STEVE Robinson feels OLDHAM are about to complete their transformation after giving Preston a run for their money in the EFL Cup.
Oldham were pre-season favourites for relegation from League One with new boss Robinson having had to overhaul the squad. But after a poor opening day, Latics have gradually improved and were more than a match for Preston on Tuesday night, right up until the Championship side made it 2-0 on 81 minutes to book their place in the third round.
Eoin Doyle had broken the deadlock for the hosts on 66 minutes with a deflected shot which squirmed into the bottom corner. The Preston sub then caught Latics keeper Connor Ripley in possession outside the box to cross for Jordan Hugill to head home.
“It’s disappointing because there was nothing in the game, and their management have said the same,” said Robinson.
“I’ve told the boys there’s no reason to feel downbeat and downtrodden. We came here and matched a really good Championship side who’ve spent two years building what they’ve got. We gained a lot of positives from it and we’ll go to Bradford (on Saturday) firmly believing we can get something.
“I don’t think there’s been any game where we’ve been dominated, even tonight. Preston were very complimentary about us, which is always easy when you’ve just won, but we’re not far from being a really good team.
“We’re hard to beat, we’ve got boys who will run themselves into the ground for you and I think people around the club are starting to believe now. To come to Preston and compete, we’ve done very well. In five or six weeks we’ve changed dramatically.”
Robinson made three changes to the side which won 1-0 at Bury last Saturday, with Brian Wilson and Ollie Banks coming back in while Jake Cassidy made his first start of the season up front alongside Lee Erwin.
And Latics looked solid in the first half, with Preston’s only real chance seeing Ripley make a fine low save to keep out Hugill’s close-range header. Banks and early Preston sub Alan Browne then volleyed over at each end.
Paul Green replaced Marc Klok at the break and Latics looked much livelier at the start of the second half, with Erwin and Charles Dunne testing home keeper Chris Maxwell.
Hugill headed wide before Preston made a double change, and just six minutes after coming on, Doyle claimed the opener.
Erwin and Cassidy then kept Maxwell alert and although Hugill’s goalbound effort was blocked, he sealed a 2-0 victory shortly after.
“I thought Marc Klok looked a bit tired, he does play whole-heartedly so that’s going to happen,” Robinson added. “Paul Green gives us a wee bit more experience and ownership of the game and I actually felt we could go on to win it so I thought it was a positive change.
“It was just two poor goals which we were disappointed to concede. We had men round the ball for the first and it bobbled through, just when we were going to make a positive change.
“It changed the game because you’ve got to chase it then and change your shape. We were brave and kept three up top but they do try to pick you off when you’re as adventurous as we tried to be when we went 1-0 down.
“Connor made a bad decision for the second goal but I’ve nothing but praise for him. He made a bad decision but young keepers are going to make mistakes at times, and he kept us in the game in the first half with a super save.
“I thought we coped well, they’re just a bit better at what they do than we are. They’ve been together for two years and you could see they have a bit better understanding and a bit more quality in the final third.”
ROCHDALE also bowed out of the EFL Cup on Tuesday night, losing 2-1 at Championship side QPR.
Dale looked set to cause an upset when Matty Lund headed home from Donal McDermott’s fifth-minute corner, but Sandro swept in a 41st-minute equaliser before putting the Hoops in front with 16 minutes left.