Football: Sharp's answer lets Oldham come alive: Southampton flounder in relegation zone

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The Independent Online
Southampton. . . . .1

Oldham Athletic. . .3

With Easter heralding the start of the final frenzied blast of the season, it is time for all would-be survivors to make their move and, taking handsome advantage of Southampton's generosity, Oldham last night made an important bound out of the Premiership bottom three and into the relative security of 18th place. The immediate euphoria of Alan Ball's return to The Dell having dissipated, the Saints find themselves back in deep trouble again.

Oldham revealed a bolder strategy with a three-pronged raiding force accommodating the return from suspension of Graeme Sharp, though they also had a duty to drop back and defend when the need arose. There was plenty of that to come but first Oldham could enjoy themselves with an early goal, one which fully justified the decision to recall the former Evertonian.

When Sharp flicked on a high ball in the 13th minute, he did not expect it to be returned to him so quickly. Taking careful aim, he punished the poor clearance by executing a dipping shot over Dave Beasant.

Just before half-time, Oldham broke again, Sean McCarthy supplying a cross from which Francis Benali, alone and unpressured, launched himself to send a spectacular diving header into his own net.

The scoreline flattered the visitors, but there could be no escape from defending of such ineptitude. Again Le Tissier initiated the response but, released by a delightful ball over the top, Jeff Kenna wasted the chance.

Within the first six minutes of the second half, both Oldham substitutes, one immediately replacing the other, had been booked. They did not need to be so worked up as their side appeared to be defending comfortably, or at least they were until the 59th minute when Le Tisser - who else? - cut in from the left and reduced the arrears with one of his low and deadly shooters.

In the 88th minute with Southampton all pressed forward, Rick Holden made use of the room afforded him to hoist Oldham's third over Beasant.

Southampton (4-4-2): Beasant; Kenna, Wood (Dodd, 57), Monkou, Charlton; Allen, Magilton, Le Tissier, Benali; Maskell (Hughes, 65), Dowie. Substitute not used: Andrews (gk).

Oldham Athletic (4-3-3): Hallworth; Makin, Jobson, Redmond, Pointon; Henry (Graham, h/t; Ritchie, 50), Milligan, Holden; McCarthy, Sharp, Beckford. Substitute not used Gerrard (gk).

Referee V Callow (Solihull).