Oldham Athletic. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1
JUST when it seemed Manchester City's flame had flickered and died with the last of the candles lit by defiant protestors in the on-going campaign to oust the chairman, Peter Swales, they were presented with a flattering draw last night.
Oldham contained City's early fire and appeared to have plundered a victory, courtesy of Graeme Sharp's 57th-minute goal. Three minutes from the end, however, Jon Hallworth, Oldham's goalkeeper, failed to gather Niall Quinn's innocuous shot and Mike Sheron equalised. Hallworth went off injured and doubtless distraught after the incident. He had resisted City's aerial bombardment in the first half and then watched his team gain confidence and fluency in the second.
City's game disintegrated, their players shunned responsibility and Sharp might have wrapped it up with a header. Yet Oldham had to revert to familiar, backs-to-the-wall duty, in the closing minutes.
A point may serve to ease some of the tension at Maine Road. However, unless City can resolve their political crisis, as well as add more quality to their midfield and greater penetration to their attack, they may accompany Oldham in the toil for Premiership survival.
City's attempts at creative football produced nothing, so they resorted to lofting centres for the towering Quinn. The clearer chances drifted Sheron's way, yet he twice headed woefully off target. An injury to Alfons Groenendijk spared Oldham his searching corners but they still had Rick Holden to contend with. The winger weaved into City's area at the end of the first half only to thump his shot against a post.
Oldham's Darren Beckford was similarly frustrated early in the second half, but his side soon broke through. Gunnar Halle miscued a cross, yet Nick Henry salvaged the lost cause and Sharp bundled the ball past a startled Andy Dibble, deputising for Tony Coton.
Coton, named as standby goalkeeper for England's World Cup squad earlier in the day, had injured his neck playing volleyball.
Manchester City (4-4-2): Dibble; Edghill, Kernaghan, Curle, Phelan; Flitcroft, McMahon, Groenendijk (Lomas, 18), Holden (Mike, 77); Sheron, Quinn. Substitute not used: Margetson (gk).
Oldham Athletic (4-4-2): Hallworth (Gerrard, 88); Fleming, Jobson, Redmond, Barlow (Adams, 88); Halle, Bernard, Milligan, Henry; Sharp, Beckford. Substitute not used: Ritchie.
Referee: J Borrett (Great Yarmouth).
Ian Pearce, the Chelsea defender, is set to join Blackburn Rovers. A fee of pounds 300,000 has been agreed.
Alan McDonald is back in Northern Ireland's squad to play Denmark next Wednesday after missing the last international through injury.
Northen Ireland squad,
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