Latics back to winning ways
Reporter: MATTHEW CHAMBERS
Date online: 09 October 2013
Preston 0, Athletic 2
TWO goals, which put the tie to bed before it was 10 minutes old; a clean sheet despite ending the game with a rag-tag defensive line-up, and an exorcising of the Deepdale trauma of a month ago.
All in all, this was a pretty successful night for Athletic.
This competition may be ‘only’ the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, but had this performance not produced such a result, it could have been seen as evidence of deeper damage in the side.
But fears were averted thanks to Danny Philliskirk’s opening goal after only 15 seconds - and James Wesolowski’s superb strike a few minutes later.
In between, busy North End ’keeper Thorsten Stuckmann was forced into a diving save from Joseph Mills’ raking shot and a smart low stop from Sidney Schmeltz.
After 11 minutes it was nearly 3-0. Stuckmann – one of nine changes made by Preston - let a back pass slide under his studs and had to race back to save his own embarrassment by hacking off the goal line.
This first half blitz by Oldham was followed by stout second-half defending (and woeful finishing from the home team as bodies were thrown forward).
From Athletic’s kick-off, Mills charged down the left before losing control.
A poor back-pass was then latched on to by Adam Rooney and though his cross was slightly behind Philliskirk, he got just enough on the ball to wrong-foot Stuckmann and divert it in at the near post.
If that was an opening to savour for the fantastic following of 827 from Oldham, better was to come.
Wesolowski charged forward on the break, fed James Dayton on the right flank and continued his race into the box. The ball was returned to the Aussie’s path and he smashed a first-time drive high into the top corner before racing away to celebrate a first goal in 57 Athletic appearances.
The in-form midfielder, whose partnership with similarly energetic captain Korey Smith is starting to
seriously impress, couldn’t have finished more emphatically.
“Can we play you every week?” was the cry from Athletic’s fans.
Preston recovered slightly after that, but Athletic’s main concern as half-time approached was the condition of James Tarkowski. Ill during the week, he retired to be replaced by David Mellor for the start of the second half.
By full-time, Athletic’s defence was a sight to behold. Glenn Belezika was at right-back, there were two converted centre-backs in place in Mellor and the excellent Jonathan Grounds, and Cristian Montano even spent the last few minutes as a left-back after Mills’ sore calf played up.
Preston hit Oldham with everything it had, but the makeshift back line stood tall.
The Johnstone’s Paint Trophy is starting to look less a distraction and more a major opportunity.
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