STEVENAGE 0, OLDHAM ATHLETIC 1
It proved a tactical masterstroke by head coach John Sheridan as the recalled Jamie Hopcutt was Oldham Athletic’s matchwinner in the basement battle at Stevenage.
It could be a priceless victory as Latics moved three points clear of the League Two relegation places with Stevenage plunged into deeper trouble.
Hopcutt, a surprise selection, scored the decisive goal in the 15th minute after which Latics defended resolutely to the delight of more than 1,000 travelling fans in what could prove one of the most important wins in the club’s history with their EFL status in peril.
Sheridan, who was disappointed by Latics’ display, opted for one change following the midweek win against Leyton Orient. Hopcutt returned to the starting line-up at the Lamex Stadium.
The hosts nearly had the perfect start to the ‘six-pointer’ as Luke Norris should have opened the scoring in the opening exchanges. The ball landed perfectly to the frontman inside the six-yard box, but he flicked his effort just past the upright, a massive let off.
Fifteen minutes into the match, the away end was sent into chaotic scenes as Latics took the lead courtesy of a well-worked move.
After neat interchange between Nicky Adams and Jordan Clarke, the right-back delivered a pinpoint cross on the head of Hopcutt and the former Östersund FK player steered his header over goalkeeper Christy Pym and into the far corner.
New Stevenage manager Steve Evans would have been unhappy when Jake Taylor failed to equalise as Latics’ goalkeeper Danny Rogers punched a clearance to him with the goal at his mercy, but from just a few yards out, he remarkably smashed a shot over the crossbar.
Luther James-Wildin then pulled the ball back to Elliott List on the edge of the box, but the striker curled his effort just past the post.
After the interval, Stevenage continued to apply pressure and a cross was headed by Carl Piergianni into the path of Michael Bostwick, but the club legend could only slice his effort off target from the edge of the box.
James-Wilden, a constant bright spark on the right, crafted opportunities for his teammates which were not put away.
Latics battled and remained resolute and might have scored a second when Christopher Missilou made a counterattack. The midfielder dribbled past Bostwick with ease but lacked composure as his strike sailed over the crossbar.
The fourth official indicated a minimum of four added minutes and hearts were in mouths when a manic scramble took place inside their area, finally ending when Norris blazed over.
Latics held firm as back-to-back wins against Leyton Orient and Stevenage have given their survival hopes a massive shot in the arm.
Oldham Athletic: Rogers, Clarke, Hart, Piergianni, Adams, Whelan, Hope, Keillor-Dunn, Hopcutt (Luamba 68), Missilou, Sutton. Subs (unused): Leutwiler, Jameson, Diarra, Couto, Hunt, Vaughan.
Goal: Hopcutt (15) for Oldham Athletic.