Result: Oldham Athletic 0-2 Rotherham United (SkyBet League 1)
Venue: Boundary Park (Tuesday 12th March 2014, 7.45pm)
Att: 3,745 (1,119 visiting)
The second midweek in March offered up an opportunity I couldn’t miss out on. This would be the final time this season that I would be able to make my first venture up to Oldham & Boundary Park for an Oldham Athletic game. Having never visited Boundary Park in the past this, in my mind, had to be done. It would also present to me my first experience of a SkyBet League 1 game.
Having set off at a little before 5.30pm, and transited through Piccadilly Gardens in Manchester City Centre, I arrived at the Royal Oldham Hospital, a short walk from Boundary Park, around an hour and three-quarters later. With the floodlights illuminating the immediate area, in stark contrast to the rapidly descending darkness of the surrounding roads, I walked up to the ground, and found myself almost joining the queue for the away end, before looking to do a lap of the ground to get back to the main stand. This was easier said than done. I found myself walking through the adjoining club car park which offers a full view of the pitch as it stands, with work in progress (sort of) on a new stand opposite the Main Stand. So, if you fancy a free game and are adept at applying camouflage, you now know where to go!
After abandoning this plan, I decided to enter the turnstiles immediately next to the travelling Millers fans, who by this time where already making a large amount of noise. After a quick body search outside the turnstiles, and the purchase of a programme for £3, I handed over my £20 entrance fee and gained entrance to the Rochdale Road End of the ground, where I chose to sit on the end of the block nearest the travelling support. Taking my seat directly behind the goal, a quick look around the Latics’ home revealed three stands. The Main Stand owes its unusual appearance to the fact the lower tier was terraced in previous generations, a hark back to those times still exists to the right of the stand where a small amount of unused terracing still remains where the lofted hospitality structure stands. Opposite me stands the Chadderton, or ‘Chaddy’ End as it is affectionately known, which is the older of the two ends, and stood mostly empty tonight. The Rochdale Road End is of a similar size and is usually used to house both sets of supporters, due to a trench like split in the middle of both, which lends itself to some good banter between the fans. The away support are usually placed in the smaller of the two sections which houses 1,600 though on occasion the larger 3,000 seat section will be used instead. In total, Boundary Park holds a capacity of 10,638.
Founded back in 1895 as Pine Villa F.C.,the club initially played in local Manchester & Lancashire Leagues, and when local rivals Oldham County F.C. folded in 1899, Villa inherited their Oldham Athletic Ground (Boundary Park) home, and took on the name of their new surroundings. Immediately granted professional status, Oldham played in the Lancashire Combination & Lancashire League during their formative years. After quick success in both leagues, the club soon achieved Football League status in 1907, after winning the Combination, and after spending three seasons in Division 2, The Latics achieved promotion to Division 1.
They were soon strong contenders in the FA Cup especially, reaching he semi-finals in 1913, losing 1-0 to Aston Villa, and two seasons later reached the quarters, losing 3-0 in a replay to Sheffield United. They also lost out on the 1915 league title by just a point, the closest they’ve ever come to winning the league, and their success was soon stopped by WWI.
After the war, the club struggled before being relegated in 1923, and they would remain out of the top flight for the next 68 years. 1935 saw Oldham drop into the Third Division North, and they remained quite strong in this league until the outbreak of WWII in 1939 suspended competitive football. During the war, the club played in the war-time Northern League until 1946 when the League returned. The 1952-’53 season saw Oldham lift the League title, and inevitable promotion, but were relegated immediately the next season. After only finishing in 15th, the club became Fourth Division founder members in 1958-59. The struggles continued and the club finished in 23rd place the next season, and had to re-apply for league re-election, which they duly won.
1962-63 saw promotion back to Division 3 for Oldham, but after six seasons returned to Division 4. Just two years later the Latics bounced back into Division 3, and three seasons later another promotion saw them return to Division 2 as champions.
The next significant ‘success’ in the league came in ’86-’87 as, under the management of Joe Royle, the club lost in the inaugural playoffs after missing out on promotion by three points. In 1990, the club reached the League Cup Final, where they lost out to Nottingham Forest 1-0 at Wembley, which preceded league success the next season as the Division 2 was won, and the club returned to Division 1. After one season back in the top flight, the club finished 17th earning them a place in the inaugural Premiership season.
During their early Premiership years, the club struggled in the league but achieved good runs in the FA Cup, reaching the semi-final twice, on both occasions losing to Manchester United after a replay, the 1994 semi saw the Latics come within a minute of winning the tie in extra-time, when Mark Hughes scored a late leveller to force a replay, where Oldham were demolished 4-1 at Maine Road, and the club faced further disappointment come the end of the season, as they were relegated back into the Division 1.
At the end of the ’96-’97 season, the Latics returned to Division 2, coming close to promotion in ’02-’03 when the club lost out in the playoffs. After a close shave with liquidation and in serious debt, the club recovered on the pitch and reached the playoffs again in ’06-’07, losing to Blackpool in the semi-finals.
This was the last success Oldham have had of late despite a number of managers, and last season staved off relegation with a 19th placed finish in the League One, under the youngest manager in the Football League, 31-year-old Lee Johnson.
The club have also won the Lancashire Senior Cup on three occasions (1907-’08, ’66-’67, and ’05-’06) and finished as runners-up in the Anglo-Scottish Cup of 1978-’79.
Onto tonight’s game now, and the first half saw clear chances few and far between, but with a number of half-chances created, the first of which came from Adam Lockwood, as his inventive deft-flick on from Gary Harkins’ cross-cum-shot could have gone anywhere but fortunately for the visiting custodian Adam Collin, it flew straight into his hands.
The next chance came the Millers’ way, and they were to take it, as a corner was swung in by Ben Pringle, and was spilled by Mark Oxley. The ball fell to captain Mark Bradley, and the skipper made no mistakes as he smashed home from 15 yards. The Millers fans next to me were sent into raptures, and took little time in making their voices heard once again.
Oxley again almost allowed a chance as he spilled a low free-kick into the middle of his name before, down the other end, a bad mistake by Bradley let in Charlie MacDonald for the equaliser, but Collin was equal to his effort down low at his left-hand post. But the Latics’ best chance came on the stroke of half-time when Harkins again caused problems in the defence, struck a powerful effort which Collin fisted away but the ball fell to McDonald who, from six-yards out, blazed high wide and not so very handsome.
With not much to do at half-time, apart from watch the raffle being drawn and the winning number be paraded around the pitch on placards, the game restarted with the Latics looking to regain their position on the front-foot, however it was the Millers who were to dominate the second period, Mark Bradley’s tame header falling nicely for Oxley, before the killer blow was struck when the impressive Ben Pringle, who was a class above all game stepped inside before laying the ball into the path of Lee Frecklington who unleashed an unstoppable 25-yard rocket into the top corner past the helpless Oxley who was at full stretch, but nowhere near it. It was a great strike, and Frecklington took great delight in celebrating in front of his own fans in the corner of the pitch.
Danny Philliskirk forced a good save by Collin as he looked to force a way back into the game for Oldham, but that was to be the last chance of the game, as Rotherham slowed it down, and made three late substitutions, including giving the impressive duo of Pringle and Frecklington along with goalscorer Bradley their ovations as they saw it out to send the away fans home happy, not before serenading the early leavers with a “We can see you sneaking out” as they passed alongside them and out of the turnstiles.
After making the short walk up to the bus stop, I waited 20 minutes for a bus which suddenly appeared before me, and then behind me. Yep, I missed it again. A 15 minute run through the streets of Oldham later, I arrived at the Metrolink stop, only to find the bus station was up the large incline and not down it. Great. Happily, I made the bus back to Piccadilly with seconds to spare, which ended the night on a good, albeit, sweaty note!
My Oldham Athletic M.o.M.- Gary Harkins
My Rotherham United M.o.M.- Ben Pringle
Game: 7- A good quality game, with a great strike to light up the night.
Ground: 6- Nice ground, but held back by the building site on one side. An 8 when complete probably.
Programme: 8- A decent read, with a decent amount of information inside. I also like the different take on the cover too.
Food: N/A- Money saving exercise that night!
Fans: 7- Home fans were quiet on the whole, apart from a small band of fans next to the visiting support, and ‘Spikey’ who took great delight in calling the Yorkies ‘Sheep shaggers’.
Value For Money: 7- Not too bad for a third tear game. Only twice the price of the majority of Step 7 clubs, a full 4 divisions lower.
Referee: 6- Was O.K., but not great. A few errors, seen better, but seen much worse.
OLDHAM ATHLETIC: 1.Mark Oxley, 16.James Wilson, 12.David Mellor, 18.Adam Lockwood, 3.Jonathan Grounds, 30.Gary Harkins, 8.Korey Smith, 4.James Wesolowski, 20.John-Paul Kissock, 10.Charlie MacDonald, 23.Rhys Turner. SUBS: 29.Paul Rachubka, 2.Connor Brown, 15.Carl Winchester(p), 7.Terry Dunfield, 21.Kirk Millar(p), 27.Danny Philliskirk(p), ?. Danny Byrnes.
ROTHERHAM UNITED: 21.Adam Collin, 27.James Tavernier, 4.Kari Arnason, 14.Mark Bradley(c)(1), 3.Joe Skarz, 22.Kieran Agard, 36.Richard Smallwood, 8.Lee Frecklington(1), 18.Ben Pringle, 9.Alex Revell, 20.Craig Morgan. SUBS: 1.Scott Shearer, 5.Claude Davies, 25.Miles Addison(p), 35.Tom Hitchcock, 37.Nicky Adams(p), 10.Michael O’Connor(p), 28.Haris Vuckic.