Football: Bolton sunk

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The Independent Online
Bolton Wanderers. .0

Oldham Athletic. . 1

Beckford 84

Attendance: 20,321

IN A thin, dreary Lancashire drizzle and on a Burnden Park pitch that would have been better suited to exercises by military armour, Oldham Athletic overcame the influence which Bolton Wanderers of the Endsleigh League have exerted over their Premiership betters in the FA Cup this season. The home side enjoyed almost complete dominance, playing what little football there was for a neutral to remember, and had probably begun to compare their excellent away record with the prospect of a replay when a goal by Darren Beckford in the 84th minute stole a largely undeserved victory for the visitors.

'It wasn't always a pretty sight,' Joe Royle, the Oldham manager, said afterwards. He had seen Tore Pedersen, his Norwegian right-back, put out of this summer's World Cup by a tackle which damaged his knee and will require extensive surgery. 'It's a Gazza job, a cruciate ligament,' Royle said, 'and the lad's distraught.' The manager correctly refused to blame Mark Patterson, the Bolton winger whose tackle - at a time when the match was in danger of boiling over - had caused the injury. To make matters worse, Oldham's other Norwegian, Gunnar Halle, underwent a cartilage operation on Friday night. 'We won't be very popular in Norway,' Royle observed.

Bolton and Oldham had met only twice before in the FA Cup, in 1913 and 1929, and the local-derby frenzy of the first half indicated that both teams were intent on making up for lost time. Tackles crunched in midfield and snap-shots pounded in at both ends. In the third minute, with what eventually turned out to be Bolton's best chance, Mark Seagraves banged the ball against the Oldham bar after Jon Hallworth had been forced to parry Tony Kelly's free-kick.

Patterson's speed and footwork always seemed to have the beating of Pedersen on the right of the Oldham defence. When Patterson's patience put Jimmy Phillips into acres of space behind the Norwegian, the Bolton left-back's long cross was knocked down by John McGinlay to Jason McAteer, whose shot was saved by Hallworth at full stretch. It was one of several close shaves for the Premiership side, who found themselves struggling to hold their composure in the face of Bolton's fast-breaking attacks. Patterson and David Lee regularly stretched Oldham on the flanks, while McAteer was a constant presence looming in support of McGinlay and Owen Coyle, forcing Nick Henry and Mike Milligan back in support of their central defenders, Richard Jobson and Steve Redmond. Thus depleted, Oldham's midfield was struggling to give much encouragement to Beckford and Graeme Sharp.

The temper of the match reached its low-point on the half-hour, when Beckford was spoken to by the referee after Kelly had gone down clutching his ankle, followed by Patterson's scything effort on Pedersen, which led to the latter's departure and the introduction of Neil Pointon on the half- hour. Chris Makin moved over to right back, with Pointon assuming the duties on the left.

Oldham raised their effort in the second period, although coherence and penetration were not immediately forthcoming until the decisive moment of the match. Rick Holden's contribution was restricted to three or four desultory crosses, the sand and mud clearly offering no encouragement to his kind of artistry.

Bolton pressed their second-half attacks mostly through the indefatigable Lee, whose many crosses somehow contrived to avoid the combined forces of McGinlay, Coyle and McAteer. One diagonal ball, cunningly placed in the path of Coyle's diagonal run into the area, was intercepted only by the last-ditch effort of Redmond, whose work in partnership with Jobson later came in for special praise from Royle.

With just over five minutes to go, Patterson's inability to put enough weight into a back- pass proved calamitous as Beckford found time and space to measure his shot across Aidan Davison and inside the left-hand post. Oldham had avoided the fate of Everton, Arsenal and Aston Villa, and Bolton's marvellous Cup run was over. 'We're disappointed,' Bruce Rioch, their manager, said, 'but the players have earned a tremendous amount of appreciation and respect through their efforts in the last couple of months, and our season isn't over yet.'