CREWE ALEXANDRA 0, OLDHAM ATHLETIC 1
Conor Wilkinson came off the bench to score the goal which earned Oldham Athletic victory at Crewe Alexandra as they ended a dismal spell.
The on-loan striker provided some much-needed cheer with his third goal for the club as Latics arrived at the Alexandra Stadium having lost six of their previous seven games.
And with nine players ruled out through injury, it was another challenge for caretaker manager Dean Holden.
But the makeshift side showed spirit to earn three much-needed points which leaves Sky Bet League One survival tantalisingly close as one more win ought to be suffice as they climbed back to 13th place in the table.
It was a great day for teenage goalkeeper Joel Coleman, deputising for the injured Jake Kean, as he kept a clean sheet on his debut while debut-making centre back Anthony Gerrard, on loan from Huddersfield Town, also did his part in helping achieve a shutout.
Latics, who had a 737 following, almost achieved lift off after five minutes when Rhys Turner, who scored his first goal for the club in midweek, broke free only to see his shot tipped wide by former keeper Paul Rachubka.
Nicky Ajose, who scored both of Crewe’s goals in the 2-1 victory at SportsDirect.com Park on Boxing Day, went close after 10 minutes as his chip narrowly cleared the crossbar.
Top scorer Jonathan Forte had a chance from inside the six-yard box, but could not convert while Turner, justifying being preferred to Wilkinson, header just over in a lively start to the game.
Coleman didn’t have a lot to do, though he dashed from his line to make a vital block to deny the dangerous Ajose.
Latics had another good chance, but Rachubka did well to keep out Danny Philliskirk’s goal attempt.
Crewe had a strong penalty shout following Adam Lockwood’s challenge on Marcus Haber, but it was waved away to the relief of Latics.
Coleman was called into action against just before the hour when he tipped over a shot from former Latics’ loanee Anthony Grant.
Wilkinson replaced Turner midway through the second period to partner Forte.
Coleman saved well again with 20 minutes left to keep out a James Jones shot which took a sizeable deflection which wrong-footed the keeper who did well to save on his line.
The breakthrough came after 74 minutes after Philliskirk’s initial shot was parried by Rachubka. Forte latched on to the loose ball and found Philliskirk who set up Wilkinson who slotted home from inside the box.
Latics could have had a second goal when Luke Woodland’s goalbound shot was blocked with 10 minutes left.
Crewe put Latics under immense pressure late on without seriously threatening to draw level with Gerrard proving a calming influence and pillar of strength at the back as Holden secured his second win in temporary charge.