Welcome back to my journey with Oldham Athletic. In the previous post, we outlined in detail all training aspects we have implemented currently with Oldham. This included mentoring, sessions, units, individual and coaching..
In this post we will be going through a half season review up until January highlighting results from September to December, a youth update, as well as any winter transfer window dealings.
September was an extremely good month for the team as we won five and drew one. The squad seemed to have gelled nicely with our 4-1-2-3 DM Asymmetrical AM (L) – Custom Direct Counter tactic which was in use for all six matches. Beginning with a 2-0 victory versus Crawley in a game we were expected to win, where we started on the back foot but managed to take to tie into our hands after the first goal flew in.
Next game out against Notts County was an easier affair, running away as 3-1 winners away from home. Our Gegenpress style made its debut in this match as I felt we were dominating enough to attempt to be a little bit more creative.
On a wet and windy night down in Grimsby we succeeded in holding onto the game and finished with the result we wanted. After going 3-0, The Mariners pulled two goals back in the 72nd and 78th minutes to set a very tense final 10 minutes of the game. Thankfully we held on a grabbed the win.
Newport faced a trip to Boundary Park in the following game. In a very evenly matched tie we were fortunate enough to be awarding a penalty deep into the second half which Jose Baxter calmly converted to ensure the three points.
Colchester were the next team to visit us and we knew this was going to be a difficult game. We set up slightly deeper than usual for the game as I was aware that they could threaten on the break. We did nearly win this game, however The U’s managed to score an 87th minute equaliser.
Next up was an away tie at Swindon. Easily the best match of the month for us and a game where we really started working together as a team. We ran out easy 3-0 winners thanks for goals for Surride, Hunt and Nepomuceno.
October was another fantastic month for us. Winning six and losing just once. From the beginning of the month I decided to change it up a little and started using our 4-1-2-3 DM Asymmetrical AM (L) – Custom Gegenpress system as I felt we were playing much better and did not need to sit back and counter as often has we had been doing.
Starting the month with back-to-back 2-1 wins against Mansfield and Carlisle really helped up to keep up the momentum as we stormed to the top of the league in the first two months of the season.
Our next match again Stoke Under-23’s in the EFL Trophy felt like it should have been an easy win for us hence my reasoning to go all out attacking against them instead of the usual style. This seemed to backfire a lot as we were very fortunate to come away with the win on penalties and could have easily been lost.
Port Vale followed where normal order was restored with another 2-1 victory. The team did well to get themselves back into the game after going down 1-0 after only the 2nd minute.
What happened next was completely unexpected. A 5-1 drubbing at the hands of Cheltenham. They somehow managed to score three goals in 5 second half minutes and our defence just turning into a shambles.
Moving on though, we bounced back from the disappointment of the Cheltenham game as we secured 3-2 and 4-2 wins over Northampton and Notts County respectively to take back top spot in the league.
November seemed to generate a downturn in fortunes for the team as we could only complete three wins across the whole month, couple with one draw and two losses. The start of the months began well with good 3-0 wins against both Stevenage and Morecambe. Both games we especially decent as we dominated the games from the outset as well as back to back clean sheets – we hadn’t kept a clean sheet in any of the prior seven games – to really lift the spirits.
The euphoria was short lived however as in the very next match we laboured to a 1-1 draw and subsequent penalty loss to Accrington in the EFL Trophy. I’m not too fussed about the EFL trophy though, so I have been using this fixtures to try and rest key players where necessary.
Cambridge were the next team to visit Boundary Park and the outcome ended with another 2-1 win which seems to have come our favourite scoreline in the previous months.
November ended on a down as we struggled to a 0-0 draw with Tranmere and a 2-1 loss at home to Lincoln. I expected to struggle in both of these games as we had lost three key players in Rob Hunt, Maxime Borges and and Daniel Iveren to training injuries just before the games.
December was not too bad for us and could have been much worse as we were still without a couple of key players. Four wins on the spin, followed by back-to-back losses and a final win to end the year off on a high.
Starting with an FA Cup Second Round 3-2 win over Southend which was incredible win against a team from the division above and also brought in some much need income to the club as our finances were beginning to look fairly unhealthy.
Following our FA Cup win was another victory this time again Crewe as we ended with a 3-1 scoreline in our favour. This game was a particular highlight as it saw our best midfielder Ousmane Fané play his first 20 minutes of the season after being out for five months with a broken low leg.
Two back-to-back 1-0 scoreline wins followed, firstly again Wolves Under-23s in the EFL Trophy and then Bury in the league. Both were fairly standard games where not much happened and we relatively low-key affairs.
What followed next was incredibly disappointed however as we lost two games on the bounce with no excuses in either as we were pretty much at full strength. Both games we winnable and we should have done a lot better. First was a 3-0 loss at home to Exeter where we were abysmal, barely got a foothold on a game at all as we definitely deserved to lose the game. Next was a 1-0 loss at Carlist away at Brunton Park. We did play better in this game but just could not seem to find a way through The Cumbrians defensive line.
We ended the year on a high with a 3-1 win away at Port Vale. A game where we played a lot better and learned from the mistakes of the previous two matches. We attacked from the outset and never let the game out of our sights.
So, at the halfway point of the season we find ourselves sitting comfortably at the top of League Two and well on our way to achieving Step 1 of our 5 Year plan – Promotion to League One. As long as we can keep the momentum we have established over the last couple of months and other results go our way, there should be no reason why we cannot go up as Champions.
Winter Transfer Update
Willem Tomlinson – Loan – Blackburn Rovers
Tomlinson was brought in on loan from Blackburn at the beginning of January to add to steel to the centre of the park for us. Tomlinson can operate in both Box-To-Box Midfielder and Ball-Winning Midfielder roles, both of which we use in our formation. This helped make Tomlinson a good fit for us as he could easily slot into the team. With Ousmane Fané out with another injury for three months, we really needed the added quality in depth that Tomlinson offered to the team. With coming in on loan this resulted in no transfer fee being paid and less financial digress as a whole as we need to ensure that we are keeping within our budgets. Blackburn also agreed to pay his wages for the duration of the loan.
Ishmael Miller – £14.75K – Accrington Stanley
Miller was our first OUT of the season. Over the course of his Oldham career, he only managed to play one game for us thus no longer needed. Miller left not much for the money on offer – which incidentally was a bonus – but more to reduce his £3,000 per week wage bill from our budget. Miller just was not good enough for us. An aging player that did not fit into any of our systems , there was no point in keeping him around even as a backup due to his astronomical wages. In replacement I promoted 2 youth players with potential to act as backups – Kunle Ezekiel and Craig Dean.
Chris O’Grady – Free – Maidstone United
Out second OUT of the season arrived in the form of Chris O’Grady. In an also identical situation to Ishmael Miller, O’Grady is an ageing striker that placed zero games for Oldham throughout his stay his, did not fit into our systems and earned an absolutely ludicrous £2,500 per week. I wish I had known at the start of the season that Miller and O’Grady would not be of any use as I could have saved the club a lot of money in wage costs. This may need to be something I look far closer at moving forward.
We currently have 6 players in our youth setup that I believe will be more than capable of stepping up the first team in the next couple of months or so. The two that I am particularly looking at are Kunle Ezekiel and Craig Dean; both who have made the step up the first team after Miller and O’Grady leaving the club. At 17 and 16 years old respectively Ezekiel and Dean have plenty of time for development of their games and I’m hoping to be able to give them more game time in the near future. Any player of note is Jamie Cumming; who on current ability would be more than capable of making the step up right now. With Iversen my first choice keeper, however on loan, Cumming may find himself as the clubs’ Number 1 next season.