Football: Oldham lift off bottom

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The Independent Online
Oldham Athletic. .3

Chelsea. . . . . .1

A SIDE which has gone more than eight hours without a goal is grateful for any help it can get. Oldham, whose abysmal record in the scoring department had left them at the foot of the table, owe their thanks to the referee Roger Milford.

He deflected Andy Ritchie's through-ball into the path of Nick Henry, who proceeded to score the goal which set them on the way to ending a sequence of five straight defeats and lifted them off the bottom. Having rediscovered how it is done, they managed the second on their own, Neil Adams meeting Mark Brennan's corner at the far post.

But they left the best until last. Kevin Hitchcock raced out of his area and cleared a loose ball, but only as far as Brennan, who promptly lofted it back over the stranded goalkeeper's head from 40 yards out on the left touchline.

Chelsea's dismal record since the turn of the year remains firmly intact, however. They had trouble penetrating the mist that swirled round Boundary Park, and rarely looked like penetrating Oldham's defence until Mick Harford turned in the substitute Robert Fleck's cross in the final minute. Their few earlier chances were created mainly by Graham Stuart on the right, and wasted mainly by Harford, whom Paul Gerrard in the Oldham goal denied thrice with reflex saves.

Once Oldham had broken their duck, Chelsea never looked solid enough to resist an attack in which the restored target-man, Ritchie, was as available to his colleagues as he was elusive to defenders other than Hitchcock, who tipped two of his efforts over the bar.

Joe Royle, the Oldham manager, said afterwards: 'We had a bit of luck courtesy of the referee's bottom, but we showed you can't write us off.'

Oldham Athletic: P Gerrard; C Fleming, G Halle, N Henry, S Redmond, I Marshall, I Olney, N Adams, A Ritchie, M Milligan, M Brennan. Subs not used: R Palmer, N Tolson, I Gray (gk). Manager: J Royle.

Chelsea: K Hitchcock; G Hall, F Sinclair, A Townsend, D Lee, M Donaghy, G Stuart (R Fleck, 62 min), J Spencer, M Harford, E Newton, G Le Saux (D Barnard, 62 min). Sub not used: G Peyton (gk). Manager: I Porterfield.

Referee: R Milford (Bristol).

Goals: Henry (1-0, 38 min); Adams (2-0, 61 min); Brennan (3-0, 71 min); Harford (3-1, 89 min).

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