Oldham Athletic 3 Bournemouth 3

Last updated : 31 January 2002 By Ross Coyne
What a sinking feeling that the Latics are giving. For another season the Latics are dreaming again of a play-off place (although more realistically this time) but sadly, it will be proven that we are not good enough to make it. And no game is better to highlight this than a 3-3 home draw vs Bournemouth. Absolutely superb when going forward, disgraceful and criminal when having to defend.

A side with the most goals scored in Division 2 (53) being matched by a team who hasn't won in 12 games and looks a good bet for the drop. This is, and was, a terrible waste of points that spells an end to the season which could be very gloomy. For several days before this match, I embarked on a mission to point out to"dreamers" that the current regime is not vastly different from what it was under Andy Ritchie.

The side is scoring, the side is leaking alarmingly, the side looks tactically unhinged at times and the side looks like losing a game just as easily as it could win it. Bournemouth certainly showed this and after the ending at Port Vale, Latics fans became extremely nervous and frightened whenever Bournemouth crept into our half. At present, the defence looks like the proverbial rabbit caught in the oncoming cars' headlights.

Against decent sides, this will spell the end of our season. For the last few weeks we have played nothing sides and picked up just 4 points from a possible 12. Luckily, the Latics only remain 2 points from 6th, however the rest of the season sees the Latics facing 7 out of the top 10, all of whom are chasing promotion too. On recent evidence, every one of them will have more determination to fill up the top 6 than we will.

Bournemouth never really put up a fight in the first 45 minutes and to be fair, should have been more than a goal down at the break. However, where the hosts attacking play was good and effective, the killer blows never came but for one courtesy of Cherries keeper, Gareth Stewart's error on 18minutes. Balmer, who'd missed an earlier chance, was given the whole goal to nod into when Stewart misjudged a John Sheridan free-kick. He duly obliged giving the blues the advantage they deserved. 1-0.

Within a few minutes the Latics should have been coasting as first Duxburysaw his pile-driver saved before Murray had an effort charged down. However,arguably the miss of the game fell Duxbury's way on the half hour mark. Armstrong, showing his prowess and reason for his price-tag from Bury, surged forward dragging defenders out of place. Beating all on his left-wing, he placed a superb ball into the box and Duxbury pulled off his marker to present himself with a completely free header at the back post. Amazingly for the skipper, he put a woeful header over the bar when hitting the target looked easier.

From this point, the first half petered out into a nothing contest only livened by a cheeky 40 yard free-kick from John Sheridan which cleared the bar. He'd spotted Stewart off his line as the defence was being marshalled, but Sheridan couldn't force the 2nd goal from another keeper error. As the players trudged in for a half-time, nobody expected the antics that were to follow.

Within minutes of the re-start, the tempo had risen considerably and Bournemouth had finally come alive. And on 53, their first break of the game came courtesy of a Eddie Howe header from a Cherries corner. As the ball looked to be going wide, a ricochet off Appleby's leg put the ball the ball past a helpless Rachubka. 1-1.

Within what seemed like seconds, the game continued to take it's full turnand as Balmer and Feeney chased a through ball, the Latics defender lost his man and hauled him to the floor. The referee consulted his linesman who signalled a penalty. Feeney, brushed himself down, stepped up and swept the ball home past the Latics keeper. 1-2.

And to complete a mad three minutes, it was literally seconds before yet another bizarre incident saw the ball end up in the back of the net. As Corazzin chased a right wing ball on 56, Karl Broadhurst attempted to clear the danger by passing back to Stewart from 16 yards. Unfortunately for Broadhurst, he hadn't banked on the keeper coming off his line and instead sent his pass to where he expected Stewart to have been. The ball slotted neatly into the far bottom corner of the net. 2-2.

The Latics needed that luck to steady their creaking defence, however from here on the boat never once looked settled. Up front though, David Eyres was looking increasingly dangerous and with the addition of Smart, now free from injury, the Latics looked ever threatening in the Bournemouth half. After 4 goals that had been scored through defensive errors, along came a goal full of class.

David Eyres' goal was worth the admission price in itself, as the Latics winger/striker foraged forward from 40 yards and beat everything in his way. First of all, the former Preston man passed two defenders as he made his way to the edge of Bournemouth's box. Then Smart cleverly created a gap for Eyres to run through as his run took away a marker and split the two men left to beat. Eyres pushed the ball into the gap and a stroke of luck carried the ball off the last defenders leg, presenting just the keeper to beat. Without fail, the man of the moment excellently smashed home a wonderful finish. A breathtaking goal. 3-2.

Had Eyres' goal been the winner, it would have been talked about for weeks to come. Unfortunately though, it wasn't and the Latics defence once again crumbled under minimal pressure. Bournemouth had come into the game now, but were a poor side that had been allowed to look more dangerous than they were. On 66, Bournemouth broke forward and Feeney, the only visiting player worth anything on the day, cut the ball back from the by-line to Richard Hughes. Berehall dived in, selling himself and allowing Hughes all the time needed to stick a low shot in past Rachubka. 3-3.

As the Latics pressed for a 4th and hopefully this time the winner, the Latics saw a ball in cleared, to which McNiven sent the ball back over the defence. Bournemouth chased out to catch several of the hosts offside but Eyres ran in from and onside position to meet the ball with just the keeper to beat. However, the ball bounced up too high and the Latics top scorer couldn't wrap his foot around it enough to stop his effort going over.

On74, Murray fed Smart whose blocked effort on the edge of the box fell to Eyres again and this time he hit the target, but Stewart claimed well. Although Bournemouth continually hit the Latics on the break, their strikeforce often looked toothless and it was the Latics who finished the match, looking like winners. On 80 and 82, a Corazzin hold back and a handball in the area could have heralded penalties and then at the death, Armstrong hit a superb 20 yard daisycutter for goal which skimmed an inch wide and Eyres saw a shot deflect out for a corner.

But the strikeforce of the Latics proved once again to be undone by the defence. Personally, it takes a lot to feel negative about the season and how the future will pan out, but on this display and several others recently, the Latics have proven one thing to me. In reality - we are just not good enough for the challenge ahead.

Trips to Reading, Bristol City and Huddersfield look massive with our presently out-of-form defence and having not beaten any of these promotion contenders at Boundary Park, it doesn't bode well for the visits of Tranmere, Cardiff, Stoke, QPR and Brighton. Fortunately though, the latter is to come at home very soon. Maybe then a decent performance might change my mind. As it is - we must improve now or face avery depressing finish to 2001/02.