It's not often that a team managed by Paul Dickov puts in a performance doesn't meet the required standard for endeavour but when it happens, it's worth paying attention because you can usually be guaranteed a response in the next game.
Dickov has only been a manager for 29 months and he's only ever managed Oldham, but the sample - both in terms of time served and player turnover - is ample enough to make some cast-iron assumptions about dressing room behaviour, the main one in this instance being that the Latics look value to beat high-flying Tranmere at 17/10 on Saturday.
The Lancashire outfit went down 2-1 at home to local rivals Bury in midweek, complacency perhaps being a contributory factor on the back of a seven-match unbeaten run. In Dickov's own words: "They started the game brighter than us, they played with more energy. The standards we've set, with or without the ball, weren't there, esepcially in the first half."
The Latics did almost undo the damage of the opening 45 minutes, putting the lowly Shakers under the cosh after the break, during which time they had fair claims for a penalty waved away before Kevin Blackwell's men were awarded one at the other end to seal the points four minutes from time.
So that lacklustre first half proved costly and we should expect Dickov emphasise the debt to his players against Rovers, not that complacency should be an issue against the league leaders, while the home supporters will no doubt add an extra layer of importance to the contest with Ronnie Moore returning to the ground where he spent his unhappiest year in management.
The Merseysiders returned to the summit on Wednesday with victory over rock-bottom Hartlepool, doubling Oldham's tally of 17 points with a third of the season gone. So it might sound silly to suggest there's not a great deal between these two teams but that's the way we see it, once the early-season randomness has been accounted for.
Rovers started the season with 30 points from their first 12 matches and it could be many, many years until they ever complete a sequence like that again. However, they were distinctly second-best in three successive matches prior to the trip to Victoria Park and we see steady regression in the weeks and months to come.
Only two points separated the two clubs last term and while it's obvious that Moore has pulled a couple of rabbits out of the hat in Jake Cassidy and James Wallace, Dickov too has landed a couple of potential game-changers in Cristian Montaño and Jose Baxter, who Tranmere know well. Both sides have improved, but only at Tranmere have those improvements been recognised and, therefore, the value is with Oldham.
Meanwhile, Sheffield United continue to go about their business in a mourning, machine-like manner, channelling all of the hurt from last season's double promotion setback into a merciless tactical stranglehold on any team who cares to show a sense of creative ambition. As such, we think they will be too strong for MK Dons to overpower.
We've laboured the point repeatedly about the Dons and how they lack a certain cutting edge against the bigger teams under Karl Robinson. Ryan Lowe has been brought in to change all that and he proved to be the difference against Leyton Orient in midweek, but these are the games on which he, and Milton Keynes, will be judged.
The Blades withstood a barrage from Swindon in midweek and came away with a goalless draw, made all the more impressive by the fact it came just three days after Paolo Di Canio read the riot act to his players after their embarrassing FA Cup defeat to Macclesfield. Danny Wilson's clearly have the measure of this division, so back Sheffield United (+0.25) on the Asian handicap at a fraction short of even money.
2pts Sheff Utd (+0.25) to beat MK Dons on the handicap at 49/50
Unbeaten Blades have the measure of this division and Dons lack the necessary bite.
2pts Oldham to beat Tranmere at 17/10 (Ladbrokes)
Latics were below par in midweek but we can trust Paul Dickov to trigger a response.
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