Match report for Oldham Athletic vs Plymouth Argyle on 27 Jan 18
Songo'o og 54
Sarcevic 17, Lameiras 19
ARGYLE did their first double of the season by beating Oldham Athletic - but this was not as straightforward as the previous meeting of the two teams.
It looked set to be: Argyle raced into a two-goal lead with goals from Antoni Sarcevic and Ruben Lameiras, but home boss Richie Wellens made a telling substiution, and for the remainder of the game Argyle faced a resurgent Latics team.
It took a bit of fortune - a deflection off of Yann Songo'o - to give Oldham their goal and get them back into the game, and then it took Argyle's trademark resistance to hold out in the face of a desperate Oldham outfit.
Zak Vyner, after a debut the previous weekend against Wigan, could not be counted on against a second north-western Athletic in blue, as he had been unable to shake off a sickness bug, and did not make the trip up the M6.
In his stead, Yann Songo'o returned to the Pilgrims' starting 11, with Cameron Sangster asked to fill Yann's spot on the bench.
It took just under half an hour for SportsDirect.com Park to transform from an oasis of optimism, dancing along to Rocking All Over the World to a seething cauldron of rage, boiling over in frustration at the status quo.
Pre-match, to messrs Rossi and Parfitt's most famous riff, Mr Abdallah Lemsagam was introduced to the home faithful as their new owner. Flags waved, and a very well-produced package of great Oldham moments down the years was played. Our Team, Our Town, Our Time, spake the the slick PR message. It was all rather good, really. The right things said, the right message conveyed. Hard to fault.
By 20 minutes into the game Argyle were two goals up and the Oldham fans' goodwill had rather been used up.
The eyecatching thing, on arrival at the stadium, was the poor quality of the playing surface. An area had been tarped off near the dugouts to prevent any further damage, and while it was not necessarily the sandpit of Boundary Park of old, nor the drastic plastic surface before that, it looked treacherous.
Same for both teams, as they say, and the key really was to be the best side to adapt. Moving the ball fast or launching it accurately was soon discovered as the order of the day, and from Songo'o's early ball forward came the opening goal.
It would be fair to call Songo'o's part in the move a long pass, rather than long ball. He accurately played the ball diagonally into the Oldham area, where Graham Carey got the best of an aerial duel to nod down perfectly into the path of Sarcevic.
A little under eight miles to the west of the SportsDirect.com Park lies the Etihad Stadium, home to Manchester City, the best team in the country, and the team with whom Sarcevic spent a large part of his football education. Eventually Antoni had to make his way into the EFL the hard way, via non-league, but if the back of his shirt had read De Bruyne or Silva, his slick, volleyed finished would have been purred over.
Oldham barely had time to draw breath, and Argyle were further clear. Lameiras found space inside the Latics' half, and used it push forward, then spread the play to Carey. As Lameiras looked for the instant return, the Irishman ploughed his own furrow, took a man on, and took a shot. Johny Placide, who appeared to wearing an Oldham away kit rather than a goalie's shirt, because of colour clashes, saved, but found the ball too hot to retain. It fell perfectly to Lameiras, who shunted the ball over the line.
Cue Oldham rage. They grumled at the goal, and flatly booed when manager Richie Wellens used his first substitution on 26 minutes. Exiting the pitch, defensive midfielder Ousmane Fane did not appear injured, but he made way for Duckens Nazon, a forward signed on loan from Wolves the previous day.
The crowd expressed notable vocal displeasure at the decision, but to be fair to Wellens Oldham spent much of the next 20 minutes on the offensive. Their best two chances fell to forward Craig Davies, who pushed wide from Nazon's square pass when he ought to have done better, before seeing a header from a corner brilliantly tipped over by Remi Matthews.
Oldham had plenty of other moments going forward, but Argyle defended well and hung on until half-time with their two-goal advantage.
Argyle came close to extending that lead soon after the break when Carey's whipped free-kick was not only very close to sneaking inside the near post but Ryan Taylor and Sonny Bradley not far away from adding a significant touch.
That could have been Argyle away and clear, but instead Oldham got the bit of luck they were desperate for, and halved their deficit. Davies turned Oscar Threlkeld and fired the ball across the area, where it struck the unfortunate Songo'o and trickled into the corner.
To Oldham, it must have seemed like the goal - and the lifeline - their endeavour had earned, and it gave them and their fans a further fillip.
From a corner, Kean Bryan, on loan from Man City, could not have done much more with his glancing header, but a magnificient stop by Remi Matthews maintained Argyle's slender lead.
Referee Martin Coy - a man whose anagram is 'Or Man City'...why do they keep popping up? - was having a little difficulty with the niggly nature of the game. Bookings for Jamie Ness and Songo'o in the first half were fair enough, but a nothing-to-see-here spat between instigator Anthony Gerrard and Sarcevic yielded cautions for nothing, while Taylor was booked almost to shut Gerrard up.
With 20 minutes to go, against the run of play, Argyle had their clearest attack, and Taylor may still be wondering how he did not turn Lameiras' cross into the corner. The forward was unmarked when found by Lameiras, who was returning the favour after Taylor had set him away, but the glance fell the wrong side of the post with Placide beaten.
Each manager took a turn to bring on an Aaron with a double barrelled surname. Amadi-Holloway for Oldham, Taylor-Sinclair for Argyle. The latter came on for Lameiras and essentially dropped into Ruben's position, with obvious intention to offer Gary Sawyer some protection. Instead, it looked as though Taylor-Sinclair may score with his first touch as he tore towards the far post, but a squared ball he may have expected after fantastic work by the tireless Sarcevic ended in Sarcevic looking for his second goal, and dragging his shot wide.
Inbetween the aforementioned Argyle chances Oldham continued to pile forward, but largely Argyle resisted, and reduced the Latics to efforts from range.
A corner in the final seconds of injury-time caused a flutter of panic, but Matthews caught it, and Argyle had done enough.
And I like it, I like it, I like it, I like it...
Oldham Athletic (4-1-3-2): 19 Johny Placide; 2 Cameron Dummigan, 5 Anthony Gerrard (capt), 40 Kean Bryan, 27 Gevaro Nepomuceno; 24 Ousmane Fane (12 Duckens Nazon 26); 29 Jack Byrne, 18 Ben Pringle, 11 Ryan McLoughlin (10 Aaron Amadi-Holloway 77); 9 Craig Davies, 6 Dan Gardner, Substitutes (not used): 1 Zeus De La Paz (gk), 7 Kundai Benyu, 21 Courtney Duffus, 30 Tope Obedayi, 34 Tom Hamer.
Booked: Gerrard 50, Nepamucano 90.
Argyle (4-3-3): 34 Remi Matthews; 18 Oscar Threlkeld, 4 Yann Songo'o, 15 Sonny Bradley, 3 Gary Sawyer (capt); 7 Antoni Sarcevic, 24 David Fox, 6 Jamie Ness; 11 Ruben Lameiras (17 Aaron Taylor-Sinclair 86), 19 Ryan Taylor, 10 Graham Carey (9 Simon Church 90). Substitutes (not used): 2 Gary Miller, 8 Lionel Ainsworth, 16 Joel Grant, 31 Michael Cooper (gk), 33 Cameron Sangster.
Booked: Ness 25, Songo'o 29, Sarcevic 50, Taylor 52, Matthews 70.
Referee: Martin Coy.
Attendance: 4,274 (588 away).