Three days after Oldham’s League One success against Portsmouth saw the continuation of the Latics’ FA Cup adventure. Having knocked out Liverpool FC in the fourth round, Athletic had salvaged a replay out of their fifth round clash against the blue half of Merseyside, Everton FC, when Matt Smith headed home a 95th minute equalizer in an exciting 2-2 draw at Boundary Park. For Oldham it was a return to Goodison Park where they had achieved a famous 1-0 win over their hosts in the 2007-08 season and hopes were high amongst the Latics faithful that a repeat was on the cards.
I met up with the guys from the “Two Teams One Spirit” group once again as it was thanks to them that I had the opportunity to go to the game in the first place. We met in the Taxi Drivers’ Club on Walton Hall Avenue, just a brisk 5-10 minute walk from the stadium, and a decent proportion of the 4,000 travelling support had already congregated there for a pre-match pint or two. At 7:45 we took our seats in the Bullens Road End and the travelling support were in good voice right from the off but it wouldn’t be long before all of the pre-match optimism would suddenly disappear.
Fifteen minutes was all it took for Everton to take the lead, a Darron Gibson cross from midfield was taken from close range by an unmarked Kevin Mirallas on the half volley. The closest Oldham would come to scoring in the first half was when Jose Baxter, a former Everton player, was unfortunate to hit the post, a miss which would be punished on the 34th minute mark. A handball from Connor Brown saw a penalty given to the hosts for whom Leighton Baines made it 2-0 and already there was a big mountain to climb for the visitors. It was hard to take for Oldham to concede a goal from the penalty spot, especially as they had a strong case for a penalty of their own turned down following a handball by Gibson following the aforementioned Baxter opportunity.
At half-time most of us talking over a quick beer in the stand agreed that the next goal would be crucial; if Everton scored it would be game over but an Oldham goal would bring back some hope. Unfortunately for Oldham it would be the former that would ring true as Leon Osman got a crucial touch onto a Steven Pienaar cross to make it 3-0 and put the game to bed. There was at least a consolation goal for Oldham fans to cheer as Matt Smith, who had scored some crucial goals in the cup run, rose highest to meet Jonathan Grounds’ corner kick to reduce the arrears just after the hour mark. However, that would be as good as it got for Oldham with the game finishing 3-1. After the game there was only enough time for me to wish the Oldham boys, whether they be English or German, a good trip back as they boarded the coaches lined up outside the stadium whilst yours truly took a short cab ride home with some very good memories from the last few days.
On the pitch Everton are looking to qualify for Europe, either through a sufficiently high Premier League placing (currently lying in 6th place) or by winning the FA Cup for the first time since 1995. Oldham, on the other hand, will now hope to maintain their place in English football’s third tier as they currently lie 20th in the 24 team league.
Saturday, 23rd February: a trip to the northern English town of Oldham had been on the cards for a while. The trip not only coincided with a fine run in the FA Cup for the local team of Oldham Athletic but also with the 30th anniversary of a friendship between fans of the Latics and of German Bundesliga side Eintracht Frankfurt. Although hailing from Liverpool, yours truly is also a fan of Eintracht and have met up on a few occasions with the Eintracht fan group “EFC 11-er Freunde”, about whom I have previously written about regarding trips to Frankfurt, Nuremberg and Dortmund. In Oldham I was helping to commemorate another friendship called “Two Teams One Spirit”, a collection of Oldham fanatics and the Eintracht fan clubs of “Rhönadler” and “Bockenheim”, all of whom I originally met on my away day to Dortmund at the end of the 2010-11 season.
Following an early morning train ride from Liverpool Lime Street to Manchester Victoria followed by a tram ride to Oldham Mumps, the day was still only twelve hours old and with plenty of time left for beer and football events started early in a pub called the Rifle Range. In there the German guys were selling T-shirts commemorating the 30 year friendship between the two sets of fans for £17.50 (20 Euro) so naturally I parted with the necessary money to own one. Oldham’s opponents on the day were Portsmouth FC, a club who had only been in the Premier League as recently as the 2009-10 season but were now rock bottom of the third-tier “League One”. Their most famous supporter, a man called John Westwood, stood out like a sore thumb in his usual matchday regalia of big hat, chequered blue and white clothes and all over body tattoos. One of the locals, Pete, had written to him personally and invited him to the pub before the game and whilst there a German called Bernhard had brought over a copy of the football magazine “11 Freunde” (no relation to the Eintracht fan club mentioned earlier) in which “Mr Portsmouth” himself featured in an article and was only too happy to sign the magazine.
Before long it was time to go to Boundary Park, the home of the Latics, where we arrived with just minutes to spare before kick-off. After downing a pre-match beer we took our seats in the Rochdale Road End and saw a great strike from 25 yards out by Jose Baxter give Oldham the lead after just ten minutes. Sadly, though, the rest of the game was far from a classic with very few clear cut chances for either side. Oldham carved out a couple of decent efforts and the three points gained from the 1-0 win meant that they had won the last three league games in a row, a run which would help them in their fight against relegation. Portsmouth, on the other hand, were dreadful and I personally feel sorry to see the club suffering its current plight. With ownership issues, administration and issues of massive debt the last few years have really taken its toll on Portsmouth Football Club. To make matters worse on the pitch Sam Sodje was sent off after 50 minutes for violent conduct, his reaction to the red card as disagreeable as eating red cabbage after a skinful of beer on a Saturday night.
Following the game there was still plenty of time to enjoy a beer at the Oldham club bar in the Main Stand, with fans mutually exchanging Oldham and Frankfurt songs, before a short bus trip to the Bluebell Inn where Oldham’s match winner Baxter joined the current caretaker manager Tony Philliskirk in a question-and-answer session. One of the fans asked Philliskirk if a friendly match between Oldham and Frankfurt could be arranged in the near future. Needless to say if such a fixture does occur then expect to read about it here. Watch this space………