With both teams hovering above the relegation zone, this derby was always going to be a tight affair. Both sides huffed and puffed, but a 0-0 draw was a fair result that didn’t really help either Oldham or Bury in their bid for League One survival.
Aaron Amadi-Holloway went closest for Latics, and Connor Ripley preserved the draw late on with a good save from George Miller. However much Latics battled, though, this latest stalemate is Oldham’s ninth goal-less draw of the season – with seven coming at home.
Here, with the help of Bury fan Michael (@mickrhodes68), I look at the key talking points from Saturday’s clash, and look at both sides’ survival chances.
For detailed Latics player ratings, see my matchday blog for Trust Oldham.
Story of the Game:
Bury started the game as the better side, opting to shoot towards their noisy travelling support. Their pressure resulted in the first chance, with fullback Taylor Moore allowed to arrive late at the back-post to volley a Greg Leigh cross into the side netting.
Bury then thought they had a penalty as Ryan Lowe got behind the defence and tumbled in the box. His fall was unconvincing though, and a free kick was awarded to Latics instead. A minute later James Vaughan broke free but caught Connor Ripley with a dangerous-looking high foot.
Lowe and Vaughan were causing trouble, but couldn’t quite create a meaningful chance. Instead, Paul Caddis had a shot deflected just over and former Oldham loanee Cameron Burgess forced a sharp Ripley save as Bury continued to press.
Tope Obadeyi scuffed a shot wide before the break, but Latics were definitely the happier of the two sides to hear the half time whistle. However, whatever John Sheridan said to his men had the desired effect as Oldham tried to take the game to Bury after the break.
Obadeyi was causing trouble on the right wing, with Banks almost benefiting from a low cross. Bury were still a threat though on the break, as Lowe placed a clever shot just wide with Ripley beaten.
Latics’ best chance came from Aaron Holloway, who nodded a chipped Aiden O’Neill cross onto Bury’s far post under pressure.
Again, Bury had chances on the break, with Ryan McLaughlin intercepting a dangerous attack and Caddis flashing a cross-shot wide. In injury time, the away side should have stolen the points. James Vaughan robbed Anthony Gerrard on the line, but Ripley stuck a foot out to deny George Miller from point blank range for his now-customary world class save.
Oldham Athletic: Ripley; McLaughlin, Gerrard, Clarke, Reckord; Green, O’Neill (Flynn, 80), Banks, Taylor; Obadeyi, Amadi-Holloway.
Bury: Murphy; Burgess, Barnett, Kay; Moore, Caddis, Styles (Tutte, 46), Mellis (Bryan, 61), Leigh; Lowe (Miller, 67), Vaughan.
How did the teams perform?
In the first half, Bury were in control. wing-backs Leigh and Moore were stretching Latics’ defence, and the experienced strike pair of Lowe and Vaughan were always trying to find a way through.
After the break, though, Latics were improved. Ollie Banks and Paul Green took control of the midfield and Tope Obadeyi was a threat. Ultimately, though, Oldham failed to create enough chances, and a better team would have punished them.
Michael says: “I thought we played well first half. Our midfield got a grip early on and dominated possession . It wasn’t a great pitch to play football , but we did try and some of our play was decent.
“The 2 wing backs Moore and Leigh seemed to have plenty of space and this helped us going forward. The Lowe penalty claim was a key moment in the first half – looking at behind the goal it did look a stone Waller and I’d love to see it again to see if I’d retract my view.
“Second half we had to dig in as Oldham changed their system and caused us a few problems down the flanks so our wing backs struggled to get forward . We missed Callum Styles and then we lost Jacob Mellis so the match became a bit more cat and mouse.
“I thought Oldham battled well, but don’t seem to have that bit of quality up front to get the goals. The back line was pretty resolute and it was going to take a bad error or a touch of brilliance to get through them.”
Who stood out?
In a nervy first half, not many home players had any impact on the game. Bury’s midfield were in control, with Paul Caddis especially given time to pick out his wing-backs.
In the second half, though, Ollie Banks and Paul Green were the ones keeping the pressure up, trying to find their own wide men. Tope Obadeyi had the better of Leigh, and Aaron Holloway is slowly learning how to use his strength rather than complain to officials all game.
For detailed player ratings, have a look at my Matchday Blog on TrustOldham.co.uk.
Michael says: “I thought Callum Styles, Leigh and Lowe were the stand-outs for us. For Oldham, Peter Clarke was impressive all game and your no.6 [Aiden O’Neill] in the second half played well.”
Bury, who sit one place and one point above Latics, face in-form Bristol Rovers at Gigg Lane on Tuesday, before tricky games against Fleetwood, Millwall, and Oxford.
The Shakers also face Bradford, Bolton, and rivals Rochdale in the final nine games as they try to find the points to remain in League One.
Michael says: “It’s all going to come down to who can grab points off the promotion/play-off teams. We seem to be a bit more street-wise under Lee Clark and if we continue to put performances in for our next 9 games I’d be pretty optimistic.
We’ve got goalscorers, especially if we can keep our important players fit like James Vaughan – he could be our saviour. I think 48-50 points should be enough and if we can’t get to that target we deserve to go down.”
Oldham’s run-in is slightly more difficult than their rivals – which is why three points were more valuable to John Sheridan than Lee Clark. With promotion chasing Sheffield United, Fleetwood and Bolton all to visit Boundary Park, taking points off teams aiming for promotion will be vital.
Up next is Oxford at home on Tuesday, before a trip to Peterborough, with wins needed to keep up pressure on surrounding teams. Port Vale sit two points behind Latics, but have three games in hand. That makes Oldham – and Bury – vulnerable of slipping back into the relegation zone.
If Saturday’s game is anything to go by, survival is not guaranteed for either side. Both teams had pressure, but ultimately couldn’t make it count. Bury should have enough to reach 50 points, but appear to have a tendency to squander chances, while Oldham just can’t score.
Latics’ problem has been the same all season – goals. 23 goals from 37 games is abysmal, and even League One’s third-best defensive record might save them. With the top-three still to play, 0-0 draws just aren’t enough and goals need to come fast.
Port Vale’s three games in hand are worrying, and the fate of Oldham and Bury could well be in their hands. With nothing in League One guaranteed, Michael may be right when he says the team who can grab points from sides pushing for promotion will be the side that stays in League One.
If Latics really want to stay in League One, they need to start showing it. And quickly.
Thanks to Michael for his views – and he will be on BBC Radio Manchester’s Monday Football Hour (Mon 13th March, 6-7pm) talking about the game with an Oldham fan.