There were two very discernible moments in the game against Bury at the weekend. The pendulum swung first in favour of Oldham having a real crack at the playoffs and, then swung back to display to everyone assembled that it was not going to happen this year barring a miracle.
Latics have been guilty of starting games far too late and finishing far too early. It has led to us chasing a game after going behind in the early stages and losing out by not concentrating for the full 90 minutes and letting in late goals.
On Saturday, Latics seemed to have banished the slow start spectre which has haunted their play and, set off at a furious pace which obviously caught the home team off guard. It paid off just 8 minutes into the game when Callum Lang slid in to prod home an excellent cross from Jose Baxter.
That wasn’t the moment when we looked like playoff contenders, however, because despite being ahead we had faced some intense pressure from Bury who in second place in the table, do not surrender so easily at home. With Baxter bossing midfield and Iversen pulling out all the stops in goal as usual, when the half time whistle went, there were many who believed that we had perhaps turned the corner after two poor games against Crewe and Morecambe and were going to give Bury the same sort of treatment that they received in December at Boundary Park.
Nevertheless, despite maintaining the lead until the 70-minute mark, Latics tired and succumbed to two sucker punches within four minutes. Baxter was not the playmaker he had been in the first period and several other players appeared to be affected by this. To the untrained eye, Oldham’s tactics in the second half appeared to be to sit back, give the ball away and hope that Bury wasn’t going to take advantage of the situation.
A team who are currently top of the League Two form table over the last 12 games did not get there by letting slip, the chances handed to them however and it wasn’t long before Latics were staring down the barrel of defeat. At 2-1 down, Latics might well have rallied to at least earned a draw but, that late lack of concentration arrived again for the third game in a row as Edmundsen, Lang and Iversen watched each other instead of the ball and Maynard nipped in for his second, and Bury’s third.
It was at this point that any hopes of participating in the playoffs disappeared. Scholes must now concentrate on building the side he is hoping will challenge for promotion next season, and ironing out the mistakes which have dogged this campaign. If there is anybody used to playing for the full 90 minutes and possibly an additional 5 or 6 in added time it must be Paul Scholes. He should remind his players of what often happened in ‘Fergie Time!’.