Date: 13th August 2016 at 7:54pm
Written by: @adamguestwfc

The Saddlers opened their away campaign with a point and a clean sheet on a typically dull trip to Boundary Park, to face an Oldham who beat us in the corresponding fixture last season. Franck Moussa and Liam Kinsella were drafted in to Jon Whitney`s line up in place of Kieron Morris and injured skipper Adam Chambers with the returning James O`Connor, in place of Matt Preston, taking the armband.

It would be fair to describe the first half as scrappy, with neither side really able to get a grip on proceedings, although it was a significantly improved performance on the diabolical showing we turned in against Yeovil in midweek. We looked tight defensively, whilst Moussa, Kinsella and Isaiah Osbourne were winning the midfield battle. In attack there was still a frightening lack of creativity, resulting in the highlights of the half being Amadou Bakayoko clapping along to his own chant whilst warming up (to the tune of ‘Agadoo`, one of our better efforts), before Rico Henry got stretchered off after dislocating his shoulder when he landed awkwardly when heading a free kick away. Preston came on in his place with James McCarthy shuffling across to left back. We handled the reshuffle well and looked set to get to half time goalless, although Neil Etheridge did his best to scupper that by deciding the best way to deal with a back pass whilst being closed down was to try and chip the ball over the strikers head, rather than just clearing the bloody thing.

Half time saw Andreas Makris introduced for his first league appearance, in place of Ehrun Oztumer who had also taken a rather hefty whack early in the first half. It resulted in our best spell of the game, with first Simeon Jackson forcing a routine stop from Connor Ripley in the home goal, before Makris pulled another smart save from the Latics stopper. Down the other end, Etheridge went from the ridiculous back to the sublime with a terrific double save for the second game in a row, saving first from Ryan Flynn and then recovering superbly to block the Lee Erwin`s follow up effort.

Both sides huffed and puffed in search of a winner but none was forthcoming, and that was fair enough. I think Oldham are slightly better than they were last season, meaning our improved result on last season`s fixture can only be a positive. We handled the enforced change in shape well, with McCarthy putting in an excellent performance as an auxiliary left back, however the lack of a left footer anywhere on the pitch for the entire second half did give the side a lop sided feel. That said, a point and a clean sheet away from home is never a bad result, although the lack of creativity clearly needs addressing. Still, a point gained rather than two dropped, and a similar result on Tuesday night will be equally welcome. Onwards and upwards.


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