This draw was yet another case of not getting what we fully deserved at the Ricoh Arena. It was a similar affair to what we saw against Leyton Orient a week or so ago, but at least we picked up a point this time around. I was fairly surprised at how defensive Oldham played to tell the truth as their time-wasting attempts began very early on. It was just another frustrating night in what was our last midweek fixture of the campaign, and until the 91st minute it looked as if we’d lose at home again despite dominating. Up stepped this man though, there’s no doubt he has a huge effect on the side. Right on cue, Reda Johnson.
The Sky Blues looked to be in a confident mood as the game got underway, we kept possession of the ball very well and looked dangerous but the offside flag was our worst enemy early on. With 6 minutes on the clock the flag stayed down and the first chance was carved out after patient build up from the home side, the ball eventually fell to Nick Proschwitz who’s strike on goal was deflected wide. It was the big German who went close just seconds later too as a great Fleck cross caused mayhem. The floated delivery found Reda Johnson at the back post who headed across goal, Proschwitz then connected well but Joel Coleman was down quickly to stop the ball in the bottom corner.
Despite City’s early pressure and promise they found themselves on the wrong end of the scoreline as the away side pulled themselves in front against the run of play. A free kick was conceded out wide but what happened next was truly frustrating. The City defence switched off as the set-piece was taken quickly and the ball reached Connor Brown on the left who had all the time in the world to pick out a cross, it was then his drilled ball that found Daniel Philliskirk inside the six-yard box and the former Coventry player slotted home. It was another easily preventable goal that we’ve conceded after being on top, it’s a reoccurring theme.
The game continued in a similar fashion after the Latics opened the scoring though, the home side continued to look composed on the ball as they searched for a way back in to the tie. Despite City having extortionate amounts of possession the Oldham defence looked relatively comfortable as that little bit of quality was lacking for the Sky Blues, Jordan Willis’ poor cross on 16 minutes a prime example. A fairly scrappy period followed as both teams were lumping the ball aimlessly in to the air, but the pattern of play resumed soon after as we began controlling the ball again. Oldham did however press us high which caused some mistakes but we looked the more likely to score. Proschwitz was at the centre of things again on 22 minutes as he layed off Jim O’Brien who called the keeper in to action again, fellow midfielder John Fleck also had a long range effort stopped on 26 minutes.
Passing was again too slow and laboured at times which allowed Oldham to look relatively untroubled by us, but we did look threatening on occasions. A superb passing move lead to Frank Nouble picking up the ball out wide on 31 minutes, he then showed great feet to beat his man once but he couldn’t help trying to beat him another few times instead of delivering. When he finally did put in a cross it was blocked and the chance was gone, the crowd were rightly annoyed especially considering we know how good he can be on his day – he’s just got to release the ball quicker. The Sky Blues continued to search for an equaliser but it was the away side that went close to doubling their lead on 35 minutes. Jim O’Brien did well to defend in his own area before only managing to find James Wilson with the clearance, the Oldham defender then let fly from 30 yards and his fierce effort rose just over the bar to Lee Burge’s relief.
The final minutes of the half petered out as both teams battled but it was City who created the final clear-cut chance of the opening period. A driven Grant Ward corner on 37 minutes found Nick Proschwitz at the front post, he then controlled brilliantly before firing straight at the keeper on the half-turn. We carried on going forward before the whistle but we came up against a resolute away defence who blocked shot after shot. City may have been leading in terms of goal attempts, corners and so on but it was Oldham who were in front where it matters. They took a gift of a chance to go in 1-0 up at the interval.
The second 45 minutes of this affair were arguably the most important of the Sky Blues season so far and the players came out chasing a game they believed they could salvage. It took just 2 minutes for City to register their first attempt of the half, good hold-up play by Proschwitz again this time allowed Grant Ward space to shoot but the on-loan midfielder couldn’t keep his shot down. A bright start though which sparked the supporters in to life as they got behind their team brilliantly… It was up to the players to respond. You could certainly see a determination inside the players which is very pleasing, and despite the match turning scrappy again the Sky Blues still looked the better side as they won every tackle and loose ball.
The noise continued to increase as did the performance on the pitch, and James Maddison’s introduction on 58 minutes was seen as a positive move by the fans. Possession continued to be dominated by the Sky Blues but the final ball was missing on various occasions. A few half chances were passed by before young Maddison went close on 69 minutes. Great work down the left from Chris Stokes allowed him to pick out Grant Ward who subsequently rolled the ball to Maddison, the tricky youth team graduate then showed great feet before seeing a deflected effort held well by the goalkeeper in the top corner. Further attacking intent was then demonstrated on 67 minutes as Canadian striker Simeon Jackson replaced Jim O’Brien who had put in another energetic display.
The substitution nearly payed off almost immediately as on 72 minutes we were a whisker away from level. A perfectly weighted pass from Jordan Willis found Nouble out wide, he then smashed the ball across goal towards Jackson but the striker couldn’t connect cleanly under severe pressure from the defenders. He was seemingly tugged down which prompted penalty appeals from the stands, but down on the pitch the players didn’t seem that convinced. Yet another chance was passed by with 15 minutes to go as Chris Stokes burst down the left again, his cross then found Jackson but his miscued header looped in to the air and towards the back post, no City players gambled on it though and it ran out for a goal kick. Nick Proschwitz, who had enjoyed a fairly solid game, was there again to create another chance for Jackson on 79 minutes but a heavy touch from the Canadian allowed a defender to get a block in and thwart the danger.
City’s pressure was relentless now as the away side were pegged back in to their own half. It just didn’t seem like our day again when Maddison was denied once more on 82 minutes. Nouble found him on the edge of the area and the substitute then used sublime footwork to skip past two opponents before firing low in to the bottom corner, Coleman was down smartly to save though. As a last ditch attempt to get something from the game, Tony Mowbray deployed Reda Johnson as a striker for the final few minutes and he had an immediate impact as he headed down a long ball in to Nouble’s path. With time and space to let fly it looked as if Nouble would score, but to sum up his recent form he leaned back and inexcusably blazed over. This looked to be game over but the fourth official’s board went up… SIX minutes additional time!
The roar of the crowd spurned the players on and their perseverance payed off as on 91 minutes the score was finally equal. A long ball reached Frank Nouble out wide and the striker, who had been otherwise dissapointing, outmuscled his opponent before finding a bit of space. It was then his cross which floated to the back post where Johnson was lurking and the strapping centre back scored his 6th goal for the club at a vital time to make it 1-1. The Sky Blues pressed for a winner in the remaining minutes as Oldham looked to be rattled, but it wasn’t to be and the two sides had to share the spoils.
Undoubtedly we should have got the full three points but in the manner that we earned a point I suppose we’ll take it. It’s dissapointing that we’ve left the game with less than what the performance warranted but the draw now takes us 4 points away from the bottom four with a trio of games to play. I can’t see us getting anything at promoted Bristol City at the weekend (if they beat us on Saturday then they’ win the title) but if we beat either Crewe or Crawley that should be sufficient enough to ensure our survival. It won’t be easy but it’s possible.
I think as a performance there were plenty of positives to take from the game. For the second game in succession we created a bucket full of chances which is promising but as we’ve stated all season, we need to be more clinical. If we had been, we’d have been safe by now. We are where we are though and we can only focus on the next three games we have to play, if we keep creating we will score and pick up points – providing our defence can rectify the silly mistakes such as the one that lead to Oldham’s goal. If it wasn’t for this schoolboy error we’d have won the game. One other thing that’s got to improve too is our delivery from wide areas, I’m not sure the fullbacks have the quality to consistently put in dangerous crosses. Don’t get me wrong they are great players, but going forward is where they dissapoint at times. Anyway, I’ll stop nit-picking.
Under Mowbray we just look a much more confident side though and I fully believe we’ll stay up now. I know we’ve not quite got ourselves over that hurdle yet but we are going in the right direction. One more win and we’re safe and I think have every hope of achieving that. With the support we’ve had on the road this season, and the level of noise created at home tonight, hopefully us fans can unite with the squad and we can fight for the correct results. Clearly Saturday’s trip to Ashton Gate will be an almighty task but if we can play like we have over the last two home games who’s to say we won’t get at least a point? On paper it looks a formality that Bristol will win, and a victory would ensure they are champions, but let’s put their celebrations on hold for another week.
Time for one last push now… PUSB
Lee Burge – 6
Chris Stokes – 7.5
Reda Johnson – 8
Matthew Pennington – 7
Jordan Willis – 6
Grant Ward – 6.5
Adam Barton – 7
John Fleck – 7
Jim O’Brien – 8
Frank Nouble – 5.5
Nick Proschwitz – 7.5
James Maddison – 7
Simeon Jackson – 6.5
Sanmi Odelusi – N/A