AUSTRALIAN sportsmen have been the bane of Great Britain and England in recent years, but this time even Town had to suffer!

Giant goalkeeper Les Pogliacomi pulled off a string of miraculous saves to deny Town a deserved share of the spoils and frustrate a magnificent travelling army of 2,229 fans.

The pride of Parramatta earned rave reviews for his one-handed first-half save from Chris Brandon, but his second-half heroics for Oldham almost defied belief.

He got some goalline help from Mark Hughes when failing to hold a stinging Pawel Abbott drive, but his block from Junior Mendes' deflected drive on 68 minutes and his last-gasp save to keep out Jon Worthington's goalbound half-volley simply took the breath away.

Home coach Tony Philliskirk acknowledged Oldham owed the three points to the "big man", who would have been a Town player two years ago if Mick Wadsworth had had his way.

Pogliacomi's superlative display merely compounded the frustration for Town, their manager Peter Jackson and the fans because they deserved at least a point for a stirring second-half surge.

Oldham's seventh win in succession and ninth in 10 outings, however, came about because of two dreadful defensive blunders by Town, who were incredibly sluggish at the start.

Skipper Dean Holden had already headed a simple chance straight at Paul Rachubka when Oldham took the lead after three minutes and 44 seconds - Will Haining left completely unmarked by David Mirfin at a corner.

Stunned as they were, Town replied superbly just two minutes later when Anthony Lloyd - brought in at right wing-back for Andy Holdsworth, who moved forward to replace suspended Lee Fowler in midfield - drilled in a perfect cross for Abbott to nod his 15th goal of the season.

It was a catalyst for a fine all-round contribution from the 22-year-old frontman and Town, with Brandon and Worthington raiding smartly, had the better chances after that.

But it was Oldham who got the vital break after 37 minutes.

David Eyres, at 40, found space down the left and cut back to provide an inswinging near-post cross which Chris Killen flicked to the back post, where Kevin Betsy beat Mirfin and Rachubka with a neat overhead kick.

Town re-grouped during half time and, when an equaliser wasn't looking likely after the opening stages of the second period, Jackson made a positive double substitution which made Oldham look decidedly shaky.

Off went defenders Mirfin and Lloyd to be replaced by Mendes and Danny Schofield, who was very unfortunate not to earn a penalty when Holden appeared to clearly handle the ball.

Mendes made an immediate impact, creating a simple chance for Tony Carss on his left foot only for the midfielder to miscue his shot across goal.

The Montserrat frontman then saw another drive somehow blocked by the keeper while Abbott went close twice, firstly with a raking shot and secondly with a near-post thunderbolt which Pogliacomi would have dropped over the line but for Hughes' presence.

Town, with Efe Sodje and Nathan Clarke both playing well at the back, piled on the pressure after that and, while Sodje blazed one effort over the bar after mayhem in the box, it seemed certain the Oldham defence would eventually crack.

They didn't.

Oldham, in fact, created one or two problems of their own, particularly through Adam Griffin on the break.

Town were relieved when the left-back opted to shoot instead of square the ball when romping to the goalline on the left, while there were shots off target from gritty midfield duo Neil Kilkenny and Hughes.

Town dominated, though, and roared on by their massed bank of fans looked like snatching a point in the four minutes of additional time.

Well into the third minute, Worthington caught hold of the sweetest of shots and it seemed destined to beat Pogliacomi's desperate dive to his left.

Town's skipper was off the ground in celebration but, at the very last moment, the big Aussie clawed the ball away.

A top save, but he's definitely off the Christmas card list!

Man of the Match: Pawel Abbott

THE leading scorer was praised by home coach Tony Philliskirk and his contribution was solid, winning challenges at the back, linking well with midfield and causing plenty of goal threat

How they rated:

Paul Rachubka Stranded on his line for both goals, he was hardly stretched otherwise and will not be happy with defeat Rating: 6/10

Anthony Lloyd Unfamiliar role of right wing-back but supplied a brilliant cross for Abbott's goal. Sacrificed to give Town more attacking bite Rating: 6/10

Rob Edwards Kept plugging away and didn't give Croft too much joy, being booked for one challenge. Some decent set pieces Rating: 6/10

Nathan Clarke After being caught in possession early on, he responded strongly with good tackles and some accurate use of the ball Rating: 7/10

Efe Sodje Lost the odd aerial battle, but did a solid marking job on Killen overall, getting back to clear superbly at times Rating: 7/10

David Mirfin Caught flat-footed for both goals, the teenager was brought off in the second half to get Mendes on Rating: 5/10

Tony Carss First time back at his old club and ought to have scored when missing the target with a left-foot drive Rating: 6/10

Jon Worthington Desperately unlucky not to score at the death with a rasping shot clawed away by Pogliacomi. He grafted hard again, too Rating: 7/10

Chris Brandon Brought a brilliant save from Pogliacomi with a right-foot volley. Superb first half. Quieter when pushed wide in second Rating: 7/10

Andy Holdsworth Played a holding role in midfield to start with and had to work hard. Put back to wing-back in a second-half reshuffle Rating: 6/10

Pawel Abbott Scored his 15th goal of the season and unlucky not to get at least one more. Worked hard and showed good skills Rating: 8/10


NORTHAMPTON official Peter Walton reacted to the crowd too much and all the bookings, apart from Jon Worthington's for dissent, made little sense.

Rob Edwards won the ball against Lee Croft but got a card because of what had gone before. Oldham's Hughes saw yellow when Paul Rachubka simply kicked the ball against him while Pogliacomi was booked for time-wasting when he couldn't have re-started the game in any case because Killen was having treatment.

Walton missed a blatant penalty for Town for handball as well.

Oldham Athletic: Pogliacomi, Holden, Griffin, Haining, Hall, Croft, Killen (Vernon 90), Betsy, Hughes, Kilkenny (Boshell 90), Eyres. Subs not used: Mildenhall, Beharall, Wolfenden.