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MATCH REPORT: Oldham 1 Fleetwood 2

Ash Hunter
Ash Hunter

All Fleetwood wanted for Christmas was a return to winning ways and though the gift of three points came a day late it was just the tonic as Uwe Rosler's side cruised to a 2-1 win over Oldham.

Friday night's 2-0 defeat to Gillingham left Town looking over their shoulder but now after a convincing 2-1 Boxing Day win at Oldham Town moved back up the table to 14th.

The doom and gloom of Friday was soon forgotten as Town upped their game across the board and gave the fans what they wanted - a solid defence display and most importantly some goals to celebrate.

The clean sheet will have to wait but the sight of Devante Cole and Ash Hunter rippling the back of the net were scenes the Cod Army wanted to unwrap more than anything this Christmas.

Questions had been posed of Rosler's side after two disappointing perfromances against Petebrorough and Gillingham but as soon as the team sheet flew off the press the seeds were sown for a reaction.

It was a bold move of Rosler as he moved Alex Cairns to the bench to give Chris Neal his first start since the 2-1 defeat at Port Vale in November 2016.

That was one of four changes Rosler made to the line-up with Wes Burns and Ash Hunter coming in to the front three of a 4-3-3 formation as Jordy Hiwula moved to the bench.

Markus Schwabl came into the midfield three with loanees Baily Cargill and Aiden O'Neill completely left out of the squad after poor performances in the 2-0 defeat to Gillingham on Friday.

Cian Bolger recovered from a facial injury to start in the back four and striker Conor McAleny returned from his ankle knock to start on the bench.

The forward did not make it into the pitch but his presence on the bench boosted Town and saw a rise in performance from the forwards with both Devante Cole and Ash Hunter clinical up top as they joined Wes Burns in a front three as Rosler changed the wing-back formation to a 4-3-3.

Oldham started the brighter but fresh off the back of conceding early against Gillingham from the first cross into the box Town answered the first question with Bolger clearing a cross with aplomb.

The home faithful were not too impressed with the referee Mark Heywood but it would have been Town head coach Rosler who would have been spitting feathers in his post match about the official with two debatable decisions from the man in black nearly leading to the undoing of Town.

After conceding five goals in their last two games there was a need for a solid start, especially after a confidence sapping second minute goal in the 2-0 defeat to Gillingham on Friday and that is exactly what Town got with the reinstated Neal.

Davies had fired over the bar and Gardner tried his luck from distance but it was two bad referring decisions that saw Oldham's best two efforts in a half that saw Town's defence and midfield impress, though they still lacked a touch of ingenuity in the final third though that was not down to the three front men and just a need to get to half time with a confidence boosting black slate.

Davies had clearly handled the ball before whipping the ball into the mix but Town finally started to get some luck as it fell harmlessly.

Burns was fouled just outside the box but the referee failed to award a free-kick and the Latics countered with Holloway's fine centre somehow missing the run of Davies who had got ahead of the pack.

Town deserved the 0-0 scoreline at the break but there was to be a refereeing change at half-time as Steven Rushton replaced the injured Heywood in the middle.

The Latics once again started strongly with Bryan's fierce effort stinging Neal's palms.

But Town were not deterred and it was some sublime work on the right flank by Burns who pirouetted on the edge of the box before the ball fell to Schwabl who put the ball on a plate for Cole who was hovering between the defenders to sweep the ball home from close range in the 49th minute.

That goal forced the hosts to push up and attack Fleetwood and Oldham threatened with Gardner fizzes the ball wide of the right stick from the edge of the box after good hold up play by Davies.

With Oldham looking for a way back into it gaps and space opened up for Town on the counter and given their pace it played into Fleetwood's hands with some great bite and interceptions from Schwabl and Dempsey in the middle

Town's Achilles Heel this season has been dealing with crosses into the box and set-pieces but Bolger and company coped with everything Oldham threw at them and absorbed the pressure from the hosts.

And Town finally got their second in the 65th minute as Cole exploited a defensive error to steam down the right and whip the ball towards the back stick for Hunter were the unmarked hit-man pounced.

It obviously meant a lot to the young forward who marked his return to the starting line-up by hitting the net and then storming over to the 200 plus travelling Cod Army to celebrate together.

Cole curled the ball straight into Placide's arms and Oldham had a few half chances but they made the game interesting just nine minutes before full-time.

Town had looked comfortable but the Latics still surged forward and Eastham was forced into a last ditch tackle on his former team mate Amadi-Holloway who threatened to run through on goal.

It looked like a well timed but cynical challenge to stop the ex-Town man having a shot at goal but Oldham pulled a goal back from the subsequent set-piece.

Byran dusted down his shooting boots to rob Neal of his clean sheet as he curled the ball into the net to set-up a nerve-wracking finish for Fleetwood.

Just before that ball hit the back of the net Rosler had thrown Pond on for Burns to add experience to the back line and that helped Town over the line.

It was far from an easy end with Oldham pushing men forward and trying to outmuscle Town in the box but despite the Latics' physical presence Town managed to hold firm and dealt with every question they asked.

With five minutes added on it was a nervous end with Amadi-Holloway's claims for a penalty waved away by the referee after Pond had out-jumped him in the box.

When the whistle eventually came there was a collective sigh of relief from the Town faithful with Rosler and company celebrating with the travelling Cod Army at full-time as a dismal run of one win in 12 league games ended at Oldham to lift the spirits as 2018 approaches.

Oldham: Placide, Dummigan, Gerrard (Duffus, 77), Gardner (Nepomuceno, 63) Davies, Amadi-Holloway, Hunt, Fane, Byrne, Obadeyi (McLaughlin, 75) Bryan. Subs: Wilson, Flynn, Clarke, Green.

Fleetwood: Neal, Coyle, Bolger, Eastham, Bell, Dempsey, Schwabl, Glendon, Burns (Pond, 81) Cole, Hunter (Hiwula, 87). Subs: Cairns, McAleny, Rodgers, Biggins, Sowerby.

Referee: Mark Heywood