Lethal Matt’s a real big-hitter

Reporter: Matthew Chambers
Date published: 25 April 2013

PLENTY of Athletic fans will still have the legacy of his finest moments stored away on their television planners.

An FA Cup replay at Goodison Park, the first contest with Everton at a bouncing Boundary Park, the Liverpool tie that propelled him to the forefront of the national sporting consciousness...

To get to the stage where four goals against Premier League opposition earned Athletic a fortune, Smith had given a strong indication of his ability.

There will be Championship clubs willing to take a punt on the former Redditch, Droylsden and Solihull Moors amateur – just as there is no doubt Lee Johnson wants to nail him down to a contract extension at Boundary Park.

Whatever the giant striker decides to do, his goal scoring in opposing penalty areas will be remembered not just for making Oldham Athletic famous to a world TV audience in the FA Cup, but also for keeping the club’s League One status intact.

Here we reflect on his finest scoring moments of 2012-13:

BOOM! – Sheffield United 1, Athletic 1 (Smith, 90).

What is better than an equaliser in the seventh minute of added time? The jury is still out on whether Smith initially motioned to head Jose Baxter’s dipping left-wing cross, but in sticking out a right foot to slot the ball home low on the volley Smith was decisive enough to earn his team a deserved point.

BOOM! – Athletic 3 (Smith 3, 45), Liverpool 2.

Sebastian Coates, the Uruguayan bought for £7million by Liverpool two years ago, hasn’t played for Liverpool since the day he was mercilessly bullied by Smith. In his leap over the top of the centre-back to open the scoring after three minutes, the tone was set for an unforgettable evening. A tap-in followed just before half-time and Athletic were on their way to giant-killing glory.

BOOM! – Bury 0, Athletic 1 (Smith 79).

Hundreds of Athletic supporters were denied entry to Gigg Lane as a result of a stunning lack of foresight and the game itself was barely worth watching... except for one moment of inspiration that confirmed Bury’s relegation while bolstering Athletic’s survival hopes. Kirk Millar put a cross in exactly where Smith wanted it to charge in and meet the ball solidly with his head. Three points were in the bag.

BOOM! – Athletic 1 (Smith 45), Yeovil 0.

THE fixture brought huge media attention as father and son did battle on the touchline. This time a header from Lee Croft’s corner did the damage, putting Smith into double figures for the season. Not a bad record, considering he has only started 17 times.

BOOM! – Athletic 2 (Smith 56), Crawley 1.

Smith’s third goal three games was an oddity – from his left foot. It seemed to take an age for him to wind up to shoot just outside the area, but the shot was true and firm into the bottom corner. Athletic needed a point to stay up; Smith’s strike brought the club relief all round.