It had been a strangely empty December for Paul Dickov’s Oldham, who failed to make a single appearance in Npower League One.
Ever since the derby draw against Rochdale on November 27 that had continued their recent unbeaten run, the side had see game after game fall foul of the bitter weather in Lancashire as well as on their travels.
A return to the fold against Hartlepool United on New Year’s Day was likely to see one of two reactions. Either Oldham would benefit from the five-week rest or they would lack the sharpness that only comes with constant match practice. It initially appeared that the former would be the course of action that would see them halt the ‘Pool’s three-game winning run.
Dale Stephens swept home a right-footed effort inside twenty minutes to give the impression that Dickov’s side would pick up where they left off.
The rust soon became apparent, however, as four goals turned the tide in what was actually a tight encounter. Jean-Yves M’Voto handled in the area and Neil Austin converted the penalty to peg back Oldham less than ten minutes after they had taken the lead.
The sucker punch arrived on the stroke of half-time as the Victoria Road outfit took the lead for the first time. Peter Hartley was on target with a volley that would swing the match in the home side’s favour.
Subsequent second-half strikes from Ritchie Humphreys and Antony Sweeney killed off any hopes of a successful start to 2011. All Oldham could muster was a consolation through M’Voto as the defender atoned for his earlier error with a looping header that went in off the underside of the crossbar.
A first league defeat since October was not the manner in which Dickov intended to start the New Year, but he will be hoping to get underway and the promotion push back on track starting with the visit of local rivals Rochdale in their next fixture.
Disclaimer: The views in this article are that of the writer and may not replicate those of the Professional Footballers' Association.