Ruthless Johnson’s message to team: NO MERCY

Date published: 24 April 2014

OLDHAM Athletic will have one thing on their minds when heading to Brunton Park this weekend: hammering one of the final nails in Carlisle’s relegation coffin.

Three points adrift of the safety line in Sky Bet League One and with the worst goal difference in the division, only a win will do for the Cumbrians on Saturday if they are to realistically stand a chance of clambering to safety.

Athletic boss Lee Johnson accepts this fixture is one his opposite number Graham Kavanagh will have circled as a potential three-pointer — particularly bearing in mind their next two games are away to Crawley on Tuesday and then champions Wolves on the final day of the season.

“Everybody targets Oldham,” Johnson told the Chronicle. “We have got to be ruthless. We have to go and relegate someone — and we can pretty much do that on Saturday. Without being heartless, that is our task.”

Carlisle is Athletic’s final away trip of the season, with only home games against Sheffield United on Tuesday and relegation-threatened Notts County on May 3 still to come.

Currently five points clear of the bottom four, Athletic could well be mathematically safe by the time they board the coach back from Carlisle, even if they lose.

Johnson could opt to shuffle his pack for the game. He has named six unchanged starting line-ups in succession, but has suggested fielding the same side against Coventry as played Colchester three days earlier might have been a mistake.

He is likely to maintain the 4-1-4-1 formation which has resulted in five successive away matches without defeat — a current run matched only by champions Wolves in League One — but winger James Dayton could step in from the start on the left wing in place of Gary Harkins, who was replaced at half-time in the goalless draw on Bank Holiday Monday.

Now-fit midfielder Joel Byrom could also get a chance to start, while Charlie MacDonald is another pushing hard for inclusion.