Battling stalemate at Boundary Park
With just under a fortnight to go until the Championship season gets underway, Simon Grayson’s side were given a very good test by npower League 1 side Oldham Athletic in their latest pre-season friendly.
The friendly was played with a feisty edge to it throughout and that disrupted Town from controlling possession and the game as they would have liked, but there were still enough chances for both sides to break the deadlock; Danny Ward going closest for Town on several occasions, particularly in the first half.
Town started in the 4-3-3 formation increasingly favoured by Grayson as the sunny weather defied all forecasts at Boundary Park. Academy graduate Jimmy Spencer was trusted with leading the line on the afternoon with Kallum Higginbotham and Danny Ward on his flanks, whereas in midfield Oscar Gobern anchored with Keith Southern and Adam Clayton for company.
The defence had a very solid look to it; Alex Smithies was behind Woods, Lynch, skipper Clarke and Hunt.
The Terriers started the game very brightly, with a flurry of very presentable chances inside the opening 10 minutes. Danny Ward was at the centre of most things for Town and his early deflected cross had to be tipped over his own bar by Oldham custodian Alex Cisak before the resulting corner fell to Higginbotham on the edge of the box, who once again forced the home ‘keeper into action with a smashing drive.
Wardy sent another deflected shot inches wide of the target in the 9th minute before collecting a pass from Oscar Gobern on the edge of the box and having another effort deflected inches off target just four minutes later.
Unfortunately Town’s star faded as the half progressed and the Latics started to get back into the game. Simon Grayson knows his opposite number Paul Dickov well – he managed the former striker at both Blackpool and Leeds United – and Oldham showed why they were such a good choice of pre-season opponent; pressing Town high up the pitch in typical fashion.
First striker Daniel Taylor forced Smithies into a comfortable side to his right side and then Oldham’s centre halves – James Tarkowski and Jean Yves M’Voto – both headed corners delivered by winger Youssouf M’Changama off target.
Former Town striker Robbie Simpson kept Peter Clarke and co honest with a lively performance throughout, but new boy Lynch was impressive; a hulking figure, he showed his ability to ease opponents off the ball on several occasions, along with some crunching tackles.
At the other end Spencer was trying gamely to mix it physically with giant French defender M’Voto – no easy task.
There was still time for the Terriers to force Cisak into action once again before the half ended and predictably it was Danny Ward with the effort. Tarkowski’s poor ball out of defence was seized upon by Keith Southern and he found Adam Clayton, who in turn picked out the run of Ward in the right channel. The winger entered the box on the angle before hitting a powerful right footed volley, but Cisak turned it around the post.
Grayson introduced three substitutes during the interval and Jordan Rhodes was quickly into the action, just failing to get on the end of an excellent cross from Hunt moments after the restart. Cisak then pushed away a wide free-kick from Clayton as Town started the half brightly, but the hosts soon got in the faces of the Town players once again.
The next ten minutes were Oldham’s best of the game; first M’Changama’s near post free kick was flicked narrowly wide of goal by the head of Simpson before the pair reversed that combination minutes later, with the winger heading Robbie’s cross over the bar.
Another former Town man, Lee Croft hit a 25 yard snapshot down Smithies’ throat on the hour mark as the Latics pushed forward but Town still carried a threat and one quickly taken corner 20 minutes from time ended with Rhodes flicking Oliver Norwood’s cross wide.
Alex Smithies showed smart reactions to push away a strong shot on the angle from Croft as the competitive nature of the game continued. Oldham were just as competitive as you would expect; despite it being a friendly, referee Moss had to stop play to speak to Oldham boss Dickov and left back Jonathan Grounds during the second half.
Town looked to break the deadlock late in the game, with the lively Sean Scannell first drilling a low cross into the waiting hands of Cisak before good work from the strike partnership of Novak and Rhodes – Town were playing 4-4-2 at this stage – resulted in Danny ward’s strong cross being cleared by a combination of Cisak and Grounds. However, the game was destined to be goalless.
Town’s team vs. Oldham Athletic (4-3-3):
Alex Smithies; Calum Woods, Joel Lynch, Peter Clarke (c), Jack Hunt (Paul Dixon 62); Oscar Gobern, Adam Clayton (Lee Novak 65), Keith Southern (Oliver Norwood 46); Danny Ward, Jimmy Spencer (Jordan Rhodes 46), Kallum Higginbotham (Sean Scannell 46)
Lloyd Allinson, Murray Wallace, Chris Atkinson
Town fans: 339