Football / FA Cup: Ritchie's ancient riches: Oldham plough on

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Oldham Athletic. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1

Barnsley . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0

ANDY RITCHIE is not ready to fade into the long twilight of pensioned- off strikers just yet. Now 33 and the veteran of rather more Cup campaigns than he has hairs remaining on his head, Ritchie has drifted away from centre stage at Oldham this season as a long recovery from a back operation seemed to signal the end of a productive career.

But he has made a habit of being around when he is most needed; as at the death-or- glory stage of the fight against relegation last year. He did it again on Saturday, conjuring a marvellous goal out of the prosaic backdrop of a shaky Oldham performance against opponents who belied their own proximity to the First Division trapdoor.

It was, as Joe Royle noted with the satisfaction of a gambler down on his luck who had seen his last throw of the dice come good, 'a goal that deserved to win any cup tie'.

The dipping right-footer from 25 yards came just five minutes after Ritchie had replaced the ineffective Neil McDonald. That, and all the other flashes of class he displayed wide on the right, raise the question of whether Royle can afford to let him spend any more of the time left to him sitting on the sidelines.

'Andy is great quality,' he said. 'He strolled around on the right-hand side and gave it all a bit of method. He hasn't been pensioned-off. He's always there or thereabouts when he's fit.'

Ritchie was part of the Oldham side who reached the semi-finals four years ago. In truth, they look a lot less comfortable now in the guise of pedigree opposition to hungry challengers than they did in their traditional role as underdogs.

Their first-half display showed no signs of the improved form that has given them renewed hope of Premier League survival. A combative Barnsley, with the former Oldham player, Neil Redfearn, dictating a hectic pace in midfield, looked a sound bet to continue the trend of First Division success in this year's competition.

But after Royle had some pointed words with them at half-time, Oldham at last began to show some purpose.

Goal: Ritchie (61) 1-0.

Oldham Athletic (4-4-2): Hallworth; Makin, Jobson, Fleming, Pointon (Pedersen, 28); Bernard, McDonald (Ritchie, 56), Milligan, Holden; Sharp, Beckford. Substitute not used: Gerrard (gk).

Barnsley (4-4-2): Butler; Eaden, Taggart, Bishop, Fleming; O'Connell, Wilson, Redfearn, Archdeacon; Rammell, Payton. Substitutes not used: Snodin, Liddell, Widdowson (gk).

Referee: J Watson (Whitley Bay).