Latics Battle Through To Second Round.On a filthy night at SportsDirect.com Park Latics fought off both a brave effort from League Two side Mansfield Town and the adverse weather conditions to secure a place in the second round of The Emirates FA Cup and a date at Bramhall Lane against Sheffield United.
Following a goalless first half Latics made the most of the advantage of a strong wind in the second half, to finally break down their opponents and move into round two.
Manager David Dunn made one change to his starting eleven as Carl Winchester dropped to the bench. Richard Eckersley came into the side for his first start at right back, with Timothee Dieng moving to the heart of the Latics midfield alongside skipper Liam Kelly. Mansfield made six changes from their weekend defeat at Northampton as Manger Adam Murray rotated his squad.
After an impeccably observed minutes silence in all parts of the ground, in honour of the victims of last weeks atrocities in Paris, the game got underway in terrible conditions, with swirling wind and rain.
The first of three home games in seven days saw a fairly even start to the game, but it was the visitors who had the first sight of goal on seven minutes. Following a free kick from thirty yards by Chapman which struck the wall the ball was fed back into area and fell for Nathan Thomas who struck his shot well, but high over the bar.
Latics first move of note almost saw the ball break for Higdon in the penalty area after a strong run by Poleon.
The visitors were having the better of the territorial advantage and Nathan Thomas again caused problems as Latics were almost architects of their own downfall giving the ball way three times in quick succession before Thomas managed to squeeze past two defenders and fire in a cross shot which was blocked for a corner.
Latics were trying to impose their passing game through midfield as Liam Kelly tried to stamp his authority on proceedings, but too many times the ball was unnecessarily given away.
A near disaster befell the home side on twenty four minutes as mis-communication between Brian Wilson and his goalkeeper saw the defender playing a back pass past the oncoming goalkeeper. Thankfully for Latics Coleman managed to recover his ground sufficiently to do enough to put off Matt Green as he tried to force the ball home and only succeeded in putting it wide of the target.
With both sides plating a 4-4-2 formation the midfield was very competitive with both sides trying to wrestle superiority.
A tricky run by Latics winger Mark Yeates forced a corner for Latics and after some panicky defending from Mansfield Yeates himself was able to swing an excellent ball in for Danny Philliskirk who rose well but his flick header, although well directed, lacked sufficient power to worry Scott Shearer in the Mansfield goal.
Two minutes later it was Yeates again beating two men on the left wing before firing in a dangerous cross towards Higdon which Mansfield just managed to divert for a corner. Oldham continued to press as Mills' in-swinging corner caused problems for the keeper.
A Mansfield break saw Matt Green get behind the Latics defence, but a lack of support enabled the home side to get sufficient men back in numbers to eventually crowd him out.
Timothee Dieng earned the wrath of the referee and became the first name into his book following a foul on the half way line.
As half time neared the dangerous Thomas again threatened to burst through the Latics defence before requiring treatment following a tussle with Liam Kelly.
Oldham were nearly caught out seconds before half time. The defence stood motionless as a harmless looking header from Jack Thomas fell to an unmarked Matty Blair six yards out. Fortunately for Latics Blair with his back to goal failed to make contact with an overhead kick and Coleman was able to gratefully collect.
The first half closed goalless with few chances for either side.
The second half was only three minutes old when a neat passing move from Mansfield saw Matt Greeen through on goal for the best chance of the game so far, but James Wilson produced a sliding block to deny the Mansfield striker from eight yards out.
Minutes later Green again came close to breaking through the Latics defence but once more it was James Wilson to the rescue nicking the ball off the strikers toes as he prepared to shoot from the edge of the box.
As the sparse crowd tried to rally the home side Dominic Poleon responded by forcing a corner in front of the Rochdale Road End, which a stretching Danny Philliskirk could only head wide.
Poleon was proving to be the main focal point of Latics attacks as he forced Krystian Pearce to produce a good challenge on the right hand edge of the penalty area.
With the game entering a scrappy period both managers beckoned to their respective benches as they looked to affect the game with substitutions.
On loan Giorgio Rasulo was the first to make an appearance on the hour mark, with the eighteen year old from MK Dons coming on for his first appearance at SportsDirect.com Park. He replaced Michael Higdon up front in a repeat of the change which proved had such an immediate impact at Chesterfield.
He was involved in the action immediately drawing a rash challenge from Ryan Tafazolli and he followed Timothee Dieng into the book. From the resulting free kick the wind made life difficult for the Mansfield keeper as Yeates ball almost caught him out hitting the top of the crossbar.
A run from Poleon on the right wing then saw an interchange with Rasulo which almost got Philliskirk in. Mansfield responded and James Wilson was forced into another last ditch challenge this time on Nathan Thomas as Coleman hesitated.
A fine through ball from Rasulo fed Poleon this time on the left wing and his pace again troubled the defence who were forced to concede a corner. The resultant in-swinger from Yeates caused havoc as Philliskirk headed back into the danger area and a goalmouth scramble ended with the unlikely figure of Brian Wilson come closest with a shot which ricocheted off a defender to safety.
As Latics kept the pressure on the deadlock was finally broken on seventy minutes. Yeates again caused problems and won a corner on the left. Cleared initially the ball fell to Mills who curled a delightful ball into the box. Philliskirk controlled it and fired past the keeper from six yards out for his sixth goal of the season.
Eight minutes later and it was 2-0 with a spectacular finish from Poleon. A long ball from James Wilson to the left hand side was well kept in on the by line by Yeates. He jinked inside before pulling the ball back to Philliskirk on the edge of the D, he fed Poleon first time and from the left hand corner of the box Poleon curled a wonderful finish past the helpless keeper into the top right hand corner of the goal. A deserved reward after a hard working performance from the striker who had looked Latics most dangerous attacker all night.
As Latics looked to finish the tie, Mills burst through from left back and his run was only halted by a foul in the left wing position. Yeates again fired a dangerous looking ball in which Mansfield could only head out for another corner which was safely cleared.
On eighty five minutes Man of the Match Poleon received a richly deserved ovation from the crowd as he was replaced by Ricardo Fuller for the final few minutes.
Latics played some neat possession football before Liam Kelly eventually tried his look from thirty yards with his shot narrowly going over the cross bar with the keeper well beaten.
Latics comfortably saw out the four minutes of added time and a miserable evening weather wise ended on a bright note with them safely through to the next round.
Oldham Athletic: Coleman, Eckersley, B.Wilson, J.Wilson, Mills, Kelly, Dieng, Yeates, Philliskirk, Poleon (Fuller 80), Higdon (Rasulo 60’) .
Subs not used: Renshaw, Brown, Winchester , Vassell, Byrnes.
Mansfield: Shearer, Pearce, Collins, Chapman, Green, Nathan Thomas, Tafazolli, Blair (Rose 65), Jack Thomas (Yassuf 75), McGuire, Adams.
Subs not used: Jensen, Westcarr, Hunt, Lambe, Fitzpatrick.
Goals: Oldham Athletic (Philliskirk 70, Poleon 78) 2-0 Mansfield Town
Attendance: 1,893 (138 visiting supporters)