OLDHAM ATHLETIC 0, ROCHDALE 0
It was a case of small steps for new head coach John Sheridan who began a remarkable sixth spell in charge of Oldham Athletic with a home goalless draw in the El Flatcapico derby of the two neighbouring mill town.
The point lifted Latics off last place, though they and Scunthorpe United – the bottom two clash on Saturday – both remain in perilous positions seven points from safety in Sky Bet League Two.
They are calling it the ‘Shezurrection’ as he has twice preciously saved Latics from the threat of relegation.
To complete a hat-trick this time would be his greatest achievement in view of the turmoil at Boundary Park, both on and off the field as he becomes the third head coach of the season after Keith Curle and Selim Benachour who was in interim charge.
For starters, Sheridan takes over a side which has won only four of its first 26 league matches.
Nine wins from the last 20 games – an enormous ask – would take Latics to 46 points and Southend were relegated last season with 45 points.
The only possible saving grace for Sheridan is there are some struggling sides at the bottom as Scunthorpe, Colchester and Barrow are all far from secure.
There was an optimism not seen all season after Sheridan returned to club where his association stretches back to the mid-1990s as a player with a season’s best crowd of 8,199, though more than 2,000 were visitors.
The 57-year-old made three changes from the lacklustre defeat at Harrogate Town as Danny Rogers, Harrison McGahey and Christopher Missilou were named in the starting line up as he implemented a 3-5-2 system.
Early on, referee Darren Drysdale suspended the match for 19 minutes following a medical emergency in the upper main stand as the supporter’s condition was stabilise before they were taken to hospital.
Latics produced a great move as Alex Hunt switched the ball from the right to Sam Hart on the left before he raced forward and seeing his shot bravely blocked by Portsmouth loanee Paul Downing.
Rochdale, with two former Latics’ players in their line-up, had the only real opportunities of note when Downing headed wide from Max Clark’s pinpoint cross.
Just before the break, Clark had another opening, but sliced his shot wide across the face of goal.
Straight after the restart, Corey O’Keeffe sprinted down the right and drilled a low ball across the face of goal to Clark who fired wide at the far post to Latics’ relief.
Once again, Downing proved to be an important physical presence from set-pieces for Dale and, this time, his looping header looked destined for the far corner, but fortunately, it drifted past the post.
Latics created an attack of their own, but it didn’t trouble former Latics’ keeper Joel Coleman as Christopher Missilou’s effort cleared the crossbar.
Following that, Hart powered down the left before delivering a cross on to the head of Dylan Bahamboula inside the six-yard box, but it flashed the wrong side of the upright.
In added time, Missilou showed great determination as he forced his way into the penalty area before shot narrowly wide as Latics were left frustrated as they were unable to break the deadlock as Rochdale retained the Ernie Cooksey Trophy which is awarded annually in memory of the midfielder who played for both clubs before losing a battle against skin cancer.
Oldham Athletic: Rogers, Adams, Clarke, Piergianni, McGahey, Hart, Missilou, Whelan, Hunt (Stobbs 58), Bahamboula, Keillor-Dunn (Hopcutt 70). Subs (unused): Southerington, Fage, Couto, Vaughan, Simms.
Attendance: 8,199 (2,014 visitors).