Football: Oldham show survival spirit

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The Independent Online
Oldham Athletic. . .2

McCarthy 33, Bernard 39

Southampton. . . . .1

Le Tissier 26

Attendance: 9,982

AFTER seven league matches without a win, Oldham began to show the sort of fighting spirit that dragged them to safety last season as they garnered three invaluable points at Boundary Park yesterday.

Two well-constructed goals in swift succession, after going behind against the run of play, turned the tables for Joe Royle's team and, although they flirted predictably with danger in the second half, they were good value for their win.

Players whose participation has been limited this season played major roles. Neil McDonald, in only his second appearance of the campaign, fired a shot which Dave Beasant could only parry, thereby setting up the equaliser for Sean McCarthy, himself playing for only the fifth time since his signing from Bradford City.

McCarthy, showing a great willingness to chase and harry, made the crucial contribution to what turned out to be the winner. Pursuing Graeme Sharp's ball down the right he whipped over a cross which Paul Bernard swept home.

Those goals undid the damage inflicted when Matthew Le Tissier, receiving a throw-in from Jeff Kenna in an innocuous position, let the ball drift across his body before letting fly from 25 yards.

After a goal like that, it would be churlish to add that Le Tissier's contribution was less than negligible. Churlish it will have to be, because Le Tissier gave a perfect demonstration of why his new manager, Alan Ball, has told him to increase his involvement if he is to fulfil his declared ambition of playing for England. He showed little appetite for foraging and undignified toil.

Southampton could still have gained a point but a linesman's offside decision denied Simon Charlton an equaliser 11 minutes from time. Afterwards, Ball was equally agitated about a penalty appeal for hand-ball which was also turned down, leaving him to theorise about match officials winning the game for Oldham.

But Royle, who had seen his side go close several times, was nearer the truth. 'They had two shots on goal,' he said. 'One scored and one was disallowed. It would have been a tragedy for us not to win in those circumstances.'

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