City 1 Oldham 1

THEY are the team that epitomises League One.

Oldham are now in their 21st consecutive season of third-tier football.

City, meanwhile, are up to five – and many will suggest that has felt too long after successive play-off near misses.

Yet the only thing lower league about last night's gripping encounter at Valley Parade between two teams firmly committed to attack was the late comic turn from referee Chris Sarginson.

The sight of the official storming about looking for players to book was one you won't witness too often.

Nor will the fans be treated to a goal as good as Paul Taylor's – a rocket finish that would have graced any Premier League stage.

But Oldham, buoyed by a four-match winning run, played their full part in an open contest and the draw was a fair one. Two sides playing well both deserved some reward.

They may be the division's longest residents by far but there is nothing predictable about the current Oldham line-up.

Their ranks contain an eclectic mix of exotic names and nationalities; a squad hastily assembled from free agents when the season was already underway.

Midfielder Gevaro Nepomuceno was playing for Caracao last week in Qatar, while goalkeeper Johny Placide hails from Haiti. Others have arrived from Belgium, France and Holland.

But it is a combination that caretaker boss Richie Wellens had made click with the club's longest winning run for 11 years to lift them away from the foot of the table.

McCall freshened the City side, as is his wont with midweek games, by making three changes after Bury.

Omari Patrick, who was not even a year old when Oldham began their marathon stay at this level, and Taylor were recalled to play either side of Charlie Wyke up front in a switch to 4-3-3.

Centre half Adam Thompson also got the first start of his season-long loan as McCall gave Matt Kilgallon a breather on the bench.

But it was Oldham gasping for breath just three minutes in after a stunning strike by Taylor.

Nicky Law played a short free-kick to him and back again but Taylor was still a good 25 to 30 yards out.

That didn't matter in the slightest as he took one touch to get it out of his feet and then a thumping drive hurtled through the air and past the stunned Placide.

Taylor's first goal at MK Dons ten days earlier was no tap-in either but this thunderbolt was something else.

The crowd, which was not the biggest, roared into life as the place crackled in the aftermath of such a spectacular finish.

They were nearly on their feet again as Adam Chicksen's cross came out as far as Patrick, whose shot was blocked in the box.

Oldham responded as Jack Byrne sent Cameron Dummigan away to set up Eoin Doyle but he was foiled by his namesake Colin in the City goal.

City were picking up the tempo and Wyke appealed in vain for a penalty after getting tangled up with Kean Bryan.

Chicksen worked a clever corner to Jake Reeves, whose deflected drive bounced over the bar as the pressure increased.

But City were stunned midway through the half as Oldham suddenly levelled.

Placide was called into a 'Cruyff' turn to avoid Wyke in his own box but then launched a long clearance which Dummigan played through for Doyle to convert confidently.

It was a cracking game, with Oldham always a threat on the counter. But City hit back as Taylor saw another effort blocked and Luke Hendrie drilled the rebound wide from the edge of the box.

Romain Vincelot, fuming over those missed chances on Saturday, nodded over a Taylor corner and another well-rehearsed free-kick routine saw Reeves released into the box – only to cut the ball back just behind the waiting Nicky Law.

But Taylor had been the star of the show in a pulsating half, finishing it with a laugh for the crowd as his attempted backheel hit his other heel.

The pace showed no immediate sign of slacking over the break as Reeves began the second half with an angled drive past the post.

Oldham, though, were chasing a fifth win on the bounce – a run they had not managed since six victories on the trot in 2006.

Wellens played in all those games, which had included a success over City at Boundary Park. His team were doing their best to replicate those efforts from a decade earlier as Craig Davies forced a near-post save from Doyle.

Law had been a prominent figure at both ends of the pitch but his team were losing their way a little since the restart.

Patrick curled one over the bar but it was his last involvement as McCall made a double change to bring on Dominic Poleon and Alex Gilliead. Taylor also departed to a huge ovation.

Vincelot was livid that a clumsy challenge from Davies went unpunished from referee Sarginson – and talked himself into the book for dissent.

It was a costly yellow for the skipper, taking him up to five and ruling him out of the Charlton game this weekend.

The contest briefly descended into farce after Timothee Dieng, who had replaced the captain, was chopped down by Adelhakim Omrani.

While the Oldham substitute was being booked, a melee broke out in front of the dugouts. Assistant referee Steven Rushton called over Sarginson as calm was soon restored.

But then there was the hysterical spectacle of Sarginson stalking around midfield looking for the guilty players to book – all the while to a backdrop of "ole" from the stands.

It was nearly two minutes before he eventually found Bryan for the last of the three bookings – and yet the Oldham centre half had hardly moved in that time.

Nathaniel Knight-Percival dived to head wide from another corner but there was a scare in the six added minutes as Davies' deflected cross clipped the top of the bar.