Football: Oldham end Ipswich home run

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The Independent Online
Ipswich Town . . .1

Oldham Athletic. .2

IPSWICH are still the hardest team to beat in the Premier League. Before yesterday they had not lost since mid-October, and before that their only conquerors were Oldham, who duly completed the double in spite of every reliable indicator.

The result of a meeting between a side that had yet to lose at home and visitors who had yet to win away ought to have been preordained. But Ipswich seemed to take to the pitch with that very statistic ringing in their heads, because if anything brought about their downfall it was over-confidence.

Oldham had not won away from Boundary Park for exactly a year, but at Portman Road they deployed the classic visitors' tactics to great effect, scoring a goal on the break in either half before conceding a goal on the hour.

Ipswich may have banked on the assumption that the haphazard entertainers would not veer from their usual role. But Oldham defended with considerable obduracy, held possession tenaciously in midfield until the final whistle and generally seemed to thwart their hosts with some ease.

Ipswich started brightly and showed intermittent signs of the understanding amongst a steady line-up that had taken them to within sight of their nearest neighbours, Norwich, at the top of the table. One move, which began with a precise interception by David Linighan, involved Gavin Johnson, Chris Kiwomya and a swaggering flick-on from the Bulgarian Boncho Genchev which sent the ball back through to Johnson. His shot was drilled just wide.

Ipswich were encouraged and persevered in similar vein, only to be undone by the apparent limitation of Oldham's ambition to defend vigorously and come away with a respectable draw. So there were acres of space in Ipswich's half of the pitch for Ian Marshall and Ian Olney whenever Oldham coaxed the ball forward.

In fact they scored with more or less their first serious attack. Catching Ipswich in possession, the ball was lobbed forward to Mark Brennan, whose swift shot was no more than parried by Clive Baker into the path of Marshall. He foraged in vain as the Ipswich defence struggled to regroup, but Brennan stole back and this time there was no stopping his shot.

Ipswich reapplied themselves to the task. Johnson and Kiwomya made clever use of space to set up Steve Whitton, whose shot cannonaded off all sorts of surfaces before Oldham could clear it. Kiwomya was clumsily felled by Craig Fleming in the box but calls for a penalty were waved away. Then John Walk headed a curling free kick from Neil Thompson just over the bar.

Ipswich's supporters have quickly become used to better things and at half-time booed their side to the dressing room and back out to the centre circle. It did not make any difference as, within minutes, Ipswich were found guilty of the same mistake that did for them in the first half.

Applying concerted pressure on the Oldham area, the home side were again caught napping when Nick Henry intercepted a lazy pass from Geraint Williams, and fed Olney on the right. He passed inside to Marshall, who pulled back for Paul Bernhard to thump his shot into the corner.

Oldham are one of those sides who, even when two up, are still potential victims of a turnaround. Ipswich would have been aware of this as they kicked off once more. An incisive through ball from Whitton located Stockwell on the right. He managed to pull back a cross that Oldham could not steer clear of the feet of Kiwomya, whose first real chance of the match this was. Ipswich's top scorer danced into position and smartly reduced Oldham's lead. But what other chances they fashioned were met with uncharacteristic defiance.

On this form Oldham should not have to wait 365 days for their next away victory.

Ipswich Town: C Baker; G Johnson, N Thompson (P Goddard, 72 min), M Stockwell, J Wark, D Linighan, G Williams, B Genchev, S Whitton, J Dozzell, C Kiwomya. Subs not used: P Whelan, C Forrest (gk). Team Manager: M McGiven.

Oldham Athletic: P Gerrard; G Halle, A Barlow, P Bernard, R Jobson, C Fleming, N Henry, I Olney, I Marshall (G Sharp, 63 min), M Milligan, M Brennan (S Redmond, 63 min). Sub not used: J Keeley (gk). Manager: J Royle.

Referee: K Redfern (Whitley Bay).

Goals: Brennan (0-1, 16 min), Henry (0-2, 52 min), Kiwomya (1-2, 60 min).