Oldham Athletic 1-0 Crawley Town: Gregory’s Reds come unstuck away at strugglers

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Crawley Town failed to ‘back up’ their excellent win over Wolves as they suffered a disappointing 1-0 defeat away at relegation threatened Oldham.

In near freezing conditions it was an altogether dreary performance from John Gregory’s side, and Danny Philliskirk’s cool finish on 18 minutes proved the game’s winner.

It was a first defeat in four matches for Reds, who stay 12th in the League One table, while for the Latics a first league win in six eased their relegation troubles.

Gregory made just one change from that excellent win over Wolves in the week, midfielder Dannie Bulman rested, giving Sullay Kaikai only his second ever start in the Football League.

The Latics, who had lost their last three games at home (albeit against top opposition) started well and after five minutes a James Wesolowski piledriver from the edge of the box needed a smart one-handed save from Paul Jones to beat it away.

The ground was then suddenly pounded by heavy rain which swirled around in the freezing wind, instantly soaking the players and the playing surface.

The conditions eased, though Oldham capitalised on their breezy start when they broke with men over, and though there was some fortune about the way the ball broke to Philliskirk in the box the finish was pure skill, bending it into the far top corner to give Jones no chance after 18 minutes.

After playing such intricate one-touch football in dismantling the league leaders five days before Crawley seemed intent of simply lumping it forward from defence as Gregory’s side struggled to impose themselves on the match in the first half.

Reds were also giving away possession far too easily, and as half-time approached they did so again in the middle, allowing Gary Harkin to break, and though his pull back was cut out by Andy Drury rushing back to help the defence, he could only toe it into the path of David Worrall, whose scuffed shot just rolled past the post to safety.

Teenage striker Kaikai was struggling to get in the game, and when the young Crystal Palace loanee gave the ball straight to Harkins, he broke and twisted and turned his way past two challenges into the box before a vital challenge came in from Joe Walsh, who then threw himself at Philliskirk as he looked set to score on the rebound.

Reds were on the ropes and Paul Jones then saved at his near post to deny Jonson Clarke-Harris from wide on the right as the visitors held on to just about stay in the contest by the interval.

There was no real surprise to see both Kaikai and Mark Connolly replaced at half-time, Jamie Proctor and Paul Connolly the men to come on.

There was more sloppy play from the visitors at the resumption and lone Latics striker Clarke-Harris capitalised, striding forward but blazing just wide.

Crawley’s first shot on target in the match arrived in the 56th minute and saw a fine save from Latics ‘keeper Paul Rachubka keep out Billy Clarke on the volley, after Tubbs had flicked a Mike Jones cross into his path at the back post.

A cross from the left then flashed across the home goal just missing the far post, and with Reds already looking brighter, Proctor headed a half chance weakly at Rachubka.

The visitors were now making most of the running and a misplaced Proctor pass deflected into the path of Mike Jones, but his effort from inside the box deflected just wide.

Neither side threatened until, with eight minutes remaining Oldham substitute James Dayton fired in a shot from the right which Paul Jones just got a hand to, preventing it from arriving at Clarke-Harris at the back post.

Only an excellent sliding challenge from Paul Connolly then stopped a low cross reaching striker Clarke-Harris six yards out as the visitors looked for the knock-out blow.

But they settled for just the 1-0 victory to the cheers of their vocal home crowd as Crawley left Boundary Park with nothing.

Latics: Paul Rachubka, Connor Brown, Jonathan Grounds, James Wesolowski, Korey Smith, Jonson Clarke-Harris (Gafaiti 90), James Wilson, Adam Lockwood, Danny Philliskirk (MacDonald 78), David Worrall (Dayton 67), Gary Harkins.

Subs: Mark Oxley, Terry Dunfield, Charlie MacDonald, Kirk Millar, Carl Winchester, Adel Gafaiti, James Dayton.

Crawley: Paul Jones, Mat Sadler, Mark Connolly P Connolly 45), Kyle McFadzean, Joe Walsh; Andy Drury, Josh Simpson, Mike Jones, Billy Clarke (Fallon 80); Sullay Kaikai (Proctor 45), Matt Tubbs.

Subs: Sergio Torres, Rory Fallon, Jamie Proctor, Hiram Boateng, Johnny Maddison, Gary Dicker, Paul Connolly.