Fleetwood v Oldham: reliance on Ripley


Connor Ripley – Oldham-chronicle.co.uk

Ask any Oldham fan who their two best players have been this season and they will say Connor Ripley and Peter Clarke. In 22 League One games, Ripley has kept a respectable seven clean sheets and alongside that, Not The Top 20 pundit George Elek cited him as the sole reason the Latics escaped Oxford with a 1-1 draw.

Clarke brings with him plenty of experience at a higher level and rarely loses a header, which makes him a threat in both penalty areas. However, the fact a centre-back is the team’s joint-top league scorer with two goals says a lot about the lack of quality and attacking intent in this team. Likewise, the fact that a goalkeeper is the best player in a side that is bottom of the table is also rather revealing.

Since the 2-0 win over leaders Scunthorpe, in which they played some good football, the team have only scored three goals in eight games. It is difficult to say that any of them required too much skill. For the opener at Oxford, the opposing keeper rushed out and perhaps it took a degree of bravery from those attacking the ball to get it over to Cameron Burgess, who had an empty net. Ollie Banks’ free-kick at Port Vale was deflected in and for the stoppage time equalizer, there was nine opposing players ball-watching in the penalty area. In the interests of balance, Oldham’s performance in Burslem arguably merited more than the point they gained. However, if the team is not showing much quality for the handful of goals they are scoring, how can anyone expect them to start scoring more?

If you look at the types of goals Fleetwood are scoring, it is not hard to see why they are doing so more often. For the first goal against Walsall, Ashley Hunter had the confidence to dispossess Edwards, move forward with remarkable control and delicately place a shot into the far corner. For the second, there was a fine passing move and Hunter’s audacious lob hit the bar, before Bobby Grant showed great technique to drive the ball home.

The equalizing goal at Swindon consisted of two forward one-touch passes – which are normally hard to execute against a team defending a lead – before a first time finish from David Ball at the near post. Their expected goals tally for the last seven games stands at 12.2 according to Experimental 361 (edited to include Bury game) – just over their actual tally of 11. The football is starting to flow with Hunter and Ball at the centre of everything.

If the repelling powers of Oldham’s Ripley and Clarke were to wane, this blog senses a heavy win could be on the cards for the Cod Army.

The Football Lab’s Verdict: 3-0


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