In a tempestuous contest, United had been second best for much of the first half but had got in front after winning an extremely soft penalty which was converted by Nick Blackman. After this United had a brief spell of control but for the final period of the game; the Blades sat back deeper and deeper. Amidst a flurry of inexplicable refereeing decisions with booking aplenty; Oldham finally scored in the 97th minutes as referee Mathieson somehow found additional time within additional time to deny the Blades.
United made 2 chances from the win at Orient with George Long coming in for the injured Mark Howard and John Cofie getting the nod out wide to replace the departed Paul Gallagher. Another young keeper George Willis was on the bench alongside fellow academy product Jordan Chappell. Oldham had a mixture of experience and youth in their line up but would have been confident after recent victories and their dramatic win at the Lane last year.
The first half began with Oldham starting well and winning a free kick in the united half that led to a headed chance in the first minute. Athletic were most of the midfield battles. They were on top in the key areas but United had a half chance when Flynn played in McDonald but he could not get a shot in on goal. The rain had started and was now lashing it down as United struggled to get any kind of ascendancy in the game. Derbyshire was looking threatening and he nearly got in but Hill had to clear. Not long after Long had to parry Simpson’s long range shot and Grounds put in the rebound but was adjudged to be offside. Oldham then had another chance but Derbyshire flicked his header just wide. The visitors looked like the home side as they took the game to United and the Blades frustration was evident when McDonald picked up a booking for a clumsy foul. Montano was then booked for a pull back before McMahon was adjudged to have dived in and also picked up a yellow card as the game started to turn a little *****ly. Soon after the half time whistle came in a match that United had never really got going and had been fortunate to go in level.
The second half saw United show some improvements and Williams cantered down the left before his high cross nearly dropped in with Bouzanis backpedalling and clearly concerned. Doyle then finally had an effort on goal that was pushed away as United finally gave their fans something to cheer about. Soon after the cheers were even louder as they won a penalty kick.
The ball was played up to Kitson and as he tussled with M’Voto. There was grappling but it seemed like both players were grabbing each other and it was a surprise when the referee pointed to the spot in the softest of penalty decisions you could ever wish to see. Oldham’s manager Paul Dickov was furious and marched down the touchline and back to his box remonstrating with anyone who was within earshot.
BLACKMAN had to wait to take the kick as Mathieson wanted the ball right on the spot; wanted the keeper to be right on his line and all the players to be exactly outside of the box. Finally United’s leading striker coolly rolled the ball home to give United a lead they did not really deserve.
United had a decent spell after this and finally seemed to have wrested control of the game but then Montano fired over and Derbyshire headed wide again. Oldham then had a great chance as neat football saw the ball played into the path of Derbyshire whose close range shot was well saved by Long before Maguire eventually cleared. Blackman and M’Voto then clashed with both being booked before Cresswell replaced the disappointing Cofie.
The bookings continued at a rapid pace with Simpson clumsily battering Long as he caught the ball that infuriated the United players with Hill joining the Oldham man on the book. It was getting out of hand now with referee Mathieson having no control of the game whatsoever and it was now 8 players that had been booked; with 4 apiece on either side. United now were defending deeper and deeper and it seemed like they were hanging on but to be fair the defence had done their job and the chances had now dried up for the visitors. Croft clashed with a ball boy as he tried to get the game going and it seemed from the reaction from the crowd that the Oldham man may have taken his attempts to speed the game up too far. The niggly contest was threatening to boil over but as time ebbed away United should have sealed the game when Flynn sprinted clear, turned M’Voto expertly but then pulled his shot wide with the goal at his mercy. Oldham went right back up the other end and even the keeper went forward for a corner.
The referee deemed there would be 3 minutes of additional time to be played and United now were just trying to see the game out. Centre back M’Voto went up top and clattered Hill in a really poor challenge. After treatment the game carried on with whistle from the crowd ignored by Mathieson who seemingly had a different watch to the rest of the stadium.
As the game somehow continued into the 97th minute a final chance came as OIdham advanced into the United half and an excellent ball into the box caught United’s defence ball watching and as with a suspicion of offside, SMITH expertly steered the ball first time past Long. The Oldham players, management team and supporters went ballistic as they knew they had scored with virtually the last kick of the game. The kick off was taken but it was only moments later that the final whistle finally went. United players held their heads whilst Oldham celebrated like they had won the league! At full time there were odd scenes as one United supporter seemingly had got on the pitch and confronted the Oldham players whilst Lee Croft tried to get a handshake from the ball boy who he had clashed with earlier. The ball boy clearly looked in some distress and we wait if allegations about racism will prove founded or not. A sorry end to a poor advert to league one football in a game that ended with about the right result but was littered with poor play, awful tackles, bookings aplenty and shocking officiating.
United – A kick up the backside we probably need. Some of the comments from the camp after Orient suggested they had started to believe their own hype. Today we were shocking and it was one of the worst performances under Wilson’s tenure. The first half in particular we were shocking. We could not pass the ball, did not control the ball and were second to it all over the field. Our midfield got no grip on the game, we had no threat out wide and the front two were starved of service. The two centre backs did ok (they had to as were put under far more pressure than they should at home) but the two full backs were also error strewn. I felt we could not do any worse after the break and we did improve for a spell. After the lucky penalty kick award we ought to have got control but seemed to want to settle for 1-0 and started to defend deeper. We made some bad decisions with the ball and seemed to let the referee and some of Oldham’s ale house tactics concern us and became really nervous. The so called quality ball players such as McDonald and Flynn could not even trap the ball. You kind of felt it was inevitable we would concede but as the game entered 7 minutes of additional time it seemed as if we had done enough. However, we constantly gave the ball away instead of keeping it and there were several moments in the last minute or so we could have done enough to stop the ball coming into our half. If we had done one of those things right, the ref would have blown for full time but we sat deeper and deeper and then a good ball in, static defending and it was in.
We did not deserve to win but a goal so late is of course sickening. We were really poor today and if we had lost could not have grumbled really. Today should be a wake up call to Wilson and the players who continue to try and nick 1-0’s at home when in reality we should be going for further goals. Wilson’s negativity is becoming very frustrating. With the wage bill we have and resources (look at the bench and experience we have that many other teams do not) we should be taking games to teams at home and going for the kill when we get in front but do not seem capable of going on and winning game 2 or 3 nil. We have not been comfortable in any game this season and always seem to be hanging on when we are winning.
We have now drawn 4 straight at home and should have won at least 3 of these games (maybe today is the only one we did not deserve but even then should have won looking at how the game went and the late goal). Our home form is unacceptable and the performances are so mixed overall. We did well last week at Orient, looking solid, organised and played some decent stuff with albeit little in final third. Today we looked hopeless and not like a team that is unbeaten with little to no confidence. The first defeat is of course coming very soon and if we play like that it will be next week. The real inconsistency of performances means I am not confident at all we can finish in the top 2 and feel that at best we will be in and around the playoff spots but even those positions will be a push and if we play like today we will be closer to mid table. The team needs more creativity out wide and needs McDonald and Doyle to get their act together as they should be dominating most midfields at this level but are not doing that. McDonald especially has not been as influential as last season and in the home games his passing and contributions have not been good enough. Blackman and Kitson have been good but have no service and to be honest the two centre backs have been ok but there are several players that need to step up their game. Cofie and Flynn may aswell have been sat with me today and the full backs looked like they were wearing ice skates.
Would give some of the kids/fringe players a go at Notts County in the week and if a few do ok, would keep them in (especially in the positions I have mentioned). If we get through we have a hard game at Coventry so going to be tough to progress so would definitely experiment a bit. We now have some hard games coming up (Preston and MK away) and the players need to sharpen up considerably. We may be unbeaten but lets be honest if we play like we have much of this season so far (decent, then poor, then decent etc) then we are not going to go up.
Oldham – Rapidly becoming our bogey team. Last year they beat a strong team aided and abetted by sendings off, freak injuries and the home side simply combusting in front of their home fans eyes! This year it was a different story. Oldham had brought in more experience in the likes of Croft and Byrne and possess some real talent in Baxter. They do have some awful players; the lad M’Voto is one of the worst centre backs I have ever seen and can barely kick/control the ball. They are also quite cynical at times and know what they are doing but in this league so many refs are so weak they will get away with it.
To be fair to them they were better than any other side at the Lane this year and they actually dominated long stretches of the contest and no one could deny they deserved a point no matter how late it was. They played better football than us, had more chances and showed more passion. At times some of their players went over the top and their manager clearly rubs off on horrible little characters like Byrne and Croft who are ideal for someone like Dickov but fair play to them they took the game to us for long spells and deserved something from the game. Their physical approach and the mix of players they have means they will probably be in the top half by the season end but they do lack some real quality to contend for the playoffs. We know we can play much, much better than that whilst they played really well today and still only drew (and still only had maybe 2 shots on goal all game as much as I have lambasted United).
Dickov is an annoying so and so and it is like watching Warnock on the sidelines as he appeals for every decision and feels he is so hard done by. However he has done well on very limited resources and really when a side like them with a wage bill probably still at least half of ours takes the game to us; then fair play. We were hanging on at the end and in the first half they controlled things.
Long 7/10 – He had little chance with the goal as it was probably not close enough for him to come and it was up to a defender to go with the runner. As for the rest of the game; he made one decent but expected save from range in the first half (when they were offside on the rebound) and then an excellent reaction save in the second half. His handling was ok but he did not have lots to do in a game of few chances. His kicking was generally awful as he struggled to make halfway at times and often kicked it out. It amused me when everyone was calling for him to shoot when he had it at the end when their keeper was up when he had barely got it to half way all afternoon!
Hill 7.5/10 – Thought he was our best defender again. He may not be the silkiest of performers but he does what he does very well and his defending was good. He made headers and clearances and did what he had to. Sometimes he makes slices or just lumps it but he does what he has to most of the time and actually had probably been an improvement on Collins (who has not been as good this season in the games I have seen).
McMahon 5/10 – Another who continues to unimpress. He is not even ordinary and at times it amazes me that he has played most of his football at a higher level as he struggles with basic control and passing. He made numerous long balls to no one and the hand signal he often made of apology is being the trademark of his performances. Really disappointed with him this season and it is a position where we will need to upgrade if his performances carry on.
Maguire 7/10 – Thought that like Hill he played well. With the non-performances of most in front he did his job and defended well. Dealt with high balls well and used ball well most of the time. He has been a steady performer this season and is cutting down some of the mistakes he would often male last season.
Williams 3/10 – For the most part he was dire; save for a slight improvement (along with the rest of the team 15 minutes after half time). In the first half I do not think he did anything right. His man beat him routinely, he left too much space and he sent several awful slicing clearances to no one in particular. He played some horrible hospital balls and generally looked totally different to the player who did well the previous week. He did do better after the break but even his run and cross (which nearly went in) was barely a highlight as surely he should have kept the cross in? He then struggled again in closing stages and they had a number of opportunities coming down that side.
Flynn 4/10 – Thought he was quite poor today. He never got in the game. He struggled with control and passing and again showed he does not have pace, strength or trickery to beat a man. Shame as he had been improved this season. Another who was slow to things and struggled with basics. He did create a great chance for himself at the end where he did everything right but then badly missed the finish when he could have sealed the game (had to make the keeper work at least).
McDonald 5/10 – A poor performance on the whole. He did not really do much right with some misplaced passes that set them on the attack and a number of fouls that eventually led to him being rightly booked. He did not look sharp and often he was behind the play or seemingly struggling to keep up with their midfielders. We got completely overrun in the middle of the park in the first half. He got a bit better for a spell after the break. One other point is that he must have to re-tie his boots at least 3 or 4 times a game. It really is bordering on Sunday park football in professionalism. Can he not tie them properly? Maybe he should have Velcro! I noticed it several times last season aswell.
Doyle 5/10 – Another who was far from his best. He did not get enough of the ball and when he did he also gave it away or made poor decisions. He really did not have any kind of positive influence in the game for much of it and I felt he did not do his job in winning the ball and keeping it simple. It was concerning that for the home side and one that should be applying the pressure; that we were not seeing anywhere near enough of the game.
Cofie 2/10 – Dreadful. Barely touched the ball, got in the wrong positions, did not look interested and avoided any kind of physical contact/challenges. He pulls out of 50/50’s which is inexcusable and when he does not have the ball; he seems disinterested. He is not a winger but you would think with his pace and trickery he may cause a few problems. He did nothing all game and even when the ball came to him he usually managed to let their man get there before him. Surprised he lasted as long as the second half. There is raw potential there but until he starts competing and working for a team; he will never make it long term as a player at any league level. That may sound quite damning but I watched him closely today and the amount of effort he put in was little to none.
Blackman 7/10 – He showed a lot of effort and ran around, chasing defenders and the keeper. He had little to no service and although things did not stick or he did not have many chances I felt he did not hide and kept plugging away. Barely got a decent ball all game and must have got frustrated. A cool penalty.
Kitson 7.5/10 – Probably our best player and rapidly becoming focal point of our attacks (maybe too much in a sense as we have started to go long again). He does hold the ball up very well, tries to bring people into play and shows a great deal of intelligence in his play. He did not really link that much with Blackman but again had no service whatsoever. I felt he was fortunate to win the penalty and kind of conned the referee as he had been pushing/backing in originally. A player that we need to ensure we can re-sign for the remainder of the season.
Cresswell – Came on for Cofie to try and provide some experience and hold the ball up. He had the ball 5 or 6 times and I think he gave it away or made a daft pass every single time. Did it last week aswell. Really annoying and twice he set them on the attack with telegraphed passes. An experienced player has to do better than that.
Officials – Scott Mathieson just had one of those days. He had no control of the game from start to finish and was missing fouls and then seeing fouls that were not fouls. He just did not know what was going on. After not booking anyone previously he the resorted to booking people all over the place. He actually could have booked more as some tasty challenges were flying in but he had just never made his presence felt from the start as both players were taking free kicks/throw ins from the wrong spots and generally doing what they could to take advantage of a very weak referee. His linesmen did not help. Both goals in reality should not have stood. The first was a very harsh penalty and the equaliser came 4 minutes after the game should have finished (maybe 3 after the head injury). He could not wait to get off the pitch at the end (should officials not have to stay on until all players have left – not sure of exact ruling and so was long gone when all the melees were taking place all over the field). Hopefully he will not referee our game for a long, long time.
Crowd – Decent sized crowd but much of the noise came from groans at either the poor United play or the inexplicable refeering decisions that were made. Overall it was a frustrating afternoon and you could sense this on the terraces. United fans seemingly wanted to get behind the team but they were not at the races for long spells and it was hard for the fans to be positive.
The celebrations at the end from the fans were kind of what you would expect to get such a late goal but then it was a little over the top. It was almost like they had won the division or a cup not a point against one of the poorest Blades sides in my lifetime. Saw some fans on message boards exclaim how it was one of their best ever moments as an Oldham fan! I thought we had been starved of success/memorable moments but deary me a draw in October in the third tier of English football in a dreadful game of football is so memorable!
Strange scenes with the ball boy and whilst it will be hard to prove (unless anyone did hear it other than the ball boy) it seems that something happened more than a push judging by the reaction of the fans in the ‘family stand.’ At the end it seemed odd that Croft would go and offer his hand to the ball boy who clearly looked very upset. Unsure how Dickov can be so certain what he had or had not said when he was the other side of the pitch? If Croft did say something racist then he will face a long ban and also it may enter Terry type proceedings in terms of Police action etc. I hope he did not as the game has had enough of these kind of incidents but if he does then he is an idiot and needs dealing with.