Oldham Athletic look for a third consecutive National League win when they host Ebbsfleet United at Boundary Park this weekend.
Latics secured an impressive 4-1 win over Barnet at the Hive Stadium in midweek, largely thanks to a clinical display by James Norwood who had a hand in all four strikes from the away side.
Sandwiched between Norwood’s brace saw Mike Fondop power in his first of the season to regain his side the lead after Harry Pritchard had equalised from the spot for the Bees just five minutes earlier.
Norwood’s second of his two efforts simply epitomised Micky Mellon’s gameplan, and really highlighted the forward’s quality in front of goal. Nathan Sheron’s searching pass in behind gave the striker a race with Adebola Oluwo who he duly shrugged off, before rounding Laurie Walker to finish with supreme composure.
Hallam Hope came off the bench to conclude a terrific away performance from the visitors, producing a wonderful first-time finish after latching onto Norwood’s neat pass. It capped off consecutive league victories for the first time since September.
Oldham may have found their stride under Mellon, who had only picked up one win in the first five fixtures in all competitions under his stewardship. Latics have now gone unbeaten in their last four National League games, whilst it is the second time they have scored four in a game under the Scot, matching their record from their previous 15 fixtures.
Ebbsfleet meanwhile are struggling for form and confidence in a heavily congested division remaining winless in their last eight in the league and their last ten in all competitions this season.
Their 1-1 draw with Maidenhead United in midweek continued that run, in a contest that really lacked that spark that tends to blow a game wide open, particularly at this level. Dominic Poleon scored his first in six to poke home his ninth of the campaign.
Reece Smith meanwhile produced a special effort to curl into the top corner that just evaded the outstretched arm of Mark Cousins in the Ebbsfleet net to draw level. The goals brought to a close a tense affair, and one that remained without much value for this Ebbsfleet side.
Ebbsfleet’s National League win drought runs back to the end of September where they beat Boreham Wood 3-1. They did however begin the season in promising fashion which does beg the question with regards to their drop in form.
Four wins from their first seven fixtures had put Ebbsfleet inside the top eight and in a position of potential, but just two wins in the following 14 National League outings has seen them drop into the bottom four.
The upcoming test meanwhile does offer intriguing questions that don’t yet have clear answers. Ebbsfleet have struggled for form away from home this season and have just picked up four points from their last five trips.
Latics’ return to Boundary Park however does not guarantee three points. Oldham have struggled for form on their home turf in recent weeks and have failed to win there since the 4-0 win over Oxford City.
They will pose a tricky test meanwhile for this Ebbsfleet side who will look to be the first side to beat Oldham at their home ground for just the second time this season and beat a team who are full of confidence.
There are no doubts as to why Poleon remains Ebbsfleet’s main threat and key danger. The 30-year-old has struck nine times this campaign thus far, but the centre forward provides so much more for a side who are desperate for a win.
Poleon has a range of attributes that makes him so valuable to his side. His restless work rate means the forward constantly chases loose possession and gives National League defences no rest.
He has also proved to be an effective outlet for his teammates to play off and to play into with his ability to link up play and provide for his side, though his exceptional pace may be his most noteworthy quality.
Poleon’s finishing meanwhile is sharp and clinical, whilst he has proved this season of his ability to produce a range of efforts. The striker conjured up a first-time finish against AFC Fylde in October, a rocket against York City and a poacher’s goal in midweek.
His consistent ability to beat players and use his speed makes him a nightmare for defenders to deal with and will pose huge questions of Oldham’s backline on Saturday where they will be keen to quickly contain the centre forward.
In the dugout
43-year-old Dennis Kutrieb has enjoyed a fairly quick rise to English football after beginning his managerial exploits in Germany. Kutrieb retired as a player following the conclusion of the 2016/17 season at Altglienicke II in the sixth tier of German football.
A few niche jobs followed before his first work of note came at TeBe Berlin in the Oberliga Nord (fifth tier) from the 18/19 campaign where he enjoyed a successful spell in the season and a half the German had at the club.
Kutrieb saw his side immediately firing, leading them to a second-place finish just seven points behind title winners Lichtenberg 47. TeBe carried that momentum into the following season however, where Kutrieb saw his men secure 15 wins in 19 fixtures with a five-point lead at the top of the standings.
That run was cut short meanwhile due to the worldwide lockdown, which led to his appointment at the Stonebridge Road Stadium in the summer of 2020. The German however only was able to get to work at Ebbsfleet until the following season.
He began his tenure in the 21/22 season where his methods had immediately translated to his group of players on the pitch in the National League South, where Ebbsfleet secured an impressive third-place finish.
His side were unfortunately pipped to promotion at the final hurdle in the playoff final in a 3-2 defeat to Dorking Wanderers, though his team’s success in the following season remains Kutrieb’s most impressive work yet.
An exceptional 22/23 season for Ebbsfleet saw them storm the National League South, kicking it off with a 17-game unbeaten streak before winning the title by 20 points, scoring 110 times and collecting 32 wins from 46 played.
It was a remarkable achievement for Kutrieb and his players in just his second season in English football, and saw his side thoroughly deserve a place in the National League, though Ebbsfleet will have to show character to get through a tough period.
A difficult start to life in the fifth tier of the English football pyramid has seen Kutrieb’s men fall into the drop zone almost halfway into the season, though such a congested league table does mean opportunity to climb the rankings.
Just six points separate Ebbsfleet in 19th from Dagenham & Redbridge in 14th, meaning even just a brief run of form could see the order drastically change. A win for Ebbsfleet meanwhile would show a statement of intent against one of the inform teams in the league.
The contest is set to kick off at 15:00pm on Saturday 25th November at Boundary Park.
The referee will be Farai Hallam, with assistant referees Mark Ryder and Oliver Nolan. The fourth official is set to be Matthew Mcquillan.
Match coverage and information
Live audio commentary is available on Latics Player, guiding you through the match.
As this game is being played within the blocked broadcast hours stipulated by UEFA, live streaming will not be available through National League TV for supporters in the UK. The game will be available overseas.
Alternatively, supporters can also follow the game with live updates on the club's official Twitter account: @OfficialOAFC