The Giant Killers

Every F A cup giant killing since 1888

All time greatest F A cup giant killings

Number 89

Oldham Athletic 3-2 Liverpool

Fourth Round: Sunday January 27th 2013

Boundary Park, Oldham

Attendance: 10,295

Scorer: Matt Smith {2}, Louis Suarez {17}, Matt Smith {45}, Reece Wabara {48}, Joe Allen  {79}

Thirty-nine oil workers lost their lives when taken hostage by Islamist extremists in Algeria, The British Government's plans to redraw the constituency boundaries in time for the next election were defeated in the Commons, Will I Am and Brittney Spears were topping the charts with Scream and Shout. Anne Hathaway was putting in a Best Supporting Actress Oscar winning performance as Fantine, alongside Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe and Amanda Seyfried in the musical adaptation of Les Miserables while Timothy Spall and Jennifer Saunders headed the cast of the comedy serial, Blandings.

In the five years since Oldham caused the major cupset of Everton, The Latics had gone from a promotion chasing League One side to one now haunted by the spectre of relegation to League Two, a depth The Greater Manchester club had not sunk to in over forty years. One stand of their Boundary Park home had been demolished, only for the club to find that they didn't have the money to build a new one. And then, in December, most of manager, Paul Dickov's backroom team were placed on garden leave as the club tried to gain some stability.

The side had been rubbing along okay in mid table until their form began to slide in October and by November they were in the relegation zone as their F A cup campaign began. Conference leaders, Kidderminster were beaten in the first round before Oldham pulled off a surprise second round victory over League One leaders, Doncaster to get them to round three where a trip to promotion chasing Championship, Nottingham Forest was expected to end their involvement.

The Latics had to come from behind with a brace by Robbie Simpson and a stunning free kick from Jose Baxter to secure a 3-2 victory at The City Ground and book their first fourth round tie since Baxter himself had been on a third round losing side to Oldham. That had been in the aforementioned cupset of Everton at Goodison Park. In 2012 however, with opportunities remaining limited, Baxter rejected a new contract and joined the Latics, becoming a big hit with the fans who celebrated his goals with  a chorus of 'Jose Baxter baby' to the tune of the 1980s Human League hit song, 'Don't you want me?'  Baxter was by no means Oldham's most experienced top flight player however as The Latics also had former Middlesbrough left back, Jonathan Grounds and ex Manchester City winger, Lee Croft in their team. Reece Wabarra was at the club on loan from Champions, Manchester City, where he managed just a single appearance, and the side could even boast two full internationals in Kyle Winchester, who played once for Northern Ireland, and Youssouf M'Changama of The Commoros Islands. International flavour was increased by Frenchman, Jean-Yves M'Voto and the Australian duo of James Wesolowski and keeper, Dean Bouzanis, who once helped Liverpool win the F A Youth Cup. Dan Taylor and David Mellor both spent their youth at big clubs in Newcastle and Manchester United respectively while Cliff Byrne arrived at Oldham from his native Ireland. Also named in the side to face Liverpool was the former captain of the Great Britain Universities Football team, Matt Smith, who could easily claim to be the most intelligent player on the pitch, having achieved a degree in International Business Studies and American Business while studying in the States. Not only that but he was easily among the biggest players on the field, filling a throwback role of an old fashioned bustling centre forward. Few outside Oldham had heard of him but within a month he was to become, for a brief period, a household name.

Facing Oldham were a Liverpool side who themselves could arguably be described as being at their lowest ebb for forty years. New manager Brendan Rodgers had taken over an expensively assembled but hugely disappointing side whose place in the top half of the Premier League could almost single handedly be credited to their Uruguayan International, Louis Suarez. The talismanic Steven Gerrard had only been producing his best form in patches and was on the bench. Suarez was one of nine full internationals in The Red's starting eleven with his Uruguayan team mate, Sebastien Coates, Australian, Brad Jones, Slovakian, Martin Skrtel, English trio Jordan Henderson, Daniel Sturridge and Raheem Stirling, Welshman, Joe Allen, and Italy's Fabio Borini while the two youngsters in the side, Andre Wisdom and Jack Robinson were both England under 21s.

Heavy snow fell in Oldham in the days leading up to the tie and the teams emerged to a pitch ringed by a moat of piled up snow, which had been cleared from the playing surface to ensure the game, which was to be televised live to a Sunday afternoon audience, went ahead. The stands too were full with a 10,000 capacity crowd, many of whom had barely taken their seats when the drama began to unfold. The Latics started on the front foot and in the second minute took the lead. Lee Croft's wild shot was going out for a throw when M'Changama quickly lashed it back into the danger area where Matt Smith rose highest to head the ball goalwards as Martin Skrtel could do nothing but help the ball on its way.  {Heading for round five: Matt Smith [blue shirt]  heads Oldham in front}

 

The next fifteen minutes were played at a frantic pace with some bone crunching challenges coming from both sides as Oldham sought to keep Liverpool out of their stride while The Reds upped their own tempo to draw level. The leveller came in the seventeenth minute as Oldham allowed Louis Suarez to run from his own half to the edge of the Latics' penalty area, picking up an inadvertent one-two from Byrne when he intercepted an attempted pass to Sterling, before the Uruguayan slotted in a simple finish.

Liverpool began to take a grip on the game and should have been in front when Sterling fired tamely at Bouzanis but that was the only real time in the first half that The Reds showed real danger of taking the lead. Their lack of promise in front of goal was then punished right before half time when Oldham built a move from their own half through Baxter and Croft, which looked to have been wasted when Wabara's cross rolled harmlessly towards Jones. The Liverpool custodian fumbled the ball as he dropped to his knees and was unable to recover before Croft swept the ball on to Smith to tap into an empty net. The Liverpool players protested furiously that Sterling had been fouled in the build up to the goal and, while they may have had a case, it could have been equally argued that a similar foul had kick started The Reds' own equaliser. 

The second half started with as much excitement as the first as Fabio Borini fired over in the opening moments to lay out Liverpool's intent to get back into the game. Any second half plans drawn up in the Premier League dressing room were torn up a minute later when Winchester, a first half substitute, crossed high for Reece Wabara to send a looping header back over Jones and just under the Liverpool bar. The Latics had a sensational two goal lead but a whole forty-two minutes to defend it.

Before the hour mark was reached Brendan Rodgers rang the changes with Steven Gerrard and Stuart Downing both coming off the bench to try and turn the game and as always, Gerrard's mere presence began to change the game. Liverpool now dominated as Oldham became tired and increasingly nervous about retaining their advantage. The reds now began to carve out a host of good chances, which all went begging as Byrne and Baxter in particular got in the way to make crucial blocks. There were eleven minutes left on the clock when Liverpool finally broke through from a corner, which was half cleared to Joe Allen, whose shot flicked off Jose Baxter and past a stranded Bouzanis.

Boundary Park deflated with the goal as a growing sense that Liverpool must equalise increased in the dying minutes and just seconds remained when the ball fell to Steven Gerrard outside the penalty area, from where he had so often been Liverpool's saviour. Given the time to line up a shot, he unleashed it with usual accuracy, leaving Bouzanis groping at air as the ball flew past the keeper. This time though Gerrard would be denied as the ball crashed back off the crossbar and was then cleared to safety. The Liverpool veteran turned away with a realisation that this was not to be his teams day and within two minutes the matter was settled with a wave of relief and jubilation flooding around Boundary Park.

Even before most of the fans had left the stadium they were pressed to their Androids to hear that Oldham had been drawn at home in round five to Liverpool's local rivals Everton. The blue half of Merseyside were enjoying a rare period of being the better of the two Merseyside clubs and were pushing hard for a place in the following season's Champions League when they came to Boundary Park. Again the tie would be on Sunday afternoon for the purposes of live Television, to see if The Latics could complete the Merseyside double.

Much had changed at Boundary Park however in the three weeks between the ties as manager, Paul Dickov found that a cup upset was not enough to save his job. Tony Philiskirk stepped in as a caretaker manager and, as so often happens, the change at the helm had seen an upturn in the club's fortunes. Oldham had gone from one win in seven before the Liverpool game to three wins in four before the Everton tie.

There were five changes too from the starting eleven too as Youssouf M'Changama was out for the season after the injury he had sustained just minutes after setting up Matt Smith's opening goal in the Liverpool tie. Smith too was doubtful and so took a place on the substitutes bench alongside Robbie Simpson and Cliff Byrne while Reece Wabara had returned to his parent club, Manchester City. Connor Brown and James Tarkowski came off the bench while Jordan Obitta Lee Barnard and Chris Iwelumo had just arrived on loan from Reading, Southampton and Watford respectively. Like Liverpool before them, Everton fielded a side of which only Sylvian Distin had not represented his Country.

The improvements to Oldham showed in a contest much more evenly balanced than the Liverpool tie and again The Latics struck first in the early stages. In the thirteenth minute an Everton corner was cleared to Lee Croft who raced from the half way line to the Everton penalty area before his angled pass provided the easiest of tap ins for Jordan Obita. Everton responded strongly though and eleven minutes later they were level when M'Voto misjudged a ball into the box and gave Victor Anichebe the space to fire a rasping drive past Bouzanis.

Oldham almost responded instantly when Obita curled an angled shot off the foot of an Everton post, his goalbound effort having taken the faintest of knicks off Marouane Fellaini on the way but as the half wore on Everton began to impose themselves on the game. No further goals followed but a huge roar went up at half time to encourage an Oldham side who could feel unfortunate not to be in the lead.

Everton manager, David Moyes was known for his motivational half time talks and his team responded in the second half by upping the tempo, taking the lead three minutes in when a corner came off Phil jagielka and went in. Although the Everton man knew little about it, the referee was poised to blow for a penalty if the ball hadn't entered the net as Jagielka was in the process of being pulled to the ground as the ball struck him. Everton had chances to put the result beyond doubt, most notably when Jelavic fired over with the goal at his mercy but as the game moved into the final ten minutes they started to look nervous.

Oldham began carving out chances and should have levelled when substitute, Robbie Simpson was put through to force a great one handed save from Howard before firing the rebound wide when he seemed certain to score. A minute later another glorious chance went begging as it looked like Oldham were about to exit the cup. They still forced Everton to defend to the last and in the fourth minute of injury time even Bouzanis came up for a last ditch corner. The ball was swung in and in desperation the Oldham keeper threw his hands at it in the hope of making contact. He got closer to the ball than his opposite number Howard but fortunately for Oldham, neither keeper was able to reach it as Matt Smith rose to head home a crucial last gasp equaliser. Everton argued for a foul on the keeper, handball or both but replays showed neither to be the case as Oldham celebrated the final whistle moments later that signalled a replay at Goodison Park.

Just as at the end of the Liverpool tie, the fans were able to hear the draw for the next round as they left the stadium, with the news that, if they could beat Everton, another home tie against Premier League opponents stood in their way in the quarter finals as relegation haunted Wigan would be their opponents. Matt Smith's shirt went into a jubilant Oldham crowd at the final whistle, which led to a slight sour note when the club informed him he would be fined as it had turned out the players had been warned prior to kick off not to swap or give away their shirts before the game.

Most knew in their heart of hearts that a victory at Goodison Park, where only Chelsea had been victorious during the season so far, was a tall order and so it proved. The Merseysiders swept into a three goal lead, though it could all have been so different had a Jose Baxter effort not struck a post just moments after Mirallas had opened the scoring. In the same move Oldham also had a great shout for a penalty when the ball came off Gibson's arm but the referee was unmoved and indeed seemed to balance the books a few minutes later when the Premier League club had a strong shout for a penalty of their own waved away for a foul on Jelavic. The Croat was fouled in similar circumstances later in the first half but this time the referee did point to the spot, albeit for a handball in the same move, which Baines stroked home. Osman  put the result beyond doubt in the second half but it was only fitting that Matt Smith, the hero of Oldham's cup run, had the final say as he rose high from a corner to score a consolation goal for The Latics. A fightback was unlikely but at least Smith and his teams mates were allowed to swap shirts at the final whistle. Oldham had responded to public criticism from the first game and withdrew the fine against their goal hero.

Athletic: 13:Dean Bouzanis, 3:Jonathan Grounds, 5:Jean Yves-Mvoto, 16:Cliff Byrne, 23:Reece Wabara, 4:James Wesolowski, 7:Lee Croft, 22:Youssouf M'Changama {replaced by 26:Carl Winchester -10}, 10:Robbie Simpson {replaced by 19:Dan Taylor -77}, 14:Matt Smith  {replaced by 29: David Mellor -84}, 20:Jose Baxter

Liverpool: 1:Brad Jones, 16:Sebastian Coates, 37:Martin Skrtel, 47:Andre Wisdom {replaced by 8:Steven Gerrard - 55}, 49:Jack Robinson, 14:Jordan Henderson, 24:Joe Allen, 31:Raheem Sterling {replaced by 33:Jonjo Shelvey -72}, 7:Louis Suarez, 15:Daniel Sturridge, 29:Fabio Borini {replaced by 19:Stuart Dowing -55}