Preview by Dom Bleackley
The Latics, who sit in 9th heading into the weekend, arrive in a good run of form which has seen them pick up three wins from their last four, the most impressive of the victories came at The ARMCO Arena, where they beat Solihull Moors 2-3. In his weekly update, White spoke glowingly about the relationship between Oldham and Dorking, and the magnitude of tomorrow’s fixture, “it’s incredible for our small town to be hosting an ex-Premier League club.”
A win tomorrow for Micky Mellon’s side could push them up into the play-off places, depending on results elsewhere. Meanwhile, a win for Wanderers could move them up by as much as five places in the league’s tight standings. “I don’t think there’s a lot between the two teams on the field; but the legacies of the clubs are a distance apart. We’re all out for the three points” stated the Wanderers boss in his update earlier today.
“We were brilliant at Boundary Park earlier in the season. We deserved the three points and are looking to build on that tomorrow.”
Oxford City (A) Recap
Marc White’s men started the year with a vital 1-2 win at Oxford City on Monday, avenging their loss to Ross Jenkins’ on Boxing Day. Post-match, the Wanderers boss stated his side showed “an awful lot of class and tenacity” to get over the line at the RAW Charging Stadium, the win, which was their first in five league outings, moved Dorking into 19th, above Woking.
“Under severe pressure, we always perform.”
Were the words Marc White hammered home when speaking about the Monday’s crucial victory. Defeat at RAW Charging Stadium would have seen City move above Dorking, leaving Wanderers in the drop zone.
Niall McManus’ first goal of the season, followed by Bowerman’s second goal in three appearances, left Dorking in the driving seat against The Hoops with ten minutes to play, a late Ollie Sanderson goal denied Harrison Male of a clean sheet, on an afternoon where the Wanderers shot stopper was in inspired form.
The pinnacle of Male’s highlight reel from the match came just after the restart, as he clawed away Nya Kirby’s effort which looked destined to open the scoring. McManus went on to put Wanderers in the lead, not long after being introduced from the bench, a good run from Josh Taylor preceded his lay-off to the substitute, who swept home to open his account for the campaign.
Male went on to smartly deny Sanderson in a one-on-one and then marvellously palmed away Seydil Toure’s header to keep Dorking in the ascendancy. Dorking’s second was crafted via Bobby-Joe Taylor, who replaced Matt Briggs on the right-hand-side. After squaring up his man, the full-back delivered a fierce cross across the box which the City keeper, Jack Bycroft was unable to claim, leading to Bowerman tapping home the rebound in front of the Wanderers faithful.
“I thought we defended brilliantly, Male was exceptional”, said White post-match, who may be disappointed his side didn’t register the clean sheet their performance deserved. City’s goal back came with virtually the last kick of the game, Sanderson this time getting the better of Male, after reacting quickest to knock in a rebound, denying Wanderers their first away clean sheet in over three months.
The most prominent news from the week is the injury of James McShane, as revealed by a scan, he has suffered an ACL injury following his awkward fall on Boxing Day, and will require surgery. Speaking on the news, White stated, “it’s massive, he’s been here for 7-8 years and is a massive part of the club.”
On a more positive note, the Wanderers boss stated Jason Prior will return to the side tomorrow, following his calf injury on Boxing Day. Barry Fuller and Harry Ottaway, meanwhile, are “50/50”.
White stated in his weekly update that George Francomb, Jimmy Muitt and Callum Kennedy are not fit and won’t feature tomorrow.
Opposition Focus – The Latics
Back to back wins over Hartlepool United over the festive period left Oldham in a healthy league position heading into the New Year. Since taking charge of The Latics in mid-October, Mellon has overseen a dramatic upturn in form; eight wins, two draws and four losses leave The Latics in sight of the play-off places. Contextually, Athletic sat in 22nd place when Mellon took charge.
After watching his side beat Hartlepool for the second time in four days, Mellon insisted there is still “plenty of work to do” as his side look to push for the play-off places. Goals from Josh Stones and Mike Fondop-Talum earned Athletic the win against a Pools side which now sit one place above Dorking on goal difference.
Tomorrow will be Mellon’s first encounter with White, after replacing David Unsworth earlier in the season following a winless run of seven games, and last season’s 12th place finish in their first campaign back in the fifth tier.
Oldham this week announced the loan signing of winger Ethan Walker from Blackburn Rovers, the 21-year-old could make his Latics debut at Meadowbank tomorrow.
Josh Lundstram, who won Player of the Year in all three categories (supporters, players and manager) for Altrincham last season, has impressed in midfield since signing for The Latics in June.
James Norwood, who started his professional at Eastbourne Town, is Athletic’s top scorer this campaign with 14 goals in 25 appearances. The prolific striker arrived from Barnsley in the summer, where he was part of the team which reached the play-off final. Norwood also played League One football at Ipswich Town for three years, prior to his move to Barnsley. The 30-year-old’s EFL pedigree spans across many years, and divisions, he won EFL League Two’s Player of the Year in 2018/19 with Tranmere Rovers; winning the golden boot in the same season.
Last Time We Met
Oldham recorded their first away win of the season at Meadowbank last campaign with a 1-5 mauling over Wanderers. It will almost be exactly a year to the day since Athletic’s last visit to Meadowbank – last year’s defeat was on 7th January. James McShane opened the scoring inside eight minutes, before Mike Fondop-Talom went on to score two in the following half an hour. Peter Clarke made it three in stoppage time of the first half, before Fondop-Talom grabbed his hat-trick with a solo effort just shy of the hour mark, ten minutes later Ellis Chapman capitalised on a defensive mistake to make it five.
The win moved Oldham out of the relegation zone, and six points off Dorking who sat in 16th at the time.