MATCH REPORT: Oldham 2 Fleetwood 0
He might have got on the scoresheet but it was not the fairytale return Town's skipper Nathan Pond would have been hoping for as his own goal set Oldham on the road to a shock 2-0 win.
Promotion chasing Town were not at the races with Pond’s 24th minute own goal one of many chances for John Sheridan’s side as they steam rolled Town in the first half.
Uwe Rosler’s side responded at the start of the second 45 but a Lee Erwin 55th minute strike put any hopes of a comeback on hold.
Things went from bad to worse when Town were forced to play the final 15 minutes a man light after the worrying sight of centre half Cian Bolger limping off down the tunnel.
Fortunately for third-placed Town seventh-placed Southend lost 2-1 at Charlton to ensure their six-point cushion for a play-off spot stayed intact.
Fleetwood boss Uwe Rosler made four changes to the side that beat Oxford 3-1 in midweek.
Rosler switched from 4-1-4-1 to 4-3-3 with returning duo skipper Pond and Martyn Woolford joining George Glendon and Markus Schwabl in the starting line-up as Kyle Dempsey and Ash Eastham moved to the bench and Godswill Ekpolo and Amari’i Bell missed out on a place in the squad.
It was a lively start with both teams creating early chances, returning skipper Nathan Pond was on hand to block a Peter Clarke chance after Town had initially failed to clear a set-piece.
David Ball smashed an effort straight at Connor Ripley from a tight angle on the left but that was to be a rare sight of goal for Town in a game of little ingenuity up front.
Oldham should have taken the lead just before the 20 minute mark as a dangerous cross in from the right cut through Town’s defence to leave Lee Erwin with an open goal but he somehow diverted the ball over the bar rather than hit the net.
Fleetwood did not head their warnings and Oldham got the reward for some early pressure in the 24th minute.
It was McLaughlin’s brother Ryan on the right flank who did the damage as his probing cross from the right was diverted in by Pond.
McLaughlin had a huge shout for a penalty waved away as he danced past several red shirts towards the box before he went down under pressure from Woolford.
Fleetwood were lucky to enter the break just a goal down with Cairns coming to Town’s rescue in the 40th minute.
Pond had felled Amadi-Holloway and Banks shipped the subsequent set-piece towards the top right corner but the diving Cairns flew across goal to tip it away.
Oldham had dominated the first half, out-passed, out-muscled and out-played Rosler’s men with the German making a change at the break as he threw Joe Maguire on for Schwabl and shifted to a 3-5-2 formation.
Fleetwood started brightly with the shift in formation with Ball going close as they looked more dangerous on the attack.
But it was Oldham who doubled their lead as Amadi-Holloway’s knock down was fired in by Erwin on the spin as he scored his hardest chance of the game.
Oldham continued to dominate with Rosler sending Burns on for Woolford to try and liven up the attack.
Town finally sparked into life in the 70th minute as a Glendon set-piece was nodded into the path of Grant by Bolger but the midfielder blazed the ball over the bar.
The final substitution made the most impact with Kyle Dempsey adding some more creativity and grit to the middle of the park and it was from one of his set-pieces that saw Grant waste another chance.
Dempsey’s free-kick from the right eventually fell to Grant at the back post and he sliced the ball out for a throw-in.
That chance summed up Town’s attack as they lost their ruthless edge in front of goal once again.
Things went from bad to worse minutes later as key defender Cian Bolger looked to have picked up a knee injury and limped down the tunnel leaving Town to play the final 15 minutes with 10-men due with no substitutions left.
But despite losing Bolger Town handled the Latics threats as the game meandered to a close.
Fleetwood: Cairns, McLaughlin, Bolger, Pond, Davies, Glendon (Dempsey, 72), Schwabl (Maguire, 46), Grant, Woolford (Burns, 62) , Ball, Hunter. Subs not used: Urwin, Brannagan, Burns, Eastham, Sowerby.
Oldham: Ripley, Wilson, Gerrard, Banks (O’Neill, 87), Amadi-Holloway (Ngoo, 60), Taylor, Erwin (Obadeyi, 87) Fane, Clarke, McLaughlin, Green. Subs not used: Law, Flynn, Croft, Edmundson
Referee: N Miller.