Boreham Wood v Oldham Athletic
Tuesday 6th November 2022, 7.45pm
LV BET Stadium Meadow Park, Vanarama National League
The late Queen’s passing meant the Wood’s visit of Oldham Athletic was delayed, by the Latics finally make the trip to Hertfordshire looking to take advantage of their opponent’s poor form, who are winless in their last seven league outings.
IN FOCUS: OLDHAM ATHLETIC
Oldham Athletic became the first former Premier League side to appear in the non-league, after being relegated to the fifth tier following 25 consecutive seasons in the Football League. The Latics were a founding member of the breakaway division in 1992 but began a descent down English football just two years later, with two relegations in four seasons seeing the club find themselves in the Second Division where they would remain for more than two decades. The Greater Manchester-based outfit subsequently struggled throughout this time, only coming close to returning to the second tier on two occasions as they reached the play-offs in 2002/03 and 2006/07, but were unable to get beyond the semi-final stage as they spent the rest of the 21 years in League One largely enduring mid-table finishes. This struggle culminated in another relegation in 2018, before finding themselves in the National League after a 23rd place finish last season, 62 years after they had finished in the same position.
John Sheridan had arrived at Boundary Park for a fourth spell and was unable to prevent their slide into non-league, but although he stayed regardless he opted to step aside from his role in September with the club struggling once more. Indeed, despite a number of seemingly positive signings with the likes of Magnus Normann, Nathan Sheron, Alex Reid, Luke Burgess, Dan Gardner, Peter Clarke, Liam Hogan and John Rooney joining from League Two along with top scorer Ben Tollitt and Charlie Cooper arriving from fellow non-league clubs, the Latics are yet to see a change in fortunes and currently sit second bottom with just four wins and ten defeats, even with the arrival of former Everton caretaker manager David Unsworth as Sheridan’s successor.
LAST TIME OUT
Solihull Moors 2-1 Oldham Athletic
Saturday 3rd December 2022
Vanarama National League
Two quick-fire goals at the start of the second half proved costly as Oldham Athletic fell to defeat against Solihull Moors, despite starting the game the better of the two sides.
A tight opening was followed by the hosts posing the first real threat as Josh Kelly drew a smart save from Magnus Norman, but the Latics began to create a number of clear chances with half time approaching. Sydie Peck went close himself before cleverly letting the ball run through to Alex Reid whose strong effort was turned aside by Ryan Boot, before Ben Tollitt struck the post on the stroke of the interval after combining with Hallam Hope.
Unfortunately, the start of the second half signalled a total collapse from the visitors who found themselves two down within the first five minutes of the half. It took less than 60 seconds for Andrew Dallas to square the ball for Joe Sbarra to convert from close range and put the Moors ahead, before the latter turned provider to set up the former who finished off a quick counter attack and slot home to make it two. The hosts began to control proceedings and almost added a third when Norman had to be alert at his near post to deny Sbarra as well as Ryan Barnett, although the Latics found a lifeline when Hope forced Boot to concede a corner, with the subsequent in-swinging delivery from John Rooney going straight in. However it was little too late for the visitors, who’s winless run stretched to six games in all competitions.
Solihull Moors (A) L2-1
Maidstone United (A) D0-0
Barnet (H) L0-2
Wrexham (H) L3-0
FC Halifax Town (A) L2-1
Altrincham (A) L1-0
The Latics have suffered a difficult start to their first season in the National League, currently sitting second bottom with just four wins and ten defeats. The arrival of David Unsworth has failed to bring a sign of improvement, and they are currently winless in their last six games in all competitions. Although they had gone five games without losing including two FA Cup games against National League North side Chester, they are yet to win since beating Yeovil Town at the of October after following it up with a narrow defeat at Altrincham when Chris Conn-Clarke scoring a late winner for the Robins. They suffered an even later loss against FC Halifax Town four days after with Rob Harker netting in the 85th minute, and were unable to bounce back in the FA Cup with a comfortable 3-0 defeat away at Wrexham condemning the Latics to an exit from the competition. They have since tasted two further defeats against Barnet and Solihull Moors last time out, although this did sandwich a draw as they held Maidstone United to a point two weeks ago.
IN THE DUGOUT: DAVID UNSWORTH
Former Everton defender David Unsworth took on his first permanent managerial role when he was chosen to replace John Sheridan as Oldham Athletic manager in September. Although he is perhaps best known for his time with the Toffees, his coaching career began when he joined Preston North End as a development coach following retirement, before the departure of Alan Irvine saw him promoted to the first team where he took over two separate caretaker roles after the dismissals of Darren Ferguson and Phil Brown. He later returned to former club Sheffield United as Head of Academy Coaching before being named assistant to caretaker manager Chris Morgan after Danny Wilson left the club, but his affiliation with Everton would continue in a coaching capacity after he opted to leave the Blades in 2013, going on to oversee various roles with the first team and Under-23’s during an nine-year spell back at Goodison Park. This included a brief stint as assistant to Alan Stubbs in the youth team which he would later take sole charge of for the next eight years, along with caretaker roles of the first team when Roberto Martínez and Ronald Koeman lost their jobs. Unsworth departed the Toffees in April 2022 in order to pursue his ambition of becoming a first team manager and joined Oldham five months later, although he has won just one game since taking over at Boundary Park.
ONE TO WATCH: BEN TOLLITT
Liverpool-born forward Ben Tollitt began his career in the Everton academy and went on to feature for a number of clubs in the non-league and the Football League after impressing for Cheshire-based club Widnes, along with a brief stint at Skelmersdale United. A successful trial at Portsmouth saw him move to Fratton Park on a one-year deal before a loan spell at Tranmere Rovers was made permanent in 2016. He featured a handful of times as the Super White Army won promotion to League Two via the 2017/18 play-off final against the Wood, before a switch to Blackpool was sandwiched between two separate loan spells at Wrexham. He failed to make an appearance for the Tangerines and dropped down the divisions once more where he featured for Macclesfield Town and AFC Fylde, spending two seasons with the latter in the sixth tier of English football before joining Oldham Athletic in July 2022. He has appeared in all but three games this season and is currently the Latics’ joint-top scorer with five goals.
HAVEN’T WE MET BEFORE? ZAINE FRANCIS-ANGOL
Antigua & Barbuda international Zaine Francis-Angol joined Oldham Athletic in July following a loan spell at Stockport County, seeing him involved in the Hatters’ title-winning campaign in a brief capacity. This saw him win promotion for a second successive season having joined Stockport from Hartlepool United who had won the National League play-offs the season before, although the former Tottenham Hotspur academy player had only been at the Suit Direct Stadium for two months having joined Boreham Wood the previous summer.
Indeed, Francis-Angol made 16 appearances for the Wood during their own attempted play-off campaign, although this would prove unsuccessful as a poor run of form during the second half of the season meant they slipped down the table with an eventual 14th place finish. Having joined the LV BET Stadium Meadow Park from League One side Accrington Stanley, his time in Hertfordshire proved to be stop-start due to a string of niggling injuries, a spell of COVID-19 isolation and international duty followed by another close contact isolation period. Despite limited game time though, Zaine was a very popular member of Luke Garrard’s squad and departed as part of the Wood side that reached the Third Round of the FA Cup for the first time in their history, before ramifications of the pandemic resulted in the mutual cancellation of his contract before the end of the campaign. He subsequently made a swift switch to Hartlepool where he went on to win promotion, before finding himself back in the fifth tier a year later and has played seven times so far this season for strugglers Oldham.