The next installment in the series sees Swindon Town fan ROB FRANCIS pop in the TrustSTFC.tv time machine to revisit games past.
Ahead of the clash with Oldham his weekend, it’s the Latics who fall under Rob’s microscope…
Swindon Town 2-0 Oldham Athletic, FA Cup Second Round, February 2, 1924
The first time the two sides met was in a cup tie in the 1923/24 season. Following the previous year’s relegation, Oldham Athletic were in the middle of their first ever season in the second tier, whereas Town had been consistently achieving top-half finishes in Division Three without ever looking like claiming the single promotion place on offer.
Although the Latics would have been favourites to win the tie, both teams were in good form. Oldham had only lost two out of their last thirteen games, whereas Swindon had only been beaten once over the same period.
In front of nearly 23,000 spectators at the County Ground, and with Harold Fleming making a rare appearance in his final season before retirement, Swindon proved too strong for the visitors. After a goalless first half, strikes from Bertie Denyer and Charlie Crossley were enough to send Oldham crashing out.
A win away at Second Division Crystal Palace in the next round took Swindon through to an FA Cup quarter-final against top-flight Burnley, who proved too strong for Town in a replay.
Being drawn against Oldham in the FA Cup has proved a good omen for Swindon; the Latics also lost at the County Ground in 1996 as Town reached the Fifth Round as a third-tier club.
Following the meeting in 1924, the clubs would have to wait forty-two years to play one another again.
Swindon Town 3-2 Oldham Athletic, Division Two, January 13, 1990
When Oldham arrived in Wiltshire in January 1990, they were 4th in the Division Two table, one place and two points ahead of their hosts. They were also fresh from beating Third Division Birmingham City in an FA Cup replay, the start of a cup run which was to go down in Latics history.
Swindon initially found it tough going against an organised Oldham defence making good use of the offside trap, but with ten minutes left in the first half, Tom Jones played in Alan McLoughlin, who fired past Jon Hallworth in the visitors’ goal to give Town a half-time lead. Soon after the restart it was 2-0, a Steve Foley flick at the near post being headed in by Steve White.
Oldham fought back. Scott McGarvey was brought on as a substitute and headed home a Rick Holden cross with half an hour left, before hitting the bar with a free-kick.
With six minutes remaining, David Kerslake played a perfect cross from the right for an unmarked Steve White to score his second of the afternoon and restore the two goal advantage. The Latics pulled it back to 3-2 in the dying moments through Neil Adams, but they had left it too late. The win lifted Town above Oldham and into third in the table.
For both sides, the end to the 1989/90 season was to promise much but deliver heartache. Oldham reached the semi-finals of the FA Cup, where they were narrowly beaten by Manchester United in a replay. The Latics went one better in the League Cup, losing 1-0 at Wembley to Nottingham Forest in the final. And, because bad things come in threes, Oldham missed out on a play-off spot by three points, their league form faltering as the fixtures piled up.
As for Swindon, perhaps their ending was even harder to stomach. A 1-0 win at Wembley in the play-off final against Sunderland should have delivered a first taste of top-flight football, but the Football League’s punishment for breaches of 36 league rules was to deny Town promotion.
Swindon Town 0-1 Oldham Athletic, Premier League, August 18, 1993
Swindon made it to the promised land three years later, an incredible 4-3 Wembley win over Leicester City securing promotion to the Premier League. Just a few days after describing the play-off victory as his proudest moment in football, player-manager Glenn Hoddle resigned to take charge at Chelsea, and was replaced as Town boss by his assistant, John Gorman.
As well as losing Hoddle as a manager, Gorman had lost a very capable player, and worse was to come; captain Colin Calderwood and striker David Mitchell, both so important in the previous campaign, also left the club.
After an opening day defeat at Sheffield United, Swindon welcomed another side tipped for relegation to the County Ground, for Town’s first ever home game in the top flight. Oldham had pulled off an extraordinary escape at the end of the previous campaign, winning their final three games to survive on goal difference from Crystal Palace, who were eight points clear of the drop zone with one week left of the season.
Joe Royle’s side were again expected to struggle, and Swindon knew that they would need to pick up points in such games if they were to have any hope of avoiding the drop.
What was to follow was a harsh lesson in the realities of the Premier League. The match was into the second minute of injury-time and petering out into a goalless draw, when a long Latics throw found Gunnar Halle on the left wing. He hit a first-time cross which was headed in by Paul Bernard to take all three points back to the North West and break Swindon hearts. You wait 114 years for a home game in the top flight…
On the touchline, John Gorman simultaneously covered his face with his hands and dropped to his knees. In the same motion, he continued to fall forwards until he was lying face downwards on the County Ground turf, meaning that Joe Royle had to step around the Town boss as he celebrated the Latics’ late winner.
The image of Gorman prone on the grass was to be an iconic image of Swindon’s season, which culminated in an inevitable relegation. Oldham were to join Town in dropping out of the Premier League; a failure to win at Norwich on the final day sent them down as well.
Swindon Town 4-2 Oldham Athletic, League One, February 9, 2010
League One in 2009/10 was a very competitive division, with more than its fair share of big clubs. Favourites for promotion included Norwich City, Leeds United, Charlton Athletic and Southampton, while Huddersfield Town and Millwall were also expected to perform well.
Swindon, by contrast, were expected to be battling at the other end of the table. Manager Danny Wilson had come in during the previous season and steered the club to safety, but the loss of top scorer Simon Cox in the close season was a big blow, and led pundits to tip Town for relegation.
Instead, Swindon were to enjoy one of their best seasons in years, and fans were treated to some sublime football along with it. With Gordon Greer captaining the side, Jonathan Douglas and Jon-Paul McGovern running things in midfield, and Billy Paynter forming a hugely effective partnership up front with Charlie Austin, Town fans had a side they could be proud of.
After a slow start which saw Swindon just outside the play-offs at the end of October, Town hit form, and recorded some impressive results; 3-0 wins home and away against Leeds United, and a 1-0 victory away to Southampton being among the highlights. In all, Swindon lost only one league game between October 24th and March 6th.
In the middle of this run, a struggling Oldham side came to town and were simply over-run. Paynter gave the home side the lead on the stroke of half-time with a turn and shot from outside the area, before Austin was fouled in the box in first-half injury-time, enabling Paynter to score his and Swindon’s second from the spot.
Austin slotted home a third goal three minutes after the break, before Danny Ward made it 4-0 just before the hour. Two late consolation goals at least gave the 132 travelling Latics fans something to cheer about.
Swindon were to move into 5th with this win, and would reach second place in the table with only six games left, at which point their form deserted them; the season finishing with a defeat to Millwall in the play-off final, and with Town fans cursing the bobbly Wembley pitch.
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