By Gerry PrewettThis weekend Bristol Rovers head up the M5/M6 to Greater Manchester to face an Oldham Athletic team which is struggling to put a decent run of form together.
As Rovers were putting in a sensational result together at MK Dons the Latics took leaders Scunthorpe United by surprise to complete a 2-0 win.
On 30 minutes they had a strong penalty claim turned down by referee Darren England. Ryan Flynn received the ball in the box and went down but the referee waved play on. Five minutes later, the Iron had their own claim for a penalty when Neal Bishop went to ground but again the referee was unimpressed and booked Bishop for his failure to accept the decision.
The Latics took the lead on 42 minutes, as the ball reached Crystal Palace loanee Freddie Ladapo on the edge of the box, he created room to get his shot ball past Joe Anyon in the United goal. As the first minute of added time was signalled Lee Erwin doubled the score as he cut inside curled it around Anyon
That first half performance matched their goal tally from their previous six home games.
Speaking after the game Athletic Boss Steve Robinson commented "It was scrappy in the first 10 minutes but once we settled down you could see the belief in the players grow. When we scored when we were on top, you could see the belief grow even more and we could have gone on and won by more in the end.”
"I don't know if it will be a turning point for us because our performances have actually been very good. We've only lost two games away from home all season. It's goals that have been our problem, there's no secret about that.”
"We've had one or two performances at home that we weren't happy with, but we are still building and getting to know the players. We were still recruiting six weeks after everybody else so we are very happy with what we've put together."
Over the years there have been some remarkable games between the Gas and the Latics; 56 in total with 19 Oldham victories, 23 to Rovers and 14 draws. Only 5 of those games have been 0–0 and in one remarkable instance was 4-4.
The first meeting was in the FA Cup on 14 December 1935 as the teams tied 1-1 at Boundary Park, Rovers won the replay 4-1 at Eastville with a Phil Taylor hat-trick.
The first League meeting took place on 16 April 1954 with Rovers winning 1-0 at Eastville with a George Petherbridge goal. Three days later the teams drew 0-0 at Boundary Park.
In the 1967-68 season the goals really flowed in this fixture. Rovers won the home tie in front of a 6,864 crowd on 17 February 1968, 4-3 with goals by Alfie Biggs (2) and Johnny Williams (2, 1 penalty) for the home team and Tony Towers (2) and Laurie Sheffield (who had been on Rovers books at one stage without ever getting a game, he went on to score 132 goals in a 281 game career). Oldham had gone ahead in the game but with 11 minutes left, Rovers were 3-1 up. Towers then scored and Sheffield equalised before Biggs headed his second.
At Boundary Park in the final game of the season there were even more goals as Bobby Jones (2), Wayne Jones, Harold Jarman and Stuart Taylor for the away team and an Ian Wood hat-trick for the home team led to a 5-3 away win.
Wayne Jones scored after 11 minutes and quarter of an hour later Bobby Jones doubled the lead. Wood then scored in the 53rd and 58th minutes to level the scores, but Taylor quickly restored Rovers lead. In the 78th minutes Wood completed his hat-trick and once again brought the scores level. Bobby Jones responded immediately and with just 8 minutes of the season left Jarman put the icing on the cake.
That 4-4 draw was on 27 September 1997, in front of a 5,990 crowd. A rampant Oldham team raced into a 3-0 lead, within the first half hour, with goals by Barlow (8 mins and 23 mins) and McCarthy (25 mins). 15 minutes later and Rovers had pegged it back to 3-3 with Beadle (30 mins and 33 mins) and Hayles (45 mins) scoring. Oldham retook the lead with a 59th minute goal by Garner but Rovers were not finished, Cureton slammed home a penalty in the 87th minute.
In 2008-09 Rovers completed a 2-0 double over the Latics which bettered the previous season’s 1-0 double! Prior to that Rovers’ last victory at Boundary Park was on 26 February 2000 as Rovers raced towards what appeared to be a certain automatic promotion.
Goals by Cureton (4 mins and 6 mins, penalty) and Astafjevs (11 mins) seemed to have sown the game up for Rovers within the first 15 minutes. A further goal by Thomson (48 mins) just after half time gave the Gas an unassailable lead and Oldham’s only response was a goal by Dudley in the 67th minute.
The last meeting in Greater Manchester was on 4 September 2010 as the team shared a 1-1 draw with Chris Taylor scoring for the Latics and Will Hoskins for the Gas. Rovers won the home tie 1-0 on 19 February with a Rene Howe goal.
Speaking after Tuesday’s game midfielder Ryan Flynn commented, "It was a really good win. I think bar the first 10 or 15 minutes we were far the better team throughout and we thoroughly deserved the three points tonight.”
“We had to work for the goals and it was very good football as we played right through them and it was two great finishes. We spoke about it on Saturday, performances weren’t that bad and goals change games and that’s what happened tonight.”
"We’ve got to take this performance into Saturday so we’ll rest up. I thought the fans stuck by us throughout the whole game, even in the first 20 minutes when it was a big edgy for us but we got through that and they definitely helped.”
Talking about their progress this season he noted, “It took a little bit longer than we had hoped but I think that’s because of the results as I think the performances has been good. It was a good performance tonight and hopefully we can take that into Saturday’s game."
Manager Robinson added, “Scunthorpe have run away with the league so far, they are four points clear and are a really good side but for us to take three points off them, we are delighted.”
“We took a little time to settle but when we did we broke through their press and I thought we had undoubted quality for over 60 minutes of the game. We have played better than that and not won games but we genuinely believe in the dressing room and amongst the coaching staff that we could get something tonight and we did."
“The football leading up to the first goal was fantastic. There are 10 or 15 different passes that were involved and it was a super finish. Lee Erwin, we know what kind of quality he has got and we are always demanding more from him. When he holds the ball up, has good work rate and when he plays like that sometimes he is unplayable so we are delighted with the result and goals definitely change games.”
“It’s been a noose around our neck to get the first win at home in the league so it was good to get it against a team like Scunthorpe United. Our performance against Bolton was good for 80% of the game, as was Gillingham and Fleetwood, but there is a lot of belief.
“Luck is a massive part of this game and we haven’t quite had it but it takes time for the understanding of the players to come across. This is only the start, we believe we can put a little run together and we have another game at home on Saturday before Rochdale away so we need to build on today’s result."