As you entered the ground before kick-off, you couldn’t help but notice the familiar sound of coins crashing against the edges of buckets as the Oldham Athletic Supporters Trust collected donations and as you do, you dig deep into your pockets to put in what you can – in this case, about 60-odd pence and a handful of fluff.
The game got underway and almost immediately, Notts won themselves a corner which was swung in by Adam Murray – a man not only playing to try to win a contract but also, at an unbelievable stage in his young life, was having to fight to pick up the shards of his almost destroyed career - in the absence of our very own Darren Caskey. The corner was met by the travelling County supporter’s blue-eyed boy, Ian Richardson who failed to keep his header down.
But County wasted no time whatsoever in taking the lead as just 3 minutes later, Ian Richardson slipped the in-form Paul Heffernan a long ball – an opportunity which ‘Heff’ met with open arms as he brought the ball under control before whipping an effort past Oldham ‘keeper, Les Pogliacomi.
Heffernan soon was again getting himself into productive mischief as he again caused unrest amongst the
It took the Latics the best part of a frustrating opening 20 minutes as Ernie Cooksey was denied the equaliser by an on-song Steve Mildenhall.
In the 26th minute, the Latics’ second glimpse of real chance of the afternoon came as
Mildenhall an instance of madness as he came charging off his line to give a repeat performance of his claim less than 5 minutes earlier. But the Notts shot-stopper grossly misjudged the situation – only to be spared his blushes by his trailing hand which managed to direct the ball out of play.
The resulting corner was drifted in and consequently sent out on the other side for another corner – however, this time Notts were able to hoof the ball clear.
Between these chances and the half-time interval, County threatened just once as Simon Baldry’s effort was deflected wide off the frame of Ernie Cooksey.
HALF TIME: Oldham Athletic 0-1 NOTTS COUNTY
The opening stages did not pass without controversy as Oldham striker, Calvin Zola, took an all or nothing dive in County’s penalty area – and it earned him nothing but the disapproval of Nicky Fenton and the match’s referee. Although looking back, I’m sure that I saw a panel of judges give the Congo striker rave reviews – 10 out of 10, I believe.
Clive Platt was then handed the chance to help put the Magpies further again once more as he latched on to a gift-wrapped blunder in Oldham’s rearguard. Only to round the keeper and fail to strike the ball home – in similar fashion to his first-half miss.
Simon Baldry was then booked for another dive in the penalty area – this time at the other end of the pitch.
The Magpies began to make Oldham feel the heat as they enclosed the Latics in their own half of the field.
Ian Richardson – who had been spot-on for the Magpies all afternoon (and all season for that matter) – gave away a penalty as the game encroached it’s final 20 minutes of action.
Jermaine Johnson stepped up for Athletic with the perfect opportunity to impress on his debut – by scoring the equaliser. Although, Steve Mildenhall has been known to impress when in the face of difficulty – and it was Mildenhall who prevailed, diving low to his right to comfortably save the spot-kick. Sending the Notts fans into a state of euphoria – which proved to be short-lived as their mood changed to sheer confusion as Clive Platt was automatically dismissed for ‘foul and abusive language’ in an incident which sent County’s improvised line-up marching to the referee to protest Platt’s innocence.
It was then that you realised how lucky Notts were to still have their narrow lead intact.
Mark Stallard then replaced the game’s solitary goal scorer, Paul Heffernan, as Billy Dearden looked to the experience of Stallard to keep the Magpies in operation in the final third of the field.
Notts youngster, Paul Riley, then avoided the tackle of an Oldham defender before unleashing his effort goal boand saved by the Latics ‘stopper before, at the opposite end, the Latics made a hash of a half-chance by which they hoped to salvage a point – but all hopes were dashed as shortly after, the final whistle was blown sending the Notts crowd home happy in what could be the Magpies’ final league fixture.
FULL TIME: Oldham Athletic 0-1 NOTTS COUNTY
The Magpies put on a heroic display this afternoon in what will surely prove to be a decisive six-pointer in Notts’ fight against their inevitable battle against relegation.
The eleven players placed in front of us this afternoon pulled off a performance which made their line-up look anything but makeshift in a game that if it proves to be the final chapter of this club’s remarkable history, then it sums this club up on the entire as one who will always grit their teeth and get down to business in sheer hope rather than belief. Well played lads!!!
Match Ratings to follow…