Preview: Oldham Athletic

A much-needed win against Colchester United at the Ricoh Arena on Saturday has got Coventry City right on the verge of securing safety after a long and difficult season. Normally 50 points at this stage of the season would be enough to start mixing the Pina Coladas and planning for next season, however in this crazy division someone may well go down with as many as 53 points.

This upcoming home game against Oldham Athletic is a must win game for us to put relegation fears to bed. With the remaining fixtures after this an away trip to Bristol City for their promotion party, a home game against our bogey team Crewe and an away trip to a resurgent Crawley Town side, we would be well-advised to go for all three points here.

Villains against Worcester in November, Reda Johnson and Lee Burge played a massive part in a vital win on Saturday.
Villains against Worcester in November, Reda Johnson and Lee Burge played a massive part in a vital win on Saturday.

After missing several guilt-edged chances in the second-half against Colchester, we may feel that the 1-0 scoreline did not quite reflect our dominance of the proceedings. However it was reflective of a team still neurotic about playing at home, particularly during the period after the interval where we seemed intent on allowing Colchester a chance to take at least a point from the game. Still, the win was all that mattered and hopefully begins a process of finally putting together some strong form at home.

The return of Reda Johnson was a reminder both of the quality that the powerful centre-back has and also just how much we had missed him during his lengthy injury absences. Whilst the reckless way in which he attempts to win the ball leaves that worry that anyone with pace could exploit the space he leaves in behind, the dominance he offered in the air cut off Colchester’s main attacking threat of target-man centre-forward Chris Porter.

With the recent injury through over-exertion that Marcus Tudgay suffered still on Tony Mowbray’s mind, Johnson could be rested for this meeting with Oldham Athletic as a precaution. Given how important recording back-to-back victories is right now, Mowbray might prefer to play Johnson in this game and rest him for the ‘free hit’ game we have against Bristol City.

Otherwise, it will be the exact same squad available to Mowbray as he had against Colchester. James Maddison’s impressive cameo at the weekend could see him earn a starting spot but it seems like the manager prefers to hold players back a little to make them hungrier for first-team action. Whilst it seems Mowbray is concerned about fatigue with this team, I would be surprised to see any major changes from Saturday’s starting 11.

Possible Line-Up: (4-4-2) Burge; Willis, Pennington, Johnson, Stokes; Barton, Ward, Fleck, O’Brien; Proschwitz, Nouble.

Last Time We Met

Oldham inflicted upon us one of our most miserable defeats on us this season the last time we played them. Without a win in six, the Steven Pressley’s Sky Blues travelled to Oldham more in hope than expectation, as evidenced by the experimental choice of James Maddison and Shaun Miller in attack. In the event, play-off chasing Oldham ran riot against a demoralised Coventry City team, capitalising on sloppy errors to run four goals past the hapless Ryan Allsop in goal. The only positive thing to come from the game was James Maddison’s first goal for Coventry City from a deflected free-kick.

How Are They Doing?

Under Lee Johnson, Oldham looked like dark horses for the play-offs for much of the first half of the season. Their campaign never really recovered from back-to-back heavy defeats to Yeovil (4-0) and MK ‘Dons’ (7-0). That lost sense of direction probably played a part in Lee Johnson’s eventual departure from the club at the end of February to Barnsley. Oldham are waiting until the summer to appoint a new manager, rumoured to be Uwe Rosler, and caretaker manager Dean Holden is currently keeping the seat warm.

With their season in a state of stagnation, Oldham are without a win in four. That poor run though obscures creditable draws taken against Bristol City and Sheffield United in recent weeks. With nothing to play for, Holden has opted to stop starting his loan players and instead test some of the club’s younger players at first-team level. Goalkeeper Joel Coleman has made a solid step up in recent weeks alongside forward Rhys Turner who scored a brace in a 3-0 win over local rivals Rochdale.

Dominic Poleon's pace could make him the perfect player to help Oldham to a typical 'smash and grab' at the Ricoh Arena.
Dominic Poleon’s pace could make him the perfect player to help Oldham to a typical ‘smash and grab’ at the Ricoh Arena.

Oldham raced to a two-goal lead on Saturday against Sheffield United and were unlucky not to see out the win. The scorer of Oldham’s two goals was ex-Leeds forward Dominic Poleon. Signed as a replacement for Singers’ Corner’s favourite striker Jonson Clarke-Harris, Dominic Poleon has been a major disappointment for much of the season. However, those two goals on Saturday were endemic of an improvement in performance levels and his pace will be a major threat for our defence to deal with.

The quality that Oldham have in midfield could see them edge this contest. Sitting in front of the defence, Liam Kelly has a range of passing that has seen him dominate midfields at this level all season and he is someone with the intelligence to pick holes in our back-line. In front of him will be the dynamic Mike Jones and Carl Winchester. Jones is a converted winger who covers a lot of ground in the centre of the pitch and can glide past players in the final third. Carl Winchester is more prosaic but has the potential to score some stunning goals from long-range.

Possible Line-Up: (4-3-1-2) Coleman; Brown, Wilson, Lockwood, Mills; Jones, Kelly, Winchester; Philliskirk; Poleon, Turner.


This time of the season often sees fans of clubs fighting at either end of the table talk about how games against teams ‘with nothing to play for’ are the easiest ones. Recent results against sides chasing the promotion spots have shown that Oldham are far from being ‘on the beach’ with caretaker manager Dean Holden desperate to stake a claim for the permanent position.

Crawley’s recent win over Oldham though showed that if we can get off to a quick start and score some early goals, perhaps Oldham will be less inclined to fight back. This game is all about us taking the initiative and showing how much we want to win this game. From the sounds of what the players and manager have been saying in the lead up to this game, they want to seize this chance to take all three points and I think we should have the edge here. 2-0 win for the Sky Blues.

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