Late agony for Rovers

September 13, 2017

In tricky conditions, it was Ellis Harrison who came closest to breaking the deadlock in the first half, as the combination of threatening crosses into the area from Byron Moore and good movement by the forward led to the striker having two decent chances on goal inside the opening forty-five minutes.

The second half was just three minutes old when Jack Byrne opened the scoring, connecting sweetly with a right-footed effort that flew into the top corner from twenty-five yards out, as the midfielder took full advantage of space and time in front of the Rovers defence.

The visitors doubled their lead with just twenty minutes remaining, as Craig Davies capped off a counter attack with a finish that squeezed between Adam Smith and the near post.

Rovers thought that they had completed a dramatic late comeback, as goals from Rory Gaffney and Ryan Sweeney looked to have rescued a point for the home side, but a late strike from Eoin Doyle meant that Oldham departed BS7 with all three points.

In the build-up to the contest, Manager Darrell Clarke surprised supporters with the inclusion of goalkeeper Adam Smith in the starting eleven, as the goalkeeper made a return from injury to replace the suspended Sam Slocombe.

There were three further changes, as Daniel Leadbitter, Tom Nichols and Byron Moore all returned to the starting eleven, as Joe Partington, Chris Lines and Rory Gaffney all dropped to the bench.

The visitors, on the other hand, made no changes, as John Sheridan stuck with the side that held Fleetwood to a 2-2 draw on Saturday.

During the opening exchanges, neither side amassed any opportunities on goal, with the first glimpse of a chance in the game falling to Adam Smith, as the Rovers ‘keeper launched a long clearance forward which was buoyed by the gusty conditions, as the clearance forced John Ruddy into making a goal line save to prevent the unlikeliest of opening goals.

As the opening ten minutes passed, Rovers saw more possession inside the visitors half. A teasing corner from the left by Byron Moore curled into the path of Ellis Harrison, with the striker opting to hit a first time effort that cleared the crossbar after the striker had negotiated a run inside the box to lose his marker.

It was the combination of Moore and Harrison that managed to carve an opening in the Oldham defence on the twenty minute mark, as Byron Moore directed a floating cross to the far post which found Ellis, but when attacking the ball the striker couldn’t connect cleanly with his finish, with John Ruddy quick off his line to pounce on the loose ball.

In the horrendous conditions, with the wind and rain swirling inside the Mem, the visitors managed to create a chance on goal as a rushed clearance from the Rovers defence allowed Jack Byrne to unleash a snapshot from the edge of the area that bounced across goal and harmlessly wide of Adam Smith’s goal.

It was down the right that Rovers enjoyed the most attacking success in the first-half, as Byron Moore continued to enjoy ventures deep into Oldham’s final third. The winger partnered his positional play down the right-wing with a number of threatening deliveries into the area, with one particular delivery, in particular, forcing Anthony Gerrard to head back to his own goal and into the grateful clutch of ‘keeper John Ruddy.

There were nervous moments before the break for Rovers, as rare exploit into the host’s box from Oldham allowed Eoin Doyle to fire a powerful delivery across the face of goal that was chased by Craig Davies, as the striker threw himself at the pass to apply a close-range finish, but the striker’s effort was deflected onto the crossbar by the combination of the backtracking duo of Daniel Leadbitter and ‘keeper Adam Smith, who just did enough to prevent the visitors from taking the lead as the half-time break loomed.

Following the break, with the wind behind them, the visitors managed to grab the opening goal of the game, as industrious midfielder Jack Byrne took advantage of space in front of the Rovers defence to produce a well-struck right-footed shot that moved through the air and flew into the top corner, with little Adam Smith could do to prevent Byrne’s shot from breaking the deadlock.

Rovers’ quest for an equaliser began from a set-piece, as Billy Bodin choose to attempt a placed finish from a free-kick just outside the Oldham penalty area. The forward’s set-piece took a heavy deflection from the Oldham wall, which diverted his effort off target and narrowly past the post.

Darrell Clarke opted to make a double change just after the hour mark, as Chris Lines and Rory Gaffney were introduced from the bench.

The home side continued to ask questions of the Oldham defence, who set up with a lot of bodies behind the ball. Following a sweeping period of build-up play that involved numerous interchanges around the Oldham box, a winding run from Billy Bodin drew in a number of defenders before a smart back heel found Tom Nichols, who attempted to curl and effort to the far post that forced John Ruddy into making a diving save to push the striker’s effort over the bar.

As full time approached and with Rovers committing more men forward in attack, Oldham mustered a break down the left that resulted in the ball reaching Craig Davies inside the area. The striker feigned a shot, before waiting for a clear sight on goal and managed to direct a driven shot that beat Adam Smith at the near post.

Moore, who had looked lively in the first-half, had a golden opportunity to reduce the deficit, as a cross from the right from full-back Daniel Leadbitter took a series of deflections before falling straight into the path of the winger. Opting to hit a powerful effort beyond Ruddy, Moore snatched at a first-time volley, that flashed wide of the target.

With seven minutes remaining, Rovers managed to find a way through the Oldham defence. Billy Bodin cut out a delightful pass into the path of Rory Gaffney, with the substitute making no mistake in beating Ruddy from close-range for his second goal in as many games.

Just minutes later Rovers managed to bring the game back level, with Chris Lines aiming a free-kick from wide out right into a congested area, with Ryan Sweeney rising to meet the delivery as the defender was able to get enough purchase on his header to beat Ruddy from close-range.

There was more drama yet to come unfortunately for Rovers, as the visitors once again found joy down the left, as goalscorer Davies produced a cross from deep that found Eoin Doyle, with the striker heading home via the crossbar to give the visitors a late victory.

Rovers: Adam Smith (GK), Daniel Leadbitter, Tom Lockyer (C), Ryan Sweeney, Liam Sercombe, Ollie Clarke (62′ Chris Lines), Byron Moore (74′ Dom Telford), Billy Bodin, Tom Nichols, Ellis Harrison (62′ Rory Gaffney).

Subs: Alexis Andre-Jr (GK), Tom Broadbent, Marc Bola, Joe Partington.

Oldham F.C: John Ruddy (GK), Anthony Gerrard, Dan Gardner, Craig Davies (90′ Aaron Holloway), Ryan McLaughlin, Eoin Doyle, George Edmundson, Peter Clarke (C), Gevaro Nepomuceno, Jack Byrne (78′ Ousmane Fane), Kean Bryan.

Subs: Jonny Placide (GK), Cameron Dummigan, Brian Wilson, Oliver Banks, Queensy Menig,

Referee: Brett Huxtable

Attendance: 7,908 (123 away)

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