Football: Olney gives Oldham chance of survival

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The Independent Online
Oldham Athletic. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .3

Liverpool. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2

GRAEME SOUNESS may not be part of the Premier League scene much longer, but Oldham gave themselves a fighting chance of being involved again next season by beating his Liverpool side for the first time in 71 years in a highly charged encounter at Boundary Park.

Too highly charged in the case of Don Hutchison, who became the sixth Liverpool player to be sent off this season after an off-the-ball clash with Paul Bernard 14 minutes from time. His exit could hardly have been more timely for Oldham, whose scrap for survival was in danger of being undermined by the sheer tension of the occasion.

Their victory means that if they beat Southampton at home on Saturday, they could still condemn Crystal Palace or even Ipswich to relegation; anything less and they are down. After taking 68 years to return to the top flight, Oldham will clearly not relinquish their status without an almighty struggle.

If they do stay up, they are likely to remember David James's contribution to the cause with wry affection. The error-prone pounds 1.3m goalkeeper, dismissed at Norwich on Saturday, seemed unwilling or unable to use his 6ft 4in frame to deal with crosses and had a hand, or rather hands, in both Oldham's first two goals.

Ian Rush did his best to compensate for James's calamities, scoring twice to take his total for the Anfield club to 299 in all competitions. The Welshman's first goal equalised Oldham's opener, but the home side had stretched their advantage to 3-1 before he struck again in the second half.

Oldham went in front in the 21st minute, when James failed to assert himself as Neil Pointon's corner swung in to the near post. Though he reached Darren Beckford's header he could not prevent it from crossing the line.

Rush restored parity with a sublime lob from 22 yards in the 31st minute, after Paul Gerrard's ill-judged dash from the Oldham goal, but within five minutes the hosts were back in control after scoring twice in 60 seconds.

Challenged by Ian Olney for Nick Henry's corner, James grappled with the ball as if it were a greasy balloon, only fumbling it over the line. Olney then moved on to Henry's through pass, before angling the third past James from eight yards.

In a fit of James-like generosity, Bernard passed straight to John Barnes on the hour. The Liverpool captain's measured centre was met with a sharp downward header by Rush - his 20th goal of the season. .

Joe Royle looked as if he had been through an emotional threshing machine. 'I think my team are trying to kill me,' the Oldham manager said. 'We've beaten Villa, Man United and now Liverpool, but there's still no side that's given us more problems than ourselves.'

Oldham Athletic: Gerrard; Halle, Pointon, Henry, Jobson, Fleming, Redmond, Olney, Beckford (Ritchie, 80), Milligan, Bernard. Substitutes not used: Adams, Keeley (gk).

Liverpool: James; R Jones, Burrows, Nicol, Wright (Piechnik, h/t), Redknapp, Stewart (Rosenthal, 53), Hutchison, Rush, Barnes, Walters. Substitute not used: Hooper (gk).

Referee: P Durkin (Portland, Dorset).

Barnes' time out,

Little's target, page 36

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