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First team

Media View: Expert insight on Oldham

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AFC Bournemouth AFC Bournemouth

AFC Bournemouth will be hoping to progress in the FA Cup when they face League Two outfit Oldham Athletic in the third round on Saturday (3pm kick-off).

Latics have a rich tradition in the competition having reached the semi-finals three times, twice under legendary manager Joe Royle in the early 1990s.

Illustrious neighbours Manchester United knocked them out after replays in 1990 and 1994, the Red Devils going on to win the cup on both occasions.

Founder members of the Premier League in 1992/93, Oldham lost their top-flight status in 1994 but have continued to cause upsets in the FA Cup.

As a League One club, they eliminated Manchester City in the third round in 2004/05 and Liverpool in the fourth round in 2012/13.

And despite dropping into League Two in 2018/19, they claimed another Premier League scalp in the shape of Fulham, triumphing 2-1 at Craven Cottage in the third round when Cherries striker Sam Surridge netted a penalty for the visitors during a loan spell at Boundary Park.

The Cherries and Oldham have met once in the FA Cup with Ian Allen’s goal settling a second-round clash in favour of the hosts at Dean Court in December 1954. Holders West Brom knocked out Jack Bruton’s team in the next round.

Ahead of the clash, afcb.co.uk caught up with Tony Bugby who covers the fortunes of Oldham as sports editor of the Saddleworth Independent.

OLDHAM ATHLETIC IN PROFILE

Head coach: Harry Kewell (August 2020)

Club captain: Carl Piergianni (pictured above)

Last game: Grimsby Town 0-0 Oldham Athletic (League Two)

Leading goalscorer 2020/21: Conor McAleny (13 in all competitions)

League position: 14th

Past six league results: WWLWLD

afcb.co.uk: How has the season gone so far for Oldham?

TB: It’s been quite a challenging season. Harry Kewell took over a month before the season started and assembled a completely new team.

They only picked up a point from their first five games and were at the foot of League Two. Supporters were getting quite disgruntled.

But they had brought in 19 or 20 new players and it took time for them to gel. The team is a lot better now and they have climbed to mid-table.

afcb.co.uk: Give us your thoughts on Harry Kewell (pictured above)?

TB: He has certainly done his apprenticeship in the lower divisions so, when he came to Oldham, he was familiar with life in League Two.

He was a top player for Leeds, Liverpool and Australia and he played at the highest level.

It can often be difficult to make that transition into management, especially at a lower level where you are dealing with players of a lesser calibre and standard.

But he had managed Crawley and Notts County so wasn’t coming in cold. He was familiar with the standard of football in League Two.

afcb.co.uk: Give us a word on the first and second-round wins against Hampton & Richmond and Bradford City?

TB: They were two good away wins. They won away at Hampton & Richmond in the first round in 2018 and it was another tough game against a team two divisions below them in November.

Oldham established a 3-1 lead before Hampton pulled one back to make it a nervy last few minutes and they were hanging on at the end.

Two days later, they won away at Bradford in the Papa John’s Trophy and then got drawn away to them in the second round of the FA Cup, winning again at Valley Parade.

They played them again at Boundary Park a couple of weeks later and won 3-1. That was Stuart McCall’s last match as manager of Bradford, he was sacked the day after that defeat.

afcb.co.uk: Who are Oldham’s players to watch?

TB: Conor McAleny (pictured above) has been scoring a lot of goals. He’s got 13 from 18 starts so far.

He was a young player at Everton but only made a handful of appearances for them. He had a few loan spells in the lower leagues and was latterly at Fleetwood.

I spoke to Joe Royle about him recently and he said Conor had great potential as a youngster but never realised it.

He’s had a journeyman career in the lower divisions but he has certainly been a hit at Oldham.

Danny Rowe is a striker they paid money for from AFC Fylde. He’s scored eight goals in all competitions and is coming back from a spell out injured. They’ve got two proven strikers in Rowe and McAleny.

They signed a winger called Dylan Bahamboula (pictured below) in October. He’s a Congolese international and has made a massive impact. He’s a tricky winger and a lot of their improved fortunes have come since he arrived.

afcb.co.uk: Give us your memories of the 1989/90 FA Cup run which took Latics all the way to the semi-final?

TB: They were great days and the players and management team are still very fondly thought of in the town.

It was the best season in the club’s history and they also reached the final of the League Cup, losing to Nottingham Forest.

Sadly, since then, it’s been a long, slow downward spiral. They were relegated from the Premier League in 1994 and then went down from the Championship in 1997.

Since then, they have been in the bottom two divisions so it’s been a sad demise for the club.

afcb.co.uk: You watched Bournemouth at Stoke recently – what were your impressions of the Cherries?

TB: A very solid team and very well organised defensively. I know they lost a lot of players in the summer but they also kept some very talented ones.

They created by far the better chances against Stoke and could have won more comfortably.

They look well equipped to mount a promotion challenge to regain their Premier League status at the first attempt. I was very impressed.

I know they lost some key players but they kept David Brooks and Dominic Solanke, two top players.

afcb.co.uk: Give us your thoughts on Sam Surridge’s loan spell with Latics?

TB: He did exceptionally well. They were desperately in need of a striker when they brought him in and he did a great job.

He scored a lot of goals and I think Oldham would love to have kept him for the whole season but Bournemouth took him back in the January. He was a huge hit and a very popular figure.

afcb.co.uk: How do you see the contest panning out?

TB: You never know what you’re going to get with Oldham. One week, they can be absolutely brilliant and, the next, they can be the total opposite. They are very inconsistent.

When you look at the home and away table in League Two, Oldham have the best away record and the second-worst home record.

They seem better suited playing away, probably because they have a lot of pace in the side and are effective on the counter-attack.

Harry Kewell was always a very flamboyant and attacking player. They are joint-third highest scorers in League Two but they’ve got the worst defensive record as well.

Two years ago, they won at Premier League Fulham in the third round of the FA Cup and they have a tradition of causing upsets, going back to the great team of the late 1980s/early 1990s.

They beat Manchester City in the third round in 2005 and knocked out Liverpool in the fourth round in 2013. They have taken some big scalps in the FA Cup.

afcb.co.uk: What’s your score prediction?

TB: I think there will be goals and I think it will be quite close. I’ll go with a 2-1 win to Bournemouth but you never know who’s going to turn up with Oldham!

Officials: Andy Woolmer (referee), Steven Meredith (assistant), Danny Gratton (assistant), Darren England (fourth official).

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