Football: Lancashire's thirty-minute theatre

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The Independent Online
Manchester City. . . .3

Oldham Athletic. . . .3

MANCHESTER CITY and Oldham served up a wonderfully entertaining Lancashire derby yesterday, the sort of encounter which the rest of Europe laughs at but that English supporters relish.

A manic 33-minute spell in the first half provided all six goals and a good deal of soul-searching for both sets of defenders. In the opening exchange there was a hint of the space and chances that were to fall to forwards when Oldham's Ian Olney shot over the bar when put clean through.

After just five minutes David White was fouled by Ian Marshall; Keith Curle's free-kick was headed on by Michel Vonk and an unmarked Niall Quinn side-footed the ball in to give City the lead. Two minutes later White crashed the ball on to the crossbar, Quinn's follow-up was saved by the Latics' keeper, Jon Hallworth, but Vonk followed up to score.

Oldham may leak too many goals but they were last season's third-highest scorers in the First Division, behind Leeds and Arsenal. The moment the defender Richard Jobson headed in Neil Adams' corner, Maine Road sensed that it was not going to be a straightforward day for City.

Midway through the half, Ian Brightwell's long pass went over the former City full-back Neil Pointon and let White into a one-on-one situation with Hallworth. City's England candidate finished powerfully.

At this point, City, rampant in the pouring rain, looked like championship contenders, but Oldham had other ideas. Paul Bernard's cross from the left was cheekily back-heeled past Tony Coton by Mike Milligan and, with seven minutes of the half remaining, Oldham's Gunnar Halle stabbed at Marshall's shot to make the scores level.

Even six goals fails to convey just how hectic the action was. The rule disallowing keepers to pick up the ball from a back-pass seemed to make a number of players panic about every aspect of their play. It was so farcical it seemed highly appropriate that Norman Wisdom appeared on the pitch at half-time.

A switch saw Steve McMahon go off for the player-manager Peter Reid. At 36 years old, the former England international looked the most composed, skilful player on the pitch. As his rival manager, Joe Royle, said: 'Reid made them play. If he wants to give up management, I'll give him a contract.'

City had much the better of the second half, and only the woodwork and fine saves from Hallworth denied the crowd a seventh goal; however, the Latics are such an admirable, spirited team and fully deserved a point for their fightback.

Manchester City: T Coton; I Brightwell, T Phelan, F Simpson, K Curle, M Vonk, D White, M Sheron (G Flitcroft, 82 min), N Quinn, R Holden, S McMahon (P Reid, h/t). Sub not used: M Margetson (gk). Manager: P Reid.

Oldham Athletic: J Hallworth; S Redmond, N Pointon, P Bernard, R Jobson, I Marshall, G Halle, I Olney, G Sharp, M Milligan, N Adams. Subs not used: R Palmer, C Flemming, I Gray (gk). Manager: J Royle.

Referee: D Gallagher (Banury).

Goals: Quinn (1-0, 5 min); Vonk (2-0, 7 min); Jobson (2-1, 11 min); White (3-1, 22 min); Milligan (3-2, 29 min); Halle (3-3, 38 min).