Football: Oldham's balloon still deflating

Oldham Athletic 0 Portsmouth 0

It seemed Oldham Athletic wanted to chart the extent of their decline. We have gone from the Premiership and being at Wembley to the First Division's relegation zone in little more than two years, we have sold our best players and have no money to replace them. So why don't we cap it all by making a complete shambles of the pre-match build up?

"Due to Civil Aviation regulations," a voice boomed out over the loud speakers, "we can release only 800 today." He was building towards the start of a Great Balloon Race and there in a huge net a mass of multi- coloured plastic bobbled in the wind, but for all the danger to low flying aircraft, they represented they might as well have released 800,000. A handful took off apologetically when they were released, but the great mass stayed stubbornly where they were.

A club with a popped reputation had to send on its ball boys to burst hundreds of ground-bound balloons in what was the biggest hot air failure since the last of the party political conferences. To complete the indignity, 700 plus tags had to be gathered from the pitch for a second attempt at lift off this week.

It was a sorry start to an afternoon which, with its sheeting rain and dank cold, was hardly encouraging anyway. What no-one could have legislated for, however, was that the balloons, for all their inability to take off, still represented the height of excitement compared to what followed. The match had the virtue of being a relegation six pointer and the vices so numerous that a limit of 800 again would not have been enough.

The first half was an entertainment desert, the second barely any better. Most balloons had struggled to make it to the goalmouths and the players took that as a cue, so we had to wait 36 minutes for a corner. The first shot on target, from Oldham's David Beresford, arrived 20 minutes later and as the only real chance followed a second afterwards, when Stuart Barlow headed straight at the Portsmouth keeper, Aaron Flahavan, the extent of the parched ground around this oasis is apparent.

Which brings us to the arid area between David Hillier's ears. The former England Under-21 midfield player was making his Portsmouth debut after a pounds 300,000 transfer from Arsenal, and if anyone looked like he had gone down a division for a premature retirement, it was him.

He may have tackled with powder-puff ferocity and marked like he feared close proximity would risk a painful disease, but beneath his languor there burned a man indignant at his sloppy display. How else could you explain the madness of stamping on Nicky Henry's knee that led to his sending-off?

At least one person had appeared to have taken the ultimate sanction. The winner of Oldham's "Strike It Lucky" competition could not be tempted from the Lookers Stand at half-time, even for a prize of pounds 517. "You've got 30 seconds now before the teams come out," the man with the microphone said with a desperation of someone whose day could barely get any worse. "If you sprint, you can still get it."

He could rest assured, anyone who could sprint had left the ground screaming many minutes before.

Oldham Athletic (4-4-2): Kelly; Fleming, Graham, Redmond, Serrant; Rickers, Orlygsson (Banger, 77), Henry, Beresford; Barlow, Ormondroyd. Substitutes not used: Allott, Hughes.

Portsmouth (3-4-3): Flahavan; Thomson, Perrett, Whitbread; Hillier, Durnin, Awford, Igoe; Carter (Pethick, 65), Bradbury (Burton 62), Turner. Substitute not used: S Dobson.

Referee: G Frankland (Middlesbrough).

Bookings: Oldham: Henry, Orlygsson. Portsmouth: Bradbury. Sending off: Hillier.

Man of the match: Awford. Attendance: 7,639.

A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
Dawkins: 'There’s a very interesting reason why a prince could not turn into a frog – it's statistically too improbable'
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Life and Style
This month marks the 20th anniversary of the first online sale
techDespite a host of other online auction sites and fierce competition from Amazon, eBay is still the most popular e-commerce site in the UK
Arts and Entertainment
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, Graduate, SQL, VBA)

£45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, ...

Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Perl, Bash, SQL)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Per...

C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB6, WinForms)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB...

C# Developer (Genetic Algorithms, .NET 4.5, TDD, SQL, AI)

£40000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home