Another trip to see Oldham at Boundary Park, another defeat…
Perhaps it’s just Oldham Athletic, though I suspect not - you see and hear it at football grounds up and down the country - but there’s a peculiar impatience at lower league matches.
Think how many times at the football you’ve heard someone shout unsympathetically: “Come on! Get on with it!” And not just directed at an opposition player wasting time at a throw-in, or dying on the floor after a bone-crunching tackle, or a referee giving a laborious lecture to a disinterested delinquent. Fans even direct it at their own players. In the Chaddy End at Boundary Park - this is two matches into Latics’ Golden Ticket five-matches-for-£15 offer - even kids, their views on football not yet fully matured, shout: “Come on, hurry up! Get a move on!”
What’s the rush? Why is everybody so keen to get it all over with? Are the rest of their lives so important and exhilarating that they must quickly dispose of this pesky business with clinical rapidity? The football on show isn’t exactly Lionel Messi at Camp Nou, it’s not a masterclass from Paul Scholes, an occasional observer in these parts. But you are paying for 90 minutes of entertainment, what’s the sense in fast-forwarding through it as though you’ve Sky-plussed the match in your mind and desire only to view the most salient points in the plot? The same people leave five minutes before the end, or at least leave their seat and watch as they walk along the footpath at the pitch’s edge. They shuffle closer to the exit, rubbernecking to capture the last vestige of their Saturday afternoon hobby, before hot-footing it across the car park like they’re fleeing from a crime, into their cars and off into the horizon and the vitally important matters that await their undivided attention. Late winners and equalisers don’t count, I’m too busy.
Fans aren’t even particularly taken with considered, patient passing in the back four; defenders are not built for that at this level, they’re destined to physically destroy forwards, or going off with head injuries and coming back on to score a bloodied, headed goal from a corner, before running back to the half way line roaring like an action movie hero: “we can win this boys!” But when the centre-backs start faffing in defence, knocking it about, that is not on. Get it forward, lad.
The further up the football ladder you go the more that composure and patience on the ball are recognised as requisite qualities. In the hustle and bustle of England’s tougher leagues though, it’s not so widely regarded, or even recommended - that forward you cynically scythed down in the first five minutes is out for revenge, with bloodshot eyes and studs at the ready.
Oldham’s 2-1 defeat against Yeovil Town on Saturday had a similar air to the loss to Scunthorpe United a few days before it: going a goal down, equalising, only to lose out in the end. Yeovil, like Scunthorpe, started well, but this time Oldham’s opponents capitalised early, midfielder Gavin Williams scoring an excellent goal from distance.
Oldham’s bloodied centre-back, the incredibly-named Zander Diamond, levelled in the aforementioned heroic manner in the second half, but Yeovil responded quickly and took all three points.
The Latics players look tired - and no wonder, it’s a small squad, mostly the same 11 for two games a week, dealing with a gruelling glut of games. All the more reason, then, to take your time and not rush things, put your foot on the ball and conserve energy. Except that’s not allowed.