No Time For Old Foes
Let`s not kid ourselves here: Sunday is not a grudge game as some people are making it out to be. It`s massive; don`t get me wrong - but not a grudge match. However, Oldham versus Blackpool almost always has that added spice and with Wellens, Vernon, Pogliacomi and Edwards all playing against their old sides, coupled with Sean 'Thugman` Gregan playing - the game will be keenly contested to say the least - although the aforementioned won`t be the focal point in the games as in the past.
We come into this as hot favourites - rightly. Seven wins on the bounce and scoring nine goals in the last two, Simon Grayson`s men have hit form at exactly the right time. John Sheridan`s Oldham have now won the last two, against Brighton and Cheltenham but before that had only won twice since 10th February - a run that includes the 1-0 home defeat at the hands of The Seasiders.
Chris Porter has returned to The Latics` ranks recently after injury, and in the two games he`s taken part in, the team have won both, with Porter also netting twice. The 23 goal man had been missing since the draw against Huddersfield on 7th April. Was it a coincidence that Athletic went onto pick up just one point in the period he was out?
In contrast to Porter, we`ve got the fantastic Andy Morrell. The former Wrexham man was signed back in August from Coventry City and has been a revelation up top all season long. He has a great chance to surpass the 20 goals in a season landmark and he would be the first 'Pool player to do so since John Murphy some years back, in 2002.
I believe that Sunday`s game will be all about the respective teams, and not certain individuals such as your Wellens` and Gregans - for the first time since Richie`s departure back in 2005. The class of Hoolahan, Parker and co, along with nerves and anxiety should mean that the booing of Wellens and co will end and the place at Wembley will be the main event instead of getting back at past players. An interesting point of note is that Wellens has only scored eight goals for Oldham in nearly 90 appearances - one of which came when he was being booed at Bloomfield Road earlier in the season. Negativity from the oppositions support must spur a player on?
From the outside, Chris Taylor sounds a very promising player for Latics and caused us problems at Boundary Park a few months back. Porter obviously will be a serious threat up front, as will Paul Warne and Andy Liddell. However, can anyone see the likes of Barker, Evatt, Williams and Jackson being overawed by such names?
The return of Paul Rachubka in goal will be a huge plus for The Seasiders although it`s a shame Joe Hart couldn`t see his stint through properly as he was superb between the sticks for the three weeks he was at Bloomers.
The management have a fully fit squad to choose from bar Chris Brandon by my reckoning and a defeat seems unthinkable with our form and the quality we posses. After Adrian Forbes` spirited performance last Saturday, I suspect Larry will go with the former Swansea man and I hope that all fans get behind him and encourage.
Looking at the Oldham team, the midfield will threaten, especially from wide positions. Hopefully Southern can keep Richie under wraps - something he failed to do last time out. The home defence looks one that seriously lacks pace. Gregan may be this football guru (well, if you believe OAFC and Pre*ton fans!) that reads the game so well (something I`ve never really seem from him) but he is ageing and never was quick anyway - somewhere Keigan can definitely exploit. Will Haining and Simon Charlton aren`t fast either and the 'Pool will see this as a dead cert where they`ll get joy going forward.
Getting ball around the back of Athletics defence seems the best way to build; with Parker - along with Morrell - a willing chaser and with runners from midfield, goals could be aplenty.
McDonald in the Oldham midfield is a player to watch for. The holding man, who complements any attacking player well - much like our own Keith Southern - will be trying his best to break attacks down and do 'the simple things` well in order for Athletic to build attacks. Claus Jorgensen will be looking to force McDonald back with driving runs; and playing high up the pitch - which will be the key to keeping it tight at the defensive end, but may hamper us going forward due to the lack of pace in the home backline and their abilities in the air.
I`m not predicting the game, I`m hopeless at that, but what I will say is that if we fail to get a positive result I`ll be disappointed to say the least. The squad are on the cusp of something special, I just hope they don`t blow it at the crucial stage…