Football: Atkinson's leveller

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The Independent Online
Oldham Athletic. . .1

Aston Villa. . . . .1

BEHIND Oldham's all-action defence, goalkeeper John Hallworth usually only gets to see a clean sheet when one comes out of the washing machine.

Despite his heroics, so it proved again as Dalian Atkinson's eighth goal of the season, eight minutes from time, gave Villa the point they deserved and left Hallworth undefeated just once in 13 League games.

The goal extended Villa's unbeaten run to nine matches and in part warded off manager Ron Atkinson's nightmare of having his old mate Joe Royle pass him a post-match drink and say: 'Hard luck, you deserved to get something from that.'

On his last two visits, Atkinson's sides have surrendered 2-0 leads, but this time they found Hallworth on top of his game.

He held headers from Atkinson and Bryan Small and kept out fierce shots from Dean Saunders and Paul McGrath in the first half. He was fortunate, though, when one sortie out of his area ended with Saunders generously heading Dwight Yorke's cross back into his arms as he rambled back into the corner of his box.

By then Oldham were in the lead after Ian Olney had headed home his fourth goal for the club since moving to Oldham from Villa for pounds 700,000 in the summer.

Oldham looked a threat every time they passed the ball to their tall front three, and so it proved as Olney diverted in Richard Jobson's header from a Steve Redmond corner in the 19th minute.

As Villa pressed for the equaliser in the second half some of the pattern went from their sprightly first-half play and Oldham looked capable of adding a second with Graeme Sharp wasting the best chance when he headed Paul Bernard's cross wide.

Atkinson, 12 yards out, showed him how to do it, looping Saunders's cross over Hallworth and in at the far corner.

Oldham Athletic: J Hallworth; G Halle, N Pointon, N Henry, R Jobson, S Redmond, I Olney (N McDonald, 71 min), M Marshall, G Sharp, M Milligan, P Bernard. Subs not used: N Adams, J Keeley (gk). Manager: J Royle.

Aston Villa: N Spink; E Barrett, S Staunton, S Teale, P McGrath, K Richardson, R Houghton, D Yorke (D Farrell, 75 min), D Saunders, D Atkinson, B Small. Subs not used: M Blake, M Bosnich (gk). Manager: R Atkinson.

Referee: R Gifford (Mid Glamorgan).

Goal: Olney (1-0, 19 min); Atkinson (1-1, 81 min).