted before the final whistle was blown.
It was cruel on Latics but on reflection the tactics employed in the latter stages of the match were perhaps too negative and the manager could have used his substitutes more wisely in order to help out the tired legs on the pitch. With Chris McCann on the bench, the chance of using a player who is comfortable on the ball was missed.
The Latics fans made their feelings known at the end of the game, and although applauding the team’s efforts, they left the coaching staff in no doubt that they wanted to see a more attacking approach from the side.
Another tricky away game follows on Tuesday night with a trip to Exeter who sit third in the League table, before the visit of Forest Green Rovers to Boundary Park.