As we roll into December and towards the busy Christmas period Oldham Athletic’s season looks rather disconcertingly like turning into a pretty good one.
The glitter of a Johnstone’s Paint Trophy Northern Semi-Final spot and a potential FA Cup 3rd round tie at Anfield currently embellish the bricks & mortar of a league campaign that sees Paul Dickov’s ever improving side in the pelaton loitering outside the League One play-off zone looking to be the team that breaks away in the new year.
The last month has seen a run of four potentially season making or breaking home games turn out surprisingly well. Despite getting off to a disappointing start with a home defeat to Bury – having been a man down for eighty minutes – Latics clicked into gear and booked their places in the JPT area semi & the FA Cup 2nd Round with 3-1 victories over Crewe & Burton respectively. The Boundary Park lock-in was then wrapped up with a commanding 5-2 defeat of Chesterfield, a performance one can only hope is a mark of things to come when the league campaign reaches crunch time in 2012.
One deciding factor in continuing this impressive form could be whether Dickov can tie down the man who’s hat-trick was the highlight of that shellacking of the Spireites. When Robbie Simpson came in on loan from Huddersfield Town the fans’ welcome was at best lukewarm, but his performances since have transformed him from underwhelming loanee into a key part of the Oldham team & the number one target for a permanent transfer come the January window.
The goalscoring exploits of Shefki Kuqi have understandably overshadowed Simpson’s arrival but for a number of the 12 goals he has plundered he owes a debt to Simpson, who currently tops the League One assist charts with seven. By his own admission the goals haven’t come as frequently as anticipated but Simpson’s hat-trick took him to a useful four for the season. He has also threatened often, creating numerous openings for his team mates with his clever running and bountiful reserves of energy.
Just two games of the forward’s loan deal remain, allowing him the chance to fire Latics into the Northern Final of the JPT and to a victory in the Roses clash with Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday. Athletic will then be without their primary provider of goals for the remainder of December: a period that includes that crucial FA Cup replay against Southend. Fortunately it is looking increasingly likely that come January a permanent move could be in the offing for the unassuming winger.
However that is a whole month away. A month in which Latics can move to within one round of a first Wembley appearance since 1994 and into the FA Cup 3rd round for the first time since 2007/08. A month in which we will find out the answer to the question: Will Robbie Simpson make his 2nd Latics debut on January 7th at Boundary Park against Colchester… or at Anfield?
Written by Christopher Platt, We Are Going Up’s Oldham Athletic Blogger
Chris tweets at @chrisbradman