Football: Oldham triumph against the odds: Royle's men produce the performance to ensure survival as Coppell's worst fears come true

Oldham Athletic. .4

Southampton. . . .3

OLDHAM Athletic can be hailed as the escapees of the season after beating Southampton amid extraordinary scenes at Boundary Park yesterday. Written off for most of the season, as little as a week ago they seemed to have only a mathematical chance of surviving in the Premier League. But three victories later, they had - goal difference pushing them ahead of a Crystal Palace team beaten at Arsenal.

'There have been a lot of shredded nerves and some games have aged me five years,' Joe Royle, the Oldham manager, said. 'But it's great for us and we've deserved it. We always have a go, we try to score goals. Maybe there's a lesson in that. We play the game with the right attitude; things are never dull with us and surely there's a place in the Premier League for sides like that.'

And, of course, there is. The ground was awash with unbottled relief; Palace had lost, Oldham were staying up, and the fans couldn't believe it. Aston Villa beaten last Sunday, Liverpool on Tuesday, now Southampton and another season of Premier League football in the can. Their last three results summed up a first Premier League season in which relegated Palace finished only 10 points behind the team in fifth.

The Oldham script makes unlikely reading but Royle and his men had served it up to the final word. They didn't make it easy watching for their fans. A 4-1 lead was reduced to 4-3 and with five minutes remaining, and Matthew Le Tissier, Southampton's maverick marksman, had just completed his hat-trick. The high spirits that had been bubbling round the crowd looked set to turn sour.

Oldham had made a determined start. Gunnar Halle and Mike Milligan both went close in the opening exchanges, but it was Southampton who almost opened the scoring in the ninth minute when Le Tissier lobbed goalkeeper Paul Gerrard to see the ball headed over the bar by Richard Jobson.

There was a roar of delight from the terraces as news that Arsenal had taken the lead against Palace filtered through, but that was nothing compared to the celebrations when Oldham took the lead in the 29th minute, full-back Neil Pointon using the strong wind to score direct from a corner.

Oldham's joy lasted just five minutes as stray marking in the heart of their defence allowed Le Tissier to fire home an equaliser from 15 yards out, but they responded by regaining the lead though Ian Olney just beore half- time, and went further in front 10 minutes after the break. Andy Ritchie, who was playing in place of the injured Darren Beckford, produced a textbook header from eight yards out to beat Flowers and convert Halle's cross.

It looked even better for Oldham when Halle scored in the 64th minute, giving them a three- goal lead, but it was at this stage that they nearly blew it. Le Tissier curled in a 66th-minute free-kick, and five minutes from the end produced a close-range header to seal his hat-trick.

But the nightmare minutes passed, the referee settled it for Oldham and the news followed hard on that Arsenal had settled it for Oldham too. Palace were going to take the drop and it was with Steve Coppell, the Palace manager, that Royle's initial thoughts lay: 'He's a very close friend of mine and I'm sad it has happened to him,' he said. 'It's tough on Palace to go down with 49 points but our saving grace is that we score goals - and that's what has kept us up.'

Oldham: Gerrard; Halle, Pointon, Henry, Jobson, Fleming, Redmond, Ritchie, Olney, Milligan, Bernard. Subs: Marshall, Adams, Keeley (gk). Manager: J Royle

Southampton: Flowers; Kenna, Adams, Widdrington, Hall, Monkou, Le Tissier, Cockerill, Dowie, Maddison, Banger. Subs: Moore, Benali, Andrews. Manager: I Branfoot

Referee: H King (Merthyr Tydfil)

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Property Inspection Inventory Clerk

£10000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is a fast growing in...

Recruitment Genius: PSV/PCV & HGV Mechanics

£29000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: PSV/PCV Mechanics & HGV mechani...

Recruitment Genius: Reprographics Operator

£12500 - £13000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The largest independent Reprogr...

Recruitment Genius: Web Design Apprentice

£6240 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a well established websit...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee