Excellent first half sets the scene ...
Carlisle United all-but assured their League One status for next season as they complemented a dominant and assertive first half display with a tenacious and gritty performance which earned them a vital three points at Boundary Park.
Two excellent strikes set the tone as the Cumbrians made it one defeat in seven with one of their best all-round performances of the campaign.
“I thought the lads were magnificent today,” manager Greg Abbott said. “It’s important in a game like this to get on top and I thought we did that really well. The goal from Liam [Noble] is exactly what he can do and it set us up for the rest of the game. From one to eleven we looked like a good side and I’m delighted for everybody, because they made us work after the break. Right now the most important thing is that we got the points and we’re now in a position where we can start to rebuild and kick on to where this club wants to be.”
Oldham set the ball rolling with a direct attack when Baxter sent Reid clear on the right flank. His attempted cross had Gillespie worried as it spun off the top of his boot and dropped just wide.
The Cumbrians edged their way on top as they preyed on the nerves shown by a hesitant Latics side.
Jon-Paul McGovern had the first of the Carlisle chances when a Murphy free kick was only half cleared. It fell nicely for the midfielder but he scuffed his volley and Bouzanis made the save.
The same man took charge of a 26-yard free kick but he blazed it over the bar when a delivery into the box looked to be the better option.
Liam Noble didn’t need to be asked twice when he raced onto the loose pieces as Berrett showed no mercy with a determined tackle in midfield. Two touches took him away from a sliding challenge from Tarkowski and the thunderbolt which followed left Bouzanis with no chance as the ball angled into the bottom corner.
One-touch passing became the order of the day for the visitors and neat work from Mustoe and Welsh left Miller in a good position. He twisted and hooked it across the face of goal but M’Voto stepped in to swipe it clear.
Andy Welsh almost caught Bouzanis on the hop from a McGovern corner when he back-heeled the ball through Simpson’s legs. Korey Smith had to block as Potts put his boot through it.
United had to be alert at the other end when Reid pulled wide into space. Livesey threw himself into the clearance as he headed it high into midfield. Jordan Mustoe then timed a tackle perfectly when the same danger man threatened to burst through.
Out-of-sorts Oldham had little to offer though and a Miller flick put United back onto the front foot. McGovern spotted a gap but his low drive was picked up low by the alert stopper.
Brad Potts appeared to be enjoying his right back role and his overlap midway through the half took him within shooting range. He kept his head over the ball but Bouzanis was again very well placed.
Defender Peter Murphy was next to go close when he headed another pinpoint corner over the bar as he came under pressure. A rare attack for the Latics brought a weak header on target from Tarkowski as he met a corner on the rise, but the invention and craft was left to a Carlisle side who were giving no quarter.
The deserved and inevitable second visiting goal came when Noble turned provider with a slide rule pass from deep inside his own half. Left back Jordan Mustoe broke clear of the back line and spotted Dean Bouzanis in two minds in his penalty box. A beautifully weighted lob dropped over the stranded stopper to the delight of the travelling fans.
A better spell followed for Oldham as they tried to get back into the game ahead of the break. Mark Gillespie showed good hands to grasp a Barnard rattler which bounced awkwardly at his feet and his full length fingertip intervention from a Baxter rasper was as important as the goals scored at the other end.
United survived a scare when a goal-bound header from Simpson appeared to strike Mustoe on the hand but the referee waved play on as he steadfastly ignored the appeals.
Newly-appointed Latics manager Lee Johnson went for a triple substitution during the break and it signalled a period of much better football from the Latics as United protected their lead.
A Reid cross just needed a touch as he fed the ball in from wide and Millar was frustrated as his outswinging low curler also evaded the advancing blue shirts.
Matt Smith looked dangerous as he wrestled free of his marker inside the area and his bundled header brought a goal-line clearance from Peter Murphy as Mark Gillespie lost the flight of the ball.
The Cumbrians had to earn their corn as Oldham picked up the pace of the game and a timely Livesey slide stopped Matt Smith once more as he looked odds on to score. A poor pass from Mustoe then allowed Millar to go for a lob but he lost his bearings and the effort drifted harmlessly wide.
The pressure mounted and Millar was guilty of woeful finishing when he held his run to give Wesolowski a target to pass to. He opted for guile over power and was embarrassed as he skied his shot into the stands.
But Oldham were right back in it with twenty minutes left to play when Korey Smith was felled in the box by Mustoe. Jose Baxter quickly placed the ball on the spot and calmly sent Gillespie the wrong way.
Baxter was wasteful moments later though when he found himself unmarked on the edge of the area. He fluffed his lines and made the save easy for Gillespie to make. They were suddenly queuing up to shoot and Millar was frustrated when he failed to make an impact with a 24-yard thunderbolt which bobbled its way through to the crowd.
The hosts should have levelled things up when Manset lost possession on the edge of the home box. A lightning quick break put Matt Smith one-on-one but Gillespie stayed big to make the all-important block.
Seconds turned into minutes as the Carlisle faithful bit their fingernails to the quick and their increasingly nervous mood wasn’t helped when a Bobby Reid shot deflected off Potts. Gillespie was a spectator as it spun its way past his upright.
The United stopper earned man-of-the-match status with an unbelievable save late in the day as he confirmed the victory when he somehow stopped Reid from finishing off another flowing move. The Latics fans were ready to celebrate until a firm hand hooked the ball away from the bottom corner.
Oldham - Baxter (73 pen)
United - Noble (9), Mustoe (32)
Oldham - Simpson (45)
United - Noble (84)
Oldham Athletic - Bouzanis, Brown (Mellor 46), Grounds, Wesolowski, M'Voto, Tarkowski, Simpson (Millar 46), Barnard (M Smith 46), Baxter, Reid, K Smith. Subs - Cisak, Iwelumo, Montano, Byrne.
Carlisle United - Gillespie, Potts, Livesey, Murphy, Mustoe, Noble, Thirlwell, Berrett, McGovern (Manset 61), Miller, Welsh (Cadamarteri 77). Subs - Collin, Loy, Edwards, Beck, Todd.
Referee - Mr Michael Naylor
Attendance - 4,271 (491 away fans)