Football; Wright has hand in quick kill

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Arsenal. . . . . .2

Oldham Athletic. .0

TWO GOALS in the first half gave Arsenal their second victory of the week. At one stage last night's game at Highbury threatened to become a rout, but it ended as altogether a more modest affair.

Arsenal had begun at a ferocious pace, pumping balls forward from deep or tearing through the middle of the pitch. Jon Hallworth had to race out of his area to head Lee Dixon's punt away and Mike Milligan just managed to deflect Paul Merson's free-kick wide of his own goal.

After a quarter of an hour Oldham might have thought they had weathered the storm. Ian Wright had pulled an inviting chance across the face of goal and Hallworth had denied Merson with a diving save.

Arsenal, it transpired, were only recharging their batteries. In the 25th minute Ray Parlour was brought down by Neil Pointon on the edge of the Oldham area. David Hillier rolled the free-kick across to Nigel Winterburn, who hit a low shot in off a post.

Merson and Stephen Morrow (in for the internationally engaged John Jensen) both spurned chances before Kevin Campbell powered through Ian Marshall's uncertain challenge on the edge of the box and saw his shot, blocked by Hallworth, bounce up for Wright to head Arsenal's second.

Arsenal finished the half rampant, with Parlour and Wright both going close. In the face of the onslaught, Pointon and Steve Redmond both lost their composure and were booked.

A two-goal lead at half-time might have seemed a happy position. But Arsenal had been 2-0 up against Norwich on the opening day of the season and had lost 2-4. Oldham probably recalled this fact in the dressing-room; Arsenal almost certainly did.

After the restart the Gunners nervously surrendered the initiative to Oldham. Paul Bernard shot narrowly over from an Ian Marshall cross, and the oddly hesitant David Seaman nearly let Gunnar Halle's soft touch dribble through his legs. Later, however, Seaman saved excellently from Redmond's volley.

The Arsenal manager, George Graham, said of the second half: 'We're just functioning in little spells at the moment.'

Arsenal: Seaman; Dixon, Winterburn, Hillier, Bould, Adams, Parlour, Wright (Smith, 79), Campbell, Merson (Pates, 77), Morrow. Substitute not used: Miller (gk).

Oldham Athletic: Hallworth; Redmond, Pointon, Henry (Olney, 60), Jobson, Marshall, Halle, Bernard, Sharp, Milligan, Adams. Substitutes not used: Palmer, Keeley (gk).

Referee: R Milford (Bristol).