Saturday, January 06, 2007

Wolves 2-2 Oldham

Sitting at a family friend's house on the outskirts of Wolverhampton, I'm reflecting on Oldham's 2-2 draw at Wolves today in the FA Cup 3rd Round.

Latics had to contend without three of the team that demolished Nottingham Forest on New Year's Day, as Sean Gregan, defensive stalwart, had gone back to Leeds after his loan move, and Chris Porter didn't travel due to a family bereavement, and Chris Taylor picked up an injury warming up. The latter two I had no idea about, and neither did anyone in the crowd as the game kicked off. To add to confusion, the Wolves PA man announced that Porter was playing, yet he blatantly wasn't on the pitch.

Anyhow, despite being shorn of their standard defensive set-up, and without their normal attacking line-up, Latics didn't start all that badly against their higher division opponents. Wolves had a midfield, which was one difference from Nottingham Forest the previous week, and it showed, as Latics couldn't just waltz through and create chances as they had done on New Year's Day.

Nevertheless, after not long, and general midfield tedium, Oldham took a quick free-kick on 19 minutes, Wellens (was it?) delightfully playing in Paul Warne through a gap in the defence as the Wolves players clearly weren't prepared for a quick free-kick (and perhaps weren't resolved to the fact it was a free-kick - for the second week in a row, Latics appeared to be favoured by the referee). Warne took the ball in his stride and turned the ball nicely past Murray in the Wolves net to give Oldham the lead.

This naturally sent the 3,000 Oldham fans into raptures, and left the half empty rest of Molineux very quiet. The family friend I went to the match with commented he'd never seen the ground so empty in 50 years of following the Wolves.

However, general midfield tedium resumed, with Latics closing the Wolves down reasonably well, and equipping themselves well. But before they could become too confident, Wolves equalised, as for once Latics gave the Wolves far too much room to play in, and after one shot rebounded off the post, the rebound was forcefully hit home. This sent the Oldham players into a bit of a panic, and suddenly they lost all ability to find their own men, and even Pogliacomi in the Oldham goal found he could no longer kick the ball properly. It all added up to a fretful last ten minutes of the half. Latics entered half-time losing 2-1, and it could have been worse, as they simply lost all ability to play football.

Wolves' second goal was a cracker though, their winger Ricketts sent a great cross in after a good run, and it was headed home emphatically by Craig Davies.

The second half began with Latics clearly having been given a stern talking to by John Sheridan at the break; they'd recomposed themselves, and remembered that the point was to pass to a blue, and not a gold, shirt. They didn't do an awful lot of threatening however, but then neither did Wolves. The odd free-kick caused some action in the Wolves area, and although Oldham weren't creating chance after chance, they were exerting pressure on the Wolves, and playing like they can do, passing well, and mopping up the loose balls as they fell in the midfield area.

With twelve minutes left however, Latics hit the jackpot. Only minutes before, Wolfrenden, on his league debut in place of Porter, had been replaced by Chris Hall, a player who makes a habit of scoring FA Cup goals. With twelve minutes left, he did it again, heading home a glorious free-kick delivery from Andy Liddell, again sending the Latics contingent in the 14,000 Molineux crowd into pandemonium.

Stefan Stam then did his utmost to gift Wolves the win, taking too much time on the ball as the second last man, and being robbed of the ball by a Wolves player. Thankfully for the Oldham defender, and all the Oldham followers and team in the ground, the Wolves player sent in the clear managed to screw his shot wide of goal.

Latics managed to play out the remaining 12 minutes with little concern, and a replay is lined up now for the 16th January at Boundary Park. It should be interesting, as Latics have generally been unbeatable at home this season, with the exception of the times they've been beaten. But those were in the first home game of the season back in August, since which nine wins have been recorded in the league, and three draws, with many goals scored in the meantime, and few conceded (apart from to Leyton Orient, who have scored half the goals conceded at Boundary Park since the first game of the season in August). Sadly, I'll be way down in Oxford by next Tuesday, and not watching how the mightly Latics fare in the replay.

We'll find out tomorrow (or Monday, not sure) who either Latics or Wolves will face should they win the replay, and next Saturday (my birthday, hussar!) sees Latics travel to league leaders Scunthorpe, and victory there will put Latics top of the pile. That would be a nice birthday present...


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