Oldham earned a point against league leaders Sheffield United with a deserved 1-1 draw in the sunshine. Tope Obadeyi put the home side ahead just before half time after a well worked move, but Jay O’Shea equalised with an impressive strike shortly after the break.
Latics more than matched the leaders, who were backed by 4,500 travelling fans, but will happily take a point as they continue to edge closer to safety.
Here, with the opinions of Sheffield United fans on Blades forum s24su.co.uk, I will look at the talking points from Saturday’s game, and what’s next for both sides. For detailed player ratings, check out my matchday blog for TrustOldham.
Story of the Match:
After a minutes silence for the victims of this week’s Westminster Attacks – slightly marred by a minority of visiting fans chanting in the concourse – Oldham started the game brighter with Lee Erwin and Tope Obadeyi causing trouble upfront.
Despite a couple of dangerous crosses into the Oldham box, Sheffield United were allowing their hosts to control play. On 31 minutes, Erwin’s far-post cross should have brought the first goal but Josh Law headed over when he should have done better.
Latics were continuing to probe, and they were rewarded with a goal a minute before the break. Ousmane Fane won the ball on the left, and found Paul Green in the centre. Green’s weighted pass to Josh Law was perfect, and so was the full-back’s driven cross along the six yard box to the onrushing Obadeyi.
The first half lead was deserved, and was nearly doubled by Erwin’s glanced header after the restart. The visitors equalised shortly after, though, as a James Hanson knockdown found Jay O’Shea who was given time to pick his spot and curl a half volley away from Connor Ripley.
Fane and Erwin had shots for Latics as they tried to regain the lead, but neither troubled Blades keeper Simon Moore.In fact, after a fairly lacklustre game, Sheffield United had two late chances that should have seen them steal the win.
First, Billy Sharp fired over from ten yards after Oldham’s defence was stretched apart, and then Ripley was forced into a smart stop from League One’s top scorer before Anthony Gerrard made a crucial block to prevent Caolan Lavery from scoring the rebound.
The scores remained level though, and Oldham will feel a point was the least they deserved from a battling performance.
Oldham Athletic: Ripley; Wilson (Edmundson, 46), Clarke, Gerrard; Law, Green, Fane (Flynn, 89), Banks, Taylor; Obadeyi, Erwin (NGoo, 86).
Sheffield United: Moore; Ebanks-Landell, Wright, O’Connell; Freeman, Basham, Fleck, Done (Lavery, 77; Clarke, 90); O’Shea (Coutts, 72); Hanson, Sharp.
How did the teams perform?
It’s not new information that Oldham’s pitch is poor, and it probably helped their cause against a Sheffield United team who looked threatening on the rare occasions they tried to play it on the floor. Instead, though, they resorted to long balls up to James Hanson, and Latics’ back-three of Peter Clarke, Ant Gerrard and Brian Wilson (later George Edmundson) dealt with him well.
Chris Wilder offered a cynical view of the game, saying: “they booted it better than us first half, we booted it better than them second half.” However, as much as Sheffield United may complain about the pitch, both sides had to play on it, and Oldham dealt with the conditions much better than the league leaders.
If anything Oldham were the side trying to play the more attacking football and get behind the opposition defence. With a team missing four first team regulars through injury and international call-ups, Latics controlled the midfield from the start, but like most games this season they still didn’t create enough chances.
The makeshift 3-5-2 formation worked against a talented side, and allowed John Sheridan’s men to win the midfield battle. That allowed Lee Erwin and Tope Obadeyi to cause problems upfront, and on another day Latics could have got an unlikely win.
Aside from O’Shea’s well-taken goal, Sheffield United had an off-day. Winger Matt Done and striker Billy Sharp weren’t used at all, despite both showing their quality whenever they got a chance. Chris Wilder’s side will surely be promoted at the sixth time of asking this season, but they will need to improve from Saturday’s showing to get over the line.
On s24su, Davalon said: “We didn’t play anything like we have done and looked no better than them today“, while
Ricky said “We had to play the pitch. That meant hoof. If we tried to play our normal game we would’ve been worse, our players really struggled to adapt to it. It doesn’t suit us to go direct though, and I feel we very rarely make proper use of a target man.
It’s not only the pitch either, Oldham are a hardworking and solid side who are hard to beat and in good form. It was never going to be possible to pass the ball, even if our players adapted well individually.”
Who stood out?
Oldham’s midfield trio of Ollie Banks, Paul Green and Ousmane Fane left nothing on the pitch, as they chased Sheffield United’s midfield from start to finish. With help from wing-backs Chris Taylor and Josh Law, their running restricted service to Billy Sharp and James Hanson.
Upfront, Erwin and Obadeyi worked tirelessly to keep the ball and try and create chances. Both players looked dangerous, especially Obadeyi who scored the important goal before half time.
If anything, it was Oldham’s squad men drafted into the team who stood out more. Josh Law was solid, Ousmane Fane was effective in breaking up play, and Tope Obadeyi was a threat all game.
For detailed player ratings, check out my TrustOldham matchday blog.
Sheffield United’s Billy Sharp and John Fleck were named in the League One Team of the Season this week, but neither troubled Oldham. Sharp had a couple of late chances, but couldn’t convert despite doing nothing all game.
As ever, big James Hanson won everything that came his way, but he wasn’t supported by Sharp or his midfield. Credit must go to Jay O’Shea for his impressive equaliser.
On s24su, ItCouldBeWorse said: “Putting Basham in midfield and basically just trying to hoof it to Hanson in the first half did not pay dividends at all. When Coutts came on I thought he was outstanding and if he had played from the start I think we would have won.”
RMBlade said: “Done is getting a lot of criticism and he didn’t play great but both Freeman and EEL [Ethan Ebanks-Landell] were far worse today than Done.”
Both sides continue their promotion and relegation run-ins. After Bolton’s win against Shrewsbury, the Blades’ lead at the top of League One is now 4 points, but they hold a 10 point lead over third-placed Fleetwood. Chris Wilder’s men host Millwall on Tuesday, before welcoming bottom side Coventry to Brammall Lane.
With mostly bottom-half sides to play – with the exception of a tasty looking home game against Bradford on April 17th – United will be confident of finally returning to the Championship.
For Oldham, a point was useful considering five out of the last six games are against teams with a chance of achieving promotion or play-off places. However, if they produce the level of effort in their remaining fixtures, they should easily get the points needed to say up.
Arguably, the Boundary Park pitch may keep Latics up. Sheridan’s men have only lost once at home in 2017, when the pitch has been in this poor condition. If they can restrict good teams from playing, and match them for effort, there’s every chance Oldham’s home form will be the grounding for staying up.
There’s a long way to go, but a point against the league leaders shouldn’t be overlooked. Sheridan said his team should have won, which can only give them confidence as they head towards another great escape.