February is that time of year when the majority of New Years Resolutions have bitten the dust, the decadence of Christmas and New Year has disappeared into the distant past and all there is to look forward to is a commercial celebration of chocolate and stuffed toys and a strange egg and flour based feast.
For some this is masked by continuing success on the football pitch. Cup runs and promotion campaigns have the capacity to brighten the darkest of winters. Not for Oldham Athletic fans though. Discarded with the gym memberships this year were the dreams of Wembley and a season with consequences outliving the snow.
Upon wakening from the almighty hangover caused by watching forty-seven chances created over 180 minutes yield just one goal against a particularly feeble Chesterfield side, both managed by a former player and manager and consisting of no less than three former players, it became clear that the Latics’ season has taken a turn for the concerning.
With just one league goal scored and one point gained since the 3-2 win over Notts County on New Year’s Eve, it is becoming apparent that something needs to be done to prevent a repeat of last seasons February and March barren streak.
This situation has disconcerting echoes of that terrible two month spell at the beginning of 2011. The defence is reasonably tight – young stopper James Tarkowski having recently been compared by Paul Dickov to a young Richard Dunne – presumably a compliment, though one could argue otherwise. The creative areas of the field seem in good health too, with plenty of chances being carved by a combination of Chris Taylor, Robbie Simpson and the resurgent Filipe Morais.
What is lacking is that most fundamental of requirements: goals. Those optimism tinged days of the early Autumn when Shefki Kuqi and Robbie Simpson were dovetailing beautifully to supply the goals are a long way off now, and thoughts are turning to a potential late arrival to the relegation battle.
These thoughts may belong to the pessimists but it is clear that manager Paul Dickov needs to do something to get his young side firing and away from from danger. The loan system is often the first port of call when attempting to remedy such a situation, occasionally with fantastic results: the signing of Simpson being a case in point. It isn’t a perfect solution though, and it is hard to believe Dickov would be keen on pitching what would undoubtedly be a fairly green loanee into a squad largely consisting of players already lacking in experience.
This would point to a change of shape or focus within the team. Not an ideal situation, but in Kuqi, Simpson and the soon to return Reuben Reid Latics have the personnel to provide goals.
Dickov’s task, one of the toughest yet in his embryonic career, is to help them do so.
It is when handed assignments such as this more than when the goals and points are flowing free that fans and boards alike can truly assess their managers. From now until May Paul Dickov’s moves will be assessed very carefully as the board decide whether he is the man they want at the helm in August for the dawn of the 2012/2013 season.
Written by Christopher Platt, We Are Going Up’s Oldham Athletic Blogger
Chris tweets at @chrisbradman