WALSALL 1, OLDHAM ATHLETIC 1
Substitute Jonathan Forte’s late equaliser was fully merited as Oldham Athletic drew at Walsall in their opening match of the season in Sky Bet League One.
It would have been unjust had Latics, behind for 75 minutes to an early goal from Romaine Sawyers, come away from the Banks’s Stadium empty handed following a dominant second-half display.
And it was a satisfying result for new manager Darren Kelly in his first match in charge.
It was very much the expected starting line up with new loanee Jonathan Burn making his debut in the centre of defence while, surprisingly, teenage striker Rhys Turner was preferred to Forte, last season’s top scorer.
There was a sombre start to proceedings, one minute’s silence in memory of the three Saddlers’ fans who were victims of the recent Tunisian massacre.
And it was not the start Latics wanted when Sawyers shot Walsall ahead after only eight minutes with a well-struck effort from inside the penalty area.
Latics responded positively as Liam Kelly’s volley from 25 yards whistled past the upright while they also had a strong claim for a penalty when Joseph Mills was bundled over in the box.
But Walsall would have ended the half with a two-goal lead had Latics’ keeper Joel Coleman not saved well to deny former Oldham loanee Sam Mantom.
Latics started the second period brightly as Kelly went close again with a chip from 40 yards while Mike Jones forced a decent save from keeper Neil Etheridge who had a brief spell with Oldham last season.
Etheridge also had to push away a 30-yard drive from Mills as Latics pressed for an equaliser.
Kelly threw on Forte and new signing David Dunn mid-half and Danny Philliskirk not long after as they looked for new ways of puncturing the Walsall defence.
All three made an impact on the game with Dunn displaying the silky skills he once performed in the Premier League.
Latics were finally rewarded when Forte equalised with seven minutes left when he ran on to a right-wing cross from Jake Cassidy and Etheridge was finally beaten. It was no more than they deserved for their efforts.
Indeed, Latics might have even pinched victory when Cassidy headed over from 10 yards. Had that gone in, it would have been the perfect finish for the 991 visiting fans.