John Sheridan’s Latics started the 2022-23 season with an away-day point and a clean sheet at Torquay in an action-packed contest.
Mike Fondop made a real impact off the bench and twice almost nicked what would have been the winner, while Hallam Hope had the pick of the other chances.
Torquay, who hit the crossbar in the opening minutes, were mostly kept at arm’s length following their early flurry, and Latics were largely comfortable even after Dan Gardner’s late dismissal for a second yellow card.
Over 800 Latics fans gave superb backing throughout the game as new owners the Rothwell family looked on from the directors’ box.
Considering a new-look side which featured eight league debutants, the visitors acquitted themselves well in an occasionally attritional contest.
Torquay produced their best work in the first half and the home side almost found themselves ahead just four minutes in.
A free-kick from the left was knocked back across the box, but Will Goodwin saw his powerful effort come back off the underside of the bar before being scrambled away.
The same player was then denied by a strong hand from visiting keeper Magnus Norman away to his right as the hosts turned up the heat in scorching conditions.
But Latics hit back and themselves had a super opportunity to take the lead just before the quarter-hour. Jack Stobbs did well to rob a hesitating defender and managed to nudge the ball into the path of a wide-open Hope, but the striker couldn’t hit the target when one-on-one with the keeper.
The visitors almost quickly regretted that miss, but Norman bravely challenged Corie Andrews at close range and the Torquay man prodded wide, injuring himself in the process.
Nonetheless Latics continued to grow into the game, with Torquay keeper Mark Halstead forced to save smartly from Ben Tollitt and Chris Porter – making his second debut – in quick succession.
A Ryan Hanson free-kick from distance produced a routine save from Norman to round out an even first half where both sides will have felt they could have gone in ahead at the break.
Porter thought he’d notched his first goal of his second spell with the club just after the restart, but the frontman’s header from a deft free-kick dropped just wide while taking a deflection on the way.
The dangerous Tollitt followed up with a couple of half-chances, testing Halstead with a deflected effort before breaking deep from midfield but dragging a shot wide.
Fondop replaced Porter on the hour and was inches away from soon marking his introduction with the opening goal.
Jordan Clarke’s long free kick was nodded on by the striker, who took advantage of a rebound to get off a powerful half-volley from the edge of the box which flashed past the far post with Halstead completely beaten.
But the visitors were reduced to 10 men with a quarter-hour to play as Gardner was sent off for a second bookable offence – a trip on Dean Moxey as the Torquay man turned away from him.
That prompted Sheridan to look to bolster the defence with the introduction of Harrison McGahey in place of Tollitt, who will certainly be a threat this season.
Numerical parity was restored five minutes from the end as Ali Omar withdrew injured following an aerial clash with Fondop. The hosts had to take the hit having already used all three substitutes.
There was drama at the last as Fondop felt he was fouled by Halstead after whipping a loose ball away from the keeper – the referee unmoved despite voiciferous protests from visiting players and fans.
Junior Luamba was introduced for injury time in place of Hope in a final roll of the dice, and the youngster almost created the winner as he nodded down for Fondop to blast inches past the post.
It wasn’t quite to be – but Latics start their National League campaign with a solid point and a clean sheet to boot.
Oldham Athletic: Norman, Clarke, Hogan (C), Sheron, Francis-Angol, Stobbs, Gardner, Cooper, Tollitt (McGahey 79), Porter (Fondop, 60), Hope (Luamba, 90).
Subs Not Used: Leutwiler, Burgess.
Torquay United: Halstead, Moxey (C), Omar, Marshall, Crowe, Wyatt, Hanson, McGavin, Evans (Nathaniel-George 46), Andrews (Koszela, 18, [Hall 76]), Goodwin.
Subs Not Used: Lovett, Tomlinson.
Referee: Lee Collins
Attendance: 3,690 (827 away)