Boundary's edge cannot stop Norwich City
Jonathan Redhead Oldham Athletic 0, Norwich City 1: After driving through the snow and fog on the M62 to Oldham, first-time visitors to Boundary Park, like myself, were hoping for a nice, warm, homely ground to be lying in wait in east Lancashire.
After driving through the snow and fog on the M62 to Oldham, first-time visitors to Boundary Park, like myself, were hoping for a nice, warm, homely ground to be lying in wait in east Lancashire.
Instead, it appears the Latics have deemed to play their home games at one of the country's bleakest possible outposts.
Freezing cold, the three-sided ground is surely as asthetically displeasing to the eye as any other ground in the country.
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There's a certain pre-satellite televison quality and feel to the stadium, which although charming to some, is less so to others brought up in the comforts of Carrow Road and other similar stadiums up and down the country. Quaint it is not.
It's the same feel which must have been noticed by the Norwich City squad as they pulled into the car park several hours before kick-off.
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And it might have inspired some to produce the kind of victory which will go some way to ensuring the Canaries will not be forced to return to the Latics' home ground next season - or any time soon.
It certainly seemed the case for Grant Holt who produced a brilliant performance to lead his side to a wholly-deserved victory, which leaves City firmly as masters of their own destiny.
As Leeds were slipping up down the road at Huddersfield and Colchester were losing in the south west at Bristol Rovers, there was a steely determination about Holt and the Canaries to make sure they collected the three points to end the week on a high note.
It was Holt who scored the only goal of the game eight minutes into the second half.
Wes Hoolahan played the ball inisde full back Kieran Lee to release Anthony McNamee.
The flying winger reached the byline and although his dinked cross was too high for Chris Martin, Holt was charging in behind totally unmarked.
He slid in and stuck out a big right foot from six yards out, and although home stopper Dean Brill got hands to the ball, there was no stopping it, as it bounced up into the roof of he net.
It was a moment of real quality in a match, which, as befitting the ground, was not pretty in the opening stages.
Oldham played like a team out of form and lacking in confidence as City, playing in a 4-2-3-1 formation with Hoolahan just behind Holt, tried to establish a foothold in the game.
And it came thanks mainly to the shackling qualities of Gary Doherty and Michael Nelson who suffocated the life from Oldham's attacking threat of Jason Price and Pawel Abbott.
From there, City were able to build a base to attack their hosts and created several chances in the first half.
City thought they had taken the lead on 10 minutes when Anthony McNamee, playing on the right wing, bemused Joe Jacobson and whipped in a great cross which Holt headed powerfully home from 10 yards out.
But he was denied, probably accurately, by the assistant referee's flag.
At the other end, Oldham briefly threatened as Price should have tapped home Reuben Hazell's header at the far post, minutes after Dale Stephens free-kick fizzed over.
But it was only a fleeting threat, as City dominated the territorial advantage.
Holt was City's best attacking weapon and after volleying Russell Martin's cross straight at home keeper Brill, he then headed a Hoolahan cross wide from about eight yards out as the Canaries pressed for the opener.
On the half hour, he missed the best chance of the opening period after he brilliantly set free by Hoolahan.
The City frontman was clear in the inside left channel, but dragged his shot wide of the far post from eight yards out.
City switched formation just before the interval with Hoolahan moving out left and Chris Martin joining Holt as a second striker and came out in the second period set up the same way.
The move paid almost instant dividends, with Holt scoring and although Oldham briefly tried to mount a comeback, he nearly had a second on the hour when he beat Brill to a cross and headed the ball goalwards, only for Rob Shoebridge to blow for a foul by the City skipper.
The Latics introduced Keigan Parker for the ineffective Joe Colbeck, as they tried to really test Nelson, Doherty and Fraser Forster for the first time.
Parker's first attempt was a 25 yard volley which went straight to Forster without the on-loan keeper needing to move.
But it was his second effort, seven minutes from time which nearly produced the equaliser.
From Jacobson's long punt, Parker found himself clean through on goal, but as he was about to strike, Forster steadied himself and produced an excellent save to deny him.
From the corner, Reuben Hazell directed his header powerfully towards goal, but was denied by Korey Smith, standing to attention at his far post station, to boot the ball to safety.
A goal would have been harsh on City who did enough for victory and were happy to return to Norfolk with a five-point lead at the top of League One.
The players and staff deserved the pizzas delivered to the team bus for the journey home.
And although the welcome at Boundary Park was warm and the pies were very nice, like the brilliant visiting fans, they could take satisfaction from knowing they are not likely to return to Boundary Park any time soon.