Walking away from the game Saturday felt like leaving a defeat, but within two hours, thanks to Stevenage it felt like a win.
Which of those feelings is closer to the truth will be defined by this evening’s result. Lose or draw at Oldham and throwing the game in the dying stages against the Stags was a failure. Win at Boundary Park and it’s four points from six, an acceptable haul from any pair of games.
There’s plenty of talk about how the game looks on paper and the truth is we should be confident of picking up a win this evening. Oldham are no mugs, don’t get me wrong, but they’re the sort of mid table fodder we need to be beating if we are serious about winning promotion. MK Dons host Morecambe tonight and there’s every chance they’ll be picking up three points, maybe even a goal or two.
We could, in theory, win the game tonight and end up second. That’s no great issue, I’ve heard they’re waiting until May to hand out the trophy so we’ve got a bit of time to catch up if that does happen.
I always try to steer clear of sounding too positive in previews because they can come and bite you on the arse, but I look down the Oldham squad list and I’m not as worried as I would be if we faced Mansfield again, or anyone in the top ten. Up front, Chris O’Grady has made a career out of jumping from club to club without scoring many goals. His career total in 99 from over 500 senior appearances, or 1 in 5.
Then there’s Ishmael Miller, a player who has barely played any football at this level but at the same time has not impressed. He’s on a career total of 49 goals, which for a 31-year old isn’t great.
I’d be worried if they chose to start with Sam Surridge, he’s a striker I admire a lot who is currently on loan at Boundary Park from Bournemouth. I had hoped we’d pick him up in the summer, given our friendship with Eddie Howe’s side, but it didn’t happen.
I like Ousmane Fane too, but he’s out for six more weeks and will play no part at all.
One player I suspect we can get at tonight is Peter Clarke, a veteran of the FA Cup defeat (pictured top) we inflicted on them. He’s experienced, but is aging and might be exposed if Shay McCartan can run at him. We’ve seen our danger when running into the box from midfield, McCartan has had joy that way, Tom Pett has too and Michael O’Connor doesn’t need to get to the box to be a danger.
Oldham have been playing a flat 4-4-2 as well, which will reflect our own set up nicely. It means the key battles will simply be a case of one of our players looking to get the better of one of theirs, without numerical advantage or alternative styles. I might be wrong, but I can’t see as much joy down the flanks for us tonight as we had this weekend. I do wonder if Kellan Gordon might get a start though, two goals in two league games gives him quite a strong case.
There’s also a case, yet again, for a two-man strike force, rather than the deeper player in McCartan. I firmly believe John Akinde would thrive off either Rhead or Green, but tonight seems prime for Matt Green to get at Clarke. If we had two willing runners, Akinde and Green, I think there’s joy to be had.
If I had to pick the main threat for Oldham I’d point to Dan Gardner, a striker by trade who has been playing in the centre of the park for the hosts. He’s got a few assists and at 28 is bang in his prime. He’ll be hoping to feed whoever starts up top, as well as weigh in with one himself.
It’s not an easy task, but at the same time there’s enough in both line ups to suggest to me we could come away with three points this evening.