sheffield UNITED players Matthew Lowton and Harry Maguire both saw red as the side threw away a two goal lead against the visitors from Boundary Park. Lecsinel Jean-Francois was carried from the pitch on a stretcher during the first-half.
Oldham manager PAUL Dickov had described this as a ‘Coming of Age’ moment for his young team.
An afternoon when, against opposition challenging for promotion, they would either sink or swim.
United also entered today’s fixture at Bramall Lane knowing it had the potential to exert great influence over the future.
While the visitors travelled east looking to cement their League One status, Danny Wilson’s side harboured ambitions of departing the division through the front door.
The difference in quality between these two rivals, however, was apparent from the very first moment of the opening period.
Taylor, thrust straight into the starting 11 following an 14 month absence through injury, used his first touch of the ball to turn Oldham’s defence and send Flynn scampering through to win a corner.
United’s second corner, again taken by Williamson, came soon after but was cleared at the near post.
With only three minutes on the clock, Evans earned Wilson’s men their third corner after nearly evading his marker.
Cresswell pounced on a loose clearance but saw his low shot slide just past the foot of Cisak’s post.
With Collins absent due to a private family matter, Taylor patrolled the left hand side of a defence with Jean-Francois deployed next to Maguire at its heart.
The tide continued to ebb towards Oldham’s net with Williamson orchestrating events well in central midfield. But with the visitors packing everyone bar Kuqi behind the ball when United were in possession, identifying a route through the crowd proved to be a tough ask until an error from M’Voto, robbed by Evans as he tried to shepherd the ball to safety, enabled the striker to cut the ball back for LOWTON to score after 22 minutes.
He could have claimed his and United’s second almost straight from the re-start after Cresswell’s persistence had forged an opportunity but the flight of the ball allowed Brown to intervene.
Home celebrations were cut short when Jean-Francois was carried from the pitch on a stretcher after half an hour following a collision also involving Kuqi and Maguire.
In considerable distress, the Haiti international was replaced by Ertl. In the 37th minute, though, United slipped back into gear with a delightful second. Doyle’s little backheel sent Quinn racing clear from deep inside his own half before EVANS threaded the ball across Cisak from an acute angle and into the bottom corner of his net.
United’s greatest enemy, though, was complacency and just before the hour Maguire was forced to clear off the line from Taylor after Ertl, having not seemingly received a warning from a team mate, dithered near his own box.
So it proved in one mad minute and a half.
CRESSWELL headed into his own goal from Morais’ 65th minute corner and Lowton was booked for refusing to give back the ball.
Moments later, United’s full-back, who had previously impressed, was sent-off after receiving his second yellow card for a tackle on Tarkowski.
And in the 68th minute, Oldham were level when LEE levelled with a sumptuous angled finish after receiving the ball from Marsh-Brown.
United, who had early seemed set for a routine victory, had spectacularly imploded. Oldham sensed a chance not to snatch one point but all three.
Cresswell had now dropped into defence and when Taylor, who had earlier gone down with cramp, could no longer continue, Hoskins replaced him with four minutes remaining. United were to finish the game with a defence consisting of Cresswell, Ertl and Doyle.
But there was still time for Maguire to see red for hauling back Reid after a long ball from Mellor.KUQI smashed home the winner from the resulting penalty.