Harry Kewell's Oldham Athletic picked up three points against high-flyers Cheltenham Town on Tuesday night, playing out a 2-1 win at a cold Boundary Park.
Michael Duff's side controlled the majority of the ball with the hosts sitting deep, but they could not find a way to break through and they were undone on the counter
Oldham adopted a different, more negative style for the game and although it may not have been the nicest to watch, it helped a struggling Latics side to grind out all three points.
Most of Zak Dearnley's chances in recent games have come in the closing minutes, but that wasn't the case on Tuesday. After a mere eight seconds, he found himself threaded through and one-on-one with the goalkeeper, but his effort was denied at close range by Joshua Griffiths.
Having struggled defensively in previous fixtures, Harry Kewell opted to position his side much deeper defensively. Brice Ntambwe sat in front of a back-four with Harry Clarke and Kyle Jameson in the centre, while the rest of the midfield often stayed back in the first half, using counter-attacks as their main opportunity to go forwards.
Shortly after the equaliser, however, Latics suffered a massive blow when Zak Dearnley went down holding his hamstring. The 22-year-old's spells at Oldham Athletic have both been plagued with injury, and he will now once again see himself out of action.
However, the hosts were undone by an ex-Latic in the 33rd minute. The Oldham defence were too tight out wide and when Alfie May played in his cross, Reuben Reid found himself in acres of space in the middle of the box. He then fired a casual finish into the back of the net to level the scoring.
Dearnley had been replaced with Dylan Bahamboula and it was the Congolese winger who earned the equaliser. Using his trademark stepovers to beat the defender, he unleashed a powerful shot which could only be parried by Griffifths. With a loose ball in front of goal, Australian youngster George Blackwood only needed the slightest of touches to convert it goalwards and net his first in an Oldham shirt.
Both sides came out playing well in the second half, but neither found themselves with many chances to trouble the goalkeeper. Oldham's deep defending nullified the Robins' attempts going forwards, while Harry Kewell's side found often found it difficult to get out of their own half.
Before being taken off in the 60th minute, Blackwood had performed well on Tuesday night. He clearly lacked the pace usually shown by Dearnley up top, but worked hard to get the ball behind the defence and troubled Michael Duff's side.
The hosts continued to come close to breaking the deadlock, with Dylan Bahamboula and Danny Rowe both troubling the defences, but they just couldn't find a way to turn those chances into goals.
Arsenal loanee Harry Clarke turned a drab draw into three points for the Latics as the game drew to a close. Jordan Barnett played an inswinging corner and an initial effort from the hosts was cleared off the line, but the 19-year-old was there to pounce and tip the scoreline in Oldham's favour. It was Danny Rowe who originally earned the corner, creating an opportunity from nothing.
Only minutes earlier, the youngster had cleared a Cheltenham effort off the line to keep the hosts in contention.
Much better from Oldham
Picking up another win, the Latics performed much better against Cheltenham than they have done in recent matches. Having a defensive midfielder in front of a strong backline meant that their regular issues at the back were not as evident.
In the absence of the experienced head of Carl Piergianni, a defence with a combined age of 84 held up excellently, especially the partnership of Jameson and Clarke.
It may cause a selection headache when the experienced heads of Piergianni and Jombati return, as tonight's centre-back pairing performed very well.
Having joined on deadline day as a free agent after most recently playing for Macclesfield Town, Brice Ntambwe performed well on Tuesday evening.
Sitting as the pivot in a 4-1-4-1 for Oldham, he broke down the Robins before they were able to reach the defence and complimented the style of football which Kewell was looking to play.
Man of the match
Although he could not get on the scoresheet, Dylan Bahamboula played an excellent game against Cheltenham and was crucial in the Latics picking up three points.
Providing the chance for the first goal, he should have had one for himself in the second half when he was through on goal, but he just hit his effort over the goal.
Danny Rowe also performed extremely well during his cameo and should now definitely be in contention for more regular starts.