City 1 Oldham 0
You won’t find that finish in any coaching manual.
Cut inside, hopelessly scuff your shot against the defender therefore turning it into the perfect one-two and then bend the rebound past the keeper.
Omar Daley’s strike a minute before half-time certainly stood out for its unorthodox approach.
But his boss was far more impressed with the Jamaican’s run of intent from Paul Arnison’s pass which opened up Oldham for the goal. And Stuart McCall is hoping that is a promising sign of things to
As the pre-season marathon hits the home straight, all talk focuses on the proper challenge ahead. Every touch and move is honed towards the games that really matter.
For McCall, one of the attractions of recruiting Arnison this summer was the way he can use the ball going forward. The City boss felt he did not get enough of that from Darren Williams last term.
Arnison’s pass to release Daley, leaving Oldham’s trialist left back John Hills floundering in his slip-stream, was bang on the money. But, as McCall pointed out, it needed Daley’s burst of pace
for it to go so sweetly to plan.
McCall said: “It was a great ball but, as I’ve told the lads since I’ve been here, it can only be a great ball because of the run. Glenn Hoddle was a great passer in his time with a fantastic
execution but if you don’t get the run and the player peeling off his marker, then nobody can hit those balls.
“Omar made eye contact with Arny, came in short and then span away behind the defender. Then he uses his pace which is what he’s good at.
“Normally he would have come in short and faffed about, probably played it back again and nothing would have happened.
“So many forwards in the game today want to come short all the time to get the ball. Defenders are happy with that.
“If I’m marking Omar and he’s just laying it back to the full back then it’s not a problem. I’ll just jockey him.
“But as soon as he starts spinning in behind, then you’re in trouble. He’s got that pace and we want him hurting people like that.”
Hills, looking for an Oldham deal after leaving Blackpool, was totally bemused as Daley flipped him round and set off like the clappers.
Mark Allott was equally at a loss when Daley screwed his left-foot shot in the box so horribly that it flew straight against the Oldham midfielder and back into the winger’s path to slot a more
conventional second attempt past Mark Crossley.
It lit up an afternoon that had final friendly stamped all over it. This was a game to get out of the way; roll on next Saturday.
The balmy temperature did not lend itself to a fiercely competitive clash and there were none of the sparks that flew against Burnley three days earlier.
But it did have its plus points. Beating Oldham for starters is not something City are particularly good at – this was their first win over the Latics at Valley Parade for 20 years.
So that won’t do collective confidence any harm ahead of the more pressing matters of Notts County’s imminent arrival.
And there was also a second clean sheet for Rhys Evans, 24 hours after penning the one-year deal to become City’s number one.
Unlike Wednesday, when the keeper was on overdrive all night, he was not called upon that often as Graeme Lee and Matt Clarke did a good job on Oldham’s muscular front pair.
But Evans handled well when needed and did produce one wonderful save at the foot of his post to push away a goal-bound header from Deane Smalley.
The youngster had already nodded a Hills cross against the bar so City were aware of his aerial prowess. But they mis-matched him at a free-kick and Smalley easily got above the smaller Luke
O’Brien – only to be foiled by the keeper’s reflexes.
The rising tempo of the game wasn’t helped by five substitutions at the break. It’s understandable that nobody wants any last-minute knocks at this stage, which is why McCall left out the likes of
Paul McLaren, Paul Heckingbottom and Willy Topp completely.
But the flow inevitably suffered, even more so when Barry Conlon made way just three minutes in after a slight kick.
O’Brien, who had a solid game in Heckingbottom’s absence, forced a watchful save from Crossley with a free-kick after Daley had been taken out by the cumbersome Sean Gregan.
And Kris Taylor, Oldham’s best player, threw himself in the way of a shot from Daley, who had cashed in on the hesitancy of the Oldham defence.
McCall made three more changes at the midpoint of the second half. And when Bullock took his leave with ten minutes left, there were only two players on – Clarke and Arnison – likely to start on
League Two’s opening afternoon.
But Mark Bower and Simon Ainge underlined the importance of strong understudies with crucial interventions in the closing minutes before Danny Whitaker stabbed over the bar in stoppage time as City
avoided a Burnley-style late slap in the face.