Swindon 1 Oldham Athletic 1: Ladies & Gentlemen, I give you annoyance and frustration
A 1-1 draw with Oldham Athletic meant Swindon lost ground on the race for automatic promotion. Brendan Hobbs left the County Ground annoyed and frustrated as all of us…
Oldham, they always seem to crop up at awkward times in my life and make it their business to totally rain on my parade. I remember a particularly sunny day in August 1989, I’d just turned sixteen and off I went to Boundary Park for an early season encounter with the Latics – I thought the world owed me a favour, I certainly didn’t get one on that day.
Town raced into a two nil lead on the infamous plastic pitch through Alan Mac (the original) and a trademark strike from Postman Dunc, but the tide turned late in the second half and we conceded two goals, with the equaliser coming nine minutes from time – it was a barrel of laughs on the travel club coach coming home I can tell you.
Fast forward a few years and to one of our most significant games in modern Swindon history – our first ‘Premiership’ game at home, which of course was the fairytale coupling the moment deserved. Home to Manchester United Oldham Athletic.
Now I’m sure to our younger readers the idea that Swindon Vs Oldham was indeed a top tier encounter seems preposterous. But back in the barmy ‘naming only three subs on the teamsheet’ days of 1993 such a fixture could indeed be served up steaming hot at the top table of English football. (Wimbledon Vs Coventry City was also a main course in those great days.) I imagine this wrangle is very similar to the one I have these days concerning Wigan Athletic – seriously, Wigan Athletic? Premier League? In the same sentence? I still can’t get my head around that.
Oldham managed to balls this one up for me as well, despite dominating for most of the game Town conceded a last minute winner courtesy of a Paul Bernard header.
Although to be fair Oldham have provided me at least some joy, courtesy of being the opponents when one my favourite CG goals was scored. It occurred in a fourth round FA Cup encounter back in 1996, during the dark times when the club was in the death grip of the belligerent Steve McMahon.
McMahon was busy falling out with people left right and centre, including one Martin Ling who many thought was good enough to still get a regular game. Time was running out in the match, we’d missed a penalty and were running out of ideas when McMahon subbed himself for Lingy, then this happened, over to you Garth Anthony Crooks:
I distinctively heard at least five separate yells of “F*ck you McMahon” during the celebrations. Good times.
Anyway back to Fridays encounter, Kevin MacDonald was keen to dish out some more hurt on the Johnson family with a win over the struggling Latics. Rumour has it he had scheduled in a visit to the Johnson household later that evening to punch Mrs Johnson repeatedly in the kidneys and kick their dog around the yard just to complete the set.
Two changes were made to the starting line up with debutants Massimo Luongo and Dean Parrett thrust straight into the team with Adam Rooney having to make do with a place on the bench. The battle weary Tommy Miller dropped out of the match day squad altogether and the third of the Spurs loanees, Nathan Byrne was also on the bench.
Town lined up in their now familiar 4-5-1/4-3-3/4-1-4-1 (delete according to opinion) formation and went at Oldham from the off, evidently keen to banish the memories of the blanks fired against Notts County.
This weeks Terrace Hate Target of the Month™, Andy Williams (obviously revelling in all the murmuring boos and cat calls) fired in a rangy strike which flew just past the post.
Simon Ferry had also put on his shooting boots for this game, but unfortunately it appeared he hadn’t read the operating instructions or bothered to insert any batteries into them as he sent two efforts well wide of the post and crossbar.
Williams went closer as Town began building up a head of steam, this time stinging the palms of the anagrammatic Oldham ‘Keeper Dean Bouzanis who could only parry the shot into the path of the onrushing Gary Roberts. He bore down on the loose ball with all the intent and focus of a piss-head being offered a free kebab, but due to great pressure from the impressive M’voto he somehow scuffed the ball against the post before deflecting the rebound wide via godknowswhat part of his body.
Parratt and Luongo looked busy throughout the half, both looked extremely comfortable on the ball and they certainly know how to pick a pass. Parratt’s dead ball delivery looked threatening and alongside Byrne, who later delivered the only real quality crosses from open play of the game, showed what we’ve been sorely missing since Ritchie’s departure.
The half then started to lull, with Town retreating into a massive sulk on the back of Roberts miss. This allowed time for discussion with my fellow DRS inhabitants about how many Football Manager teams we’ve built over the past few years which included the many FM legends that adorn the Oldham team: One time Everton ‘wonderkid’ Jose Baxter (Football Manager 2008), former Man City Starlet Lee Croft, Middlesbrough legend Jonathan Grounds (he once cost me £4 mil, no joke!) Former Leicester playmaker James Wesolowski who was also hailed as a ‘wonderkid’ on Football Manager 2006 I think? Anyone want to back me up on this?
Halftime came and inbetween the ubiquitous youngster football matches and the penalty shootout competition we were treated to a bizarre and repetitive (and endless) ‘ladies and gentlemen’ mantra from the new announcer, who delivered his lines with such a late night cabaret inflection to his voice that I think the Phoenix Club is missing a compare for the Jocky Wilson suite.
The Williams hate was bubbling during the interval, I offered a suitable defence by saying that he wasn’t the right sort of player to be played up front on his own, feeding off scraps and long hoofed passes. I argued that he needs to prey on threaded through balls, low, flat passes into the channels, ball at his feet etc.
So how overjoyed was I (after defending him so vigorously) that early on in the second half he got a couple of great opportunities when he was sent through on goal with the ball at his feet only to fluff his prompt and waste two golden opportunities. He may as well of jogged up the steps of the DRS and kicked me in the nut sack directly, such was the pain I felt.
One such opportunity came from a delicious through ball from Luongo. You don’t normally hear an audible gasp of wonderment from the crowd on the back of such a pass but the weight, trajectory and bend was a thing of beauty. Curled with pace and subtlety, Massimo managed with one effortless flick of his boot to take out two flat footed defenders and in the process totally unlock a stubborn defence. It was like one of those moments when your ears pop after you’ve been swimming…. Ohhhhh man…[slumps down further in his seat] (Anyone with me on this? Anyone? No?)
Oldham started getting into the game with a series of quick raids and Town’s defence started to get nervous especially when Wes Foderingham made a few rash excursions from his goal line.
The crowds frustration started to grow, with the referee Andrew Madley proving central to our anguish. He needlessly blew up for any tiny infringements that happened within the neutral space of midfield, but when the same insignificant foul occurred anywhere of consequence he steadfastly refused to blow, very frustrating.
Personally I thought it could’ve been a straight red for the foul which caused Nathan Thompson to leave the field permanently, from my angle it looked a vicious and high tackle full of intent. I freely admit I’m probably wrong on this as no-one else seemed to complain too much.
I suppose it shouldn’t have been a surprise when Oldham took the lead, Alan Mac (the new one) got the wrong side of Lee Croft which allowed him to pull the ball back to Lee Barnard who finished expertly.
Amongst all this carnage and due to me getting a little, shall we say ‘sweary’ at this point, I kinda lost the timeline a bit, but anyway, Thompson went off, Byrne on and Town switched formation, ditching the 4-5-1/4-3-3/4-1-4-1 formation and resorting to 4-4-2 with the introduction of Rooney and Collins.
With new impetus and also with Byrne now on the pitch we finally saw some quality crosses flying into the box and on the back of this new found pressure we managed to get back into the game with an absolute belter courtesy of Adam Rooney.
Navarro teased a cross into the box and with his back to goal there seemed no danger but Rooney reacted on total instinct, catching the ball perfectly with an overhead kick which sailed into the net. In the world of art, cinema and music critics often discuss an artists influences when they produce a particularly fabulous piece – what inspiration had been channelled and from where. In this instance it was all very Pelé in Escape to Victory meets Rory Fallon against Bristol City meets any Jimmy Quinn free kick. In other words, very special.
This seemed to inspire Town further with Parratts dead ball delivery and Byrnes crosses causing mayhem in the Oldham defence. Collins should’ve buried a fantastic opportunity from one Parratt free kick and Rooney must wonder how he failed to capitalise on an easy tap in opportunity considering what he had managed moments before.
Roared on a by fantastic 10k plus crowd Town just couldn’t quite grab the winner they deserved and the final moments were getting frantic. The ref kept getting in the way with his stupid rule book, final balls were going astray, big hoofs were not finding their targets and the crowd were getting upset like a bunch of ‘tantrumming’ children.
At one point some of the ‘leave early gang’ were locked in a massive slanging match with the stubborn ‘were not going anywhere posse’. Vitriol was directed at the ref, the players, the ball boys – a massive crescendo of hate was building…. and then it happened. Mr ‘Ladies & Gentleman’ thought that this was the perfect moment to do another round of up-beat, Smashy & Nicey-esque Happy Birthday shout-outs. I can’t remember who’s birthday it was now, but for illustrative purposes let’s say one of them was called Dave Smith, because the guy who sits a few rows down from me went bright purple with anger and put his hands on his head and shouted at the top of his voice “F*ck off Dave Smith you c*nt!!!!!”
And who says intellectual banter is dead?
The final whistle went, it was a draw, cue muted applause, boos for the ref and shrugs of indifference for the rest.
I didn’t listen to the post match reaction, I knew the airwaves would be crammed full of doom n’ gloom merchants, moaning about the players, the board, PDC and KMAC. None of these people seem to remember that this time last year we were plying our trade in the division below, that at this point two years ago we hadn’t won in seventeen games and were on the way to relegation and more importantly, that we simply don’t have a divine right for promotion.
In a time of true chaos in the football world, in places where honest fans have to endure being kicked in the teeth by negligent owners and rule breakers and makers, I’m talking Coventry, Plymouth, Portsmouth and Dunfermline fans here, some of our fans need to get a grip and be thankful we’re not amongst that lot.
Please, re-arrange these letters to make a word: