A fantastic hat-trick from Jack Muldoon propelled Town back to winning ways with a 3-0 win against Oldham Athletic.
Town’s marksman gave the home side an early lead before further goals in the second-half capped a fine afternoon. It was no less than they deserved with a controlled display ending a run of five games in the league without a win, recording a first at The Envirovent Stadium since late November in the process.
After last week’s 4-0 defeat to Newport County, Town, with Paul Thirlwell taking charge following Simon Weaver’s positive covid test, made three changes to the starting line-up. Into the side came Warren Burrell, debutant Lewis Richards and Lloyd Kerry to replace Ryan Fallowfield, Leon Legge and Alex Pattison.
For the Latics, without a game since New Years Day, there was a debut handed to Alex Hunt, who arrived at the club this week on loan from Sheffield Wednesday.
It was almost a dream start for Town with Lewis Page’s raking cross-field ball picking out George Thomson, who created space for himself to fashion the shot but he dragged his effort wide of Jason Leutwiler’s post.
Brahima Diarra, operating on the left-hand side in place of Jack Diamond, was lively early on and on eight minutes he moved in from the left to release Thomson, who in turn fed Muldoon who hit the side netting.
They didn’t have to wait long for their goal though and it was that man Muldoon who was on target. Page, in all kinds of space down the left, delivered a pinpoint cross that Town’s number 18 dispatched for his seventh league goal of the season.
Oldham responded well though when Dylan Bahamboula found himself beyond the Town back line but as he shaped to shoot Mark Oxley was quickly off his line to smother the threat.
The Latics were looking to get the ball out wide quickly, particularly to Jack Stobbs out on the right hand side. Town’s newly-formed back five had the number though to largely contain the threat.
Warren Burrell found himself in unfamiliar territory deep into the opposition half and a spot of trickery from the Town defender saw him outwit two defenders but he unleashed an ambitious effort that was high and wide of the goal.
The visitors best opening of the half came ten minutes before the break. A long ball caught out the home defence and Benny Cuoto pulled the ball back but Davis Keillor-Dunn blazed over from the edge of the area.
The game was drifting towards the break when Cuoto let fly with a fizzing effort that was narrowly wide of Oxley’s right-hand post. As it was Town headed in at half-time with their first lead in the league since they faced Swindon at the end of November.
The visitors were out early from the half-time break , seemingly eager to get back underway and forge a way back into the game. Town could, and perhaps should, have extended the lead within five minutes of the restart though.
Muldoon progressed into the area and unselfishly squared for Luke Armstrong but his effort from twelve yards out was straight at Leutwiler. The visitors were reprieved from having a real mountain to climb.
Moments after the laconic Bahamboula fired straight at Oxley, Armstrong had another excellent opportunity to double the lead. Muldoon was again involved, clipping an inch perfect pass into his path but Town’s top scorer could only poke the ball agonisingly wide.
Sensing Town’s growing confidence the visitors made their first change of the afternoon replacing the debutant Hunt with Hallam Hope.
Muldoon was again in the thick of things on the hour mark when he raced on to Diarra’s pass and hit a low effort that Leutwiler did well to palm wide. It was an impressive opening to the second-half from Town who should have added to their early goal.
They made no mistake with 15 minutes remaining when Muldoon killed the game off. Diarra’s persistence saw him win possession inside the Oldham half and Muldoon picked up the play and calmly slotted home for his and Town’s second.
Josh Austerfield and Nathan Sheron replaced Kerry and Richards shortly after with the visitors then bringing on Christopher Missilou and Jamie Hopcutt for Cuoto and Callum Whelan.
Diarra’s play perhaps saw him deserve a goal and he came close with little under ten minutes remaining, forcing Leutwiler to fully stretch to prevent Town adding a third before Muldoon applied the gloss to the afternoon with his hat-trick.
TOWN: Oxley, Burrell, McArdle, Richards (Sheron, 82), Page, Thomson, Falkingham, Kerry (Austerfield, 73), Diarra, Armstrong, Muldoon.
Subs not used: Cracknell, Smith, Legge, Beck.
Goals: Muldoon (17, 73, 89)
Booked: Diarra (63)
Oldham Athletic: Leutwiler, Clarke, Hart, Piergianni, Adams, Whelan (Missilou, 83), Keillor-Dunn, Stubbs, Bahamboula, Hunt (Hope, 58), Couto (Hopcutt, 83)
Subs not used: McGahey, Rogers, Turner, Modi.
Booked: Stobbs (81)
Referee: Tom Reeves.
Attendance: 2,689 (589 away)