Boundary Park, Oldham
Match Rating: 3
For my final game during my stay in Manchester, I headed north eastwards for another friendly game which not only enabled me to tick off another of the 92, but the game also had a quirky aspect to it, with the visitors being a club from Australia. I did have concerns this game might not take place following ferocious thunderstorms overnight and constant heavy rain throughout the morning and right up to kick-off. Happily though, those fears proved unfounded as the pitch was to prove in perfect condition.
Boundary Park is about a half hour walk northwards from Freehold tram stop, and it proved to be a delightful stadium, just oozing in character and history, with the main stand in particular a throwback of how grounds used to be and a step back in time. The stand, which survives from when the ground was constructed over 100 years ago, is two tiered. The bottom tier used to be a terrace but now has seating placed on it. The upper tier has old fashioned plastic seats in and has quite an intimate feel to it. Either side of the stand are small areas of unused terracing. Another old fashioned stand is behind one of the goals, a downside of this is it has a few supporting pillars along the front as well as low overhang of the front of the roof, although this helps make this stand (apparently) the best for atmosphere. Behind the other goal is a similar sized but more modern all-seater stand. Along the remaining length, a new stand is being built, six years since the previous stand was demolished. Currently it is a skeleton, but it should prove to be an impressive facility once it is completed later this season, if perhaps it will look a little out of place amongst its more traditional and smaller neighbouring stands. A programme was produced for today's game, although it had a rather strange fold-out format to it which is completely unsuited to reading it at the stadium.
Oldham had a pretty average season last season, finishing in 15th place, well adrift of the play-offs and the relegation zone. Melbourne City - or more accurately, Melbourne Heart, as the club was known before this summer - finished last season bottom of the Australian A League, although happier times are no doubt ahead, since Manchester City acquired the club earlier this year, and have signed David Villa on loan and Damien Duff permanently (although neither would play today). Indeed, Melbourne City are currently spending time training at Manchester City's training ground as a result of their partnership.
With the rain having thankfully subsided by kick-off, no-one was too sure how Melbourne City would measure up today, but as it turned out, they looked a solid outfit, very comfortable in possession although they seemed to pose little threat up front. An exception to that came on six minutes though, when they really should have taken the lead, James Brown blazing over the bar from eight yards out when the ball dropped to him following a corner. In a half of few chances, Oldham missed a similar sitter on the half hour, Jonson Clarke-Harris shooting wildly over the bar from fairly close range.
A goalless scoreline was a fair reflection of the first half, but it only took four minutes of the second half for the Australian club to take the lead. The ball was played low forward into the path of David Williams, who took the ball on before slotting the ball firmly past the keeper. That seemed increasingly likely to be the winner, as Melbourne played dull possession football and Oldham seemed to to lack the attacking intent to threaten the Melbourne goal. However, four minutes from time and Oldham did score an equaliser, Miguel Angel Llera got a foot yon the end of a free kick from the right to steer the ball over the keeper and into the net. They went on to look threatening in the remaining minutes, but 1-1 was how it finished. A disappointing game in truth, but well worth the visit to take in the dying breed of an old fashioned football ground, and the very rare opportunity to see an Australian club team on these shores.