Football: Quinn's late plunge puts the skids under Oldham

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The Independent Online
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NIALL QUINN'S sixth goal of what for the Irishman has been a lean goalscoring season earned Manchester City a fourth successive away win and plunged Oldham deeper into the relegation mire at rain-lashed Boundary Park last night.

Only 13 minutes remained in a derby marred by another controversy over the 'professional foul' and six bookings - five of them for City - when Quinn struck. His stooping header, from a cross by former Oldham winger Rick Holden, condemned the home side to a fourth consecutive League and Cup defeat in which none of Joe Royle's players has scored.

The circumstances are hardly the most propitious in which to approach Saturday's relegation six-pointer at Nottingham Forest. Indeed Forest could acutally vacate bottom place in the Premier League tonight, although fortunately for Oldham they would have to win at Old Trafford to do so.

Oldham's growing sense of gloom was intensified by an incident which might have left the visitors without Tony Coton for the final 34 minutes. Michel Vonk's under-hit back-pass left Roger Palmer with only the goalkeeper to beat, but, as the former City striker shaped to shoot, Coton came hurtling out of the penalty area and took his legs.

Coton faced an anxious wait as the referee rooted among his cards; the season has been littered with instances of keepers being dismissed for less. But his expression turned to relief when Mr Borrett, for reasons best known to himself, brandished yellow rather than red. City's escape was complete when Andy Ritchie skied the resultant free-kick over the bar.

'Nine times out of 10 he would have gone off,' Royle said. It was difficult to dispute the Oldham manager's assessment, but Peter Reid nevertheless did so. 'I thought my player got to the ball first and was unlucky in my opinion to be booked,' City's substitute-manager maintained.

Coton's continued presence became the crucial factor nine minutes later when he dived to beat out Ritchie's fierce drive from 30 yards. Almost immediately, he slid out to block the ball as Ian Olney homed in, although Oldham were otherwise unable to turn territorial advantage into goal attempts.

The biggest surprise was that the near-15,000 crowd, Oldham's biggest of the season, were kept waiting until the 77th minute for a goal. Two matches between the clubs in 1992 produced 13, and the pattern seemed likely to continue when a Vonk header brought a desperate save from Paul Gerrard in only the second minute.

That promise was to go unfulfilled, and the only deluge came from above. Just when it seemed we would not see so much as a trickle, however, Holden shuffled down his old patch on the left and centred for Quinn to score. Holden, who left Oldham last summer, compounded the sense of injustice by blowing seemingly sarcastic kisses to his former fans.

Oldham Athletic: Gerrard; Halle, Fleming, Bernard, Jobson, Marshall, Palmer, Olney, Ritchie (Moulden, 78), Milligan, Adams. Substitutes not used: Redmond, Gray (gk).

Manchester City: Coton; Ranson, Phelan, McMahon, Vonk, Simpson, White, Sheron, Quinn, Flitcroft, Holden. Substitutes not used: Reid, Ingebrigsten, Margetson (gk).

Referee: I Borrett (Norfolk).

Terry Hurlock, of Southampton, and Middlesbrough's Willie Falconer were sent off after an off- the-ball clash between the two midfielders in the first half of last night'a Premier League match at Ayresome Park. Ian Branfoot, the Southampton manager, said: 'We have a code of conduct like most clubs. But I think it would be very harsh to fine Hurlock.'

Middlesbrough, with goals from Nicky Mohan and Paul Wilkinson, won 2-1. Southampton replied through Matthew Le Tissier.