I was going to sit down and do a full review of the upcoming season, but I figured I’d break it down into smaller chunks so you guys didn’t have to drag out your lunch break, toilet break or whatever you pretend to do whilst you read my blog.
We’ll start by having a look at the new faces we’re coming up against this season, or rather the teams on the calendar we didn’t meet in the league last year. After all, one of those teams are probably major players in us being where we are today.
It was a chilly, foggy night in early December 2016 that things really took off for Lincoln City. The FA Cup had thrown us against Oldham Athletic and the TV cameras decided it would be a good game to show. Ahead of the match the winner drew Ipswich Town away, but few expected us to win the game. Oldham were struggling in League One, we were flying in the National League. Theo Robinson turned up, the rest is history.
After the game many fans joked we’d be playing Oldham in a year’s time. Their demise took a season longer than our rise, but twelve months later than anticipated, they’ll be gracing Sincil Bank with their presence.
One is obvious, because I’ve just told you about it. Theo Robinson and Terry Hawkridge got together to give us a 3-2 win, albeit one which almost ended in tears. After racing into a 3-0 lead, the Latics fought back and by the end of the game the fog descended adding an ethereal and spooky atmosphere to an unreal night.
Prior to that we’ve only met Oldham twice in 48 years, both during our one-season foray into the third tier in 1998/99. Neither were particularly memorable, they beat us 3-1 in September courtesy of a goal by future Imp Adrian Littlejohn and further goals from Mark Allot and Richard Graham. Paul Smith grabbed our consolation in a game far closer than the score line suggests.
They also beat us 2-0 in February 1999 as the season wound down towards inevitable relegation. Neale Fenn came off the bench for City that afternoon. Nope, I can’t remember him playing for us either.
Oldham finished 20th in League One, occupying the final relegation place after failing to beat Northampton on the final day. it wasn’t a great season for the Latics, they lost eight of their first eleven matches. Drawing seven of their final eight games compounded the misery, if just one of those matches had been turned into wins I’d be writing about Rochdale now.
Even the presence of Duckens Nazon, the Wolves player so devastating against us for Coventry, couldn’t secure them their place in the third tier. A 0-0 draw with Rochdale in April was crucial, it kept them a point ahead of Dale at the time, but only a penalty save and a disallowed goal kept Richie Wellens side out of the bottom four, albeit for a short while. On May 5th, they got their point but Joe Thompson’s 69th minute goal for Rochdale earned them a League One reprieve, for now.
There’s an air of hope around Boundary Park, but also a fear that off the pitch troubles could overshadow an exciting season. Just last month the Mail Online suggested there could be a case for them being the next Leyton Orient, a solid League One side on a collision course with the National League. Whilst that might be a bit dramatic, the financial problems will restrict them somewhat in their pursuit of players.
Their departures are more numerous than their signings at present, although there’s always a danger writing these when there’s still so much business to be done. One significant departure was Wellens, sacked and replaced by former goal hero Frankie Bunn. Bunn once scored six in a league cup game to break a record of some sort, but his managerial experience means he’s risking his reputation all over again.
Bunn hasn’t managed a side before, he was joint caretaker at Coventry for a short time, but Oldham fans are hoping he at least steadies the rather rocky ship he’s inherited. On paper, Oldham are too big for this league, but whether they’re Orient big, or Coventry big remains to be seen.
They’ve won three of their friendlies so far, but with Curzon Ashton, Ashton United and FC United of Manchester the opponents, they won’t be putting up Frankie Bunn statues just yet.
Ins: Johan Branger (FC Dieppe), Jose Baxter (Everton U23s), Giles Coke (Chesterfield), Christopher Missilou (Le Puy Foot) and Sam Graham (Sheffield United U23s),
Outs: Kallum Mantack, Brian Wilson Abdelhakim Omrani, Mason Fawns, Tope Obadeyi, (all released), Ollie Banks (Tranmere Rovers), Paul Green (Crewe Alexandra), , Patrick McEleney (Dundalk), Craig Davies (Mansfield Town), Aaraon Amadi-Holloway (Shrewsbury Town) and Ryan McLaughlin (Blackpool).
There’s a feeling that a goal scorer is still needed if Oldham are to challenge, Nazons leaving left a big hole up front and the likes of Jonathan Benteke and Aaron Amadi-Holloway are unproven. Benteke, brother of Christian, could be an unknown quantity at this level, but he needs to improve on his abhorrent scoring record if he’s going to be a force to be reckoned with.
Right back Cameron Dummigan is one to watch out for, he’s highly regarded by Latics fans and was a consistent performer in an inconsistent team last season. there is a big question mark over the keeper the defence is protecting though, Johnny Placide is thought of as something of a loose cannon, although a sound shot stopper.
Oldham lined up in a flat 4-4-2 last season, relying on Craig Davies and Eoin Doyle for goals, neither of which are still at the club.
It could be a rude awakening for Frankie Bunn’s side if there is a lack of funds, a rookie manager and no recognised goal scorer as of yet might spell disaster. That said, I can’t see them ‘doing an Orient’, they’ll be more likely to consolidate around tenth up to Christmas and then launch a late bid for the play offs once they’ve found their feet.
If there is money available to strengthen, they’ll be around the top seven in one way or another.
Either that, Bunn loses six games and gets the boot and all hell breaks loose. What do I know, right?
Thanks to Graham Burrell for the featured image