Leaving the stadium tonight whilst passing comment to friends about the atrocious weather we always seem to face at Oldham, one of their fans told us that we’d actually come on a good night. It was two degrees when we got in the car for the journey back down the M62 and the rain had barely let up all night. I’d have said I’d hate to see it on a bad night, but I’d been there for worse.

The same Oldham fan seemed extremely pessimistic about his team’s chances, telling us he wouldn’t be surprised to see the team relegated at the end of the season. It wasn’t hard to see why as Simon Grayson’s reserve team strolled to victory and our march towards the League One title continued.

Only Jonny Howson could be considered first team from the starting XI. Jason Crowe and Leigh Bromby would be the next closest although the defence has been reshuffled so many times this season, I aren’t entirely sure what I’d consider our best back four. Loan-signing Hogan Ephraim made his debut, David Prutton made a rare start and Max Gradel partnered Sam Vokes in an unusual Leeds United front-line.

For a stadium in such desperate need of redevelopment, the irony of our stand being sponsored by Leesfield Development didn’t escape me. Oldham actually only have three stands as one was torn down a while back for reconstruction that clearly isn’t happening. I think they’re hoping to build a new stadium, but how they’re going to pay for this when they can’t manage a decent attendance is anyone’s guess.

Oldham’s support is so low that Leeds United’s 4,000+ travelling fans outnumbered the home fans. The atmosphere in the home stands was almost non-existent, aside from an annoying drum that was repeatedly beaten throughout much of the first half. The only audible noise in the ground came from the ever-vocal Leeds United fans who did all they could to keep themselves warm throughout.

A few chances fell either way early on, with Leeds’ best attack being thwarted by the linesman when Neil Kilkenny released David Prutton. Oldham looked a bit better than the team that we beat in the FA Cup a few weeks back, but you could see why they’re struggling throughout.

Sam Vokes wasted an opportunity to send the Whites into the lead ten minutes before half-time as Leeds started to dominate. After beating the offside trap and finding himself one on one with the keeper, he failed to take his chance and fired straight at summer target, Darryl Flahavan. Vokes continues to disappoint me with each passing game. He isn’t a natural goal scorer and exerts very little effort throughout. He just doesn’t look like he wants to be at Leeds and I’ll be glad to see Becchio back in the starting line-up.

The opening goal didn’t take much longer though. Max Gradel fired a nice cross across goal and Neil Kilkenny touched it home to send Leeds 1-0 up. Gradel tried his luck from range shortly after with a curling shot, but his effort failed to trouble Flahavan. Leeds finished the half strongly though and deserved their lead.

The second half continued much the same as the first ended as Leeds looked to kill Oldham off. Flahavan proved to be quicker than Vokes and denied the striker a chance before Prutton headed over. As we approached the hour, Vokes showed once more why he’ll never make it as a striker, firing over the crossbar with an excellent opportunity that he should have been able to keep down. Hate to be too critical of anyone in a Leeds shirt, but I really don’t like the lad. He doesn’t look like he wants to be at Leeds, he didn’t chase much all night (whilst Gradel chased everything and drove the Oldham defence mental) and quite simply, he isn’t good enough.

Oldham’s best chance of the night came shortly after. Some poor defending from Leeds left Paul Heffernan with the goal at his mercy, but he failed to take his chance and fired into the side netting, much to the relief of the Leeds defence and 4,000 travelling Whites.

Two changes for Leeds saw Snodgrass and Becchio come on in place of Vokes and Ephraim. It’s hard to say how well Ephraim played as the opposition were poor and he never did anything really groundbreaking. That said, he didn’t do anything wrong either so it’ll be interesting to see what he does in the next game.

Snodgrass almost got lucky immediately but was beaten to the ball by Flahavan. Another half chance for Oldham followed, but Simon Grayson’s other substitution made the real difference. Max Gradel once again the provider for Becchio to put the game beyond doubt. A skilful finish from the returning striker was celebrated in style with the management and players on the bench.

The Leeds fans went wild and a large portion of the away fans headed for the exits. Interesting thing about Oldham is that the players in the stand running along the pitch have to exit up a set of stairs straight in front of the away fans, which predictably led to chants of ‘Time to go…’ as the Leeds fans celebrated another win waving the Oldham fans goodbye.

Grayson substituted Gradel shortly after and the player received a standing ovation from the travelling Whites. Chants of ‘sign him up’ were once again aimed towards Simon Grayson who would no doubt love to do nothing less.

For Leeds United to be able to beat Oldham with their second team is incredible. Twelve months ago, that was unthinkable, but Grayson continues to impress. The march towards the League One title continues at Elland Road on Saturday when Leeds host Huddersfield in the Yorkshire derby.

TSS man of the match
For his tireless work ethic, skill, flair and of course, the two assists, it couldn’t be anyone other than Max Gradel. It’s like watching an over-enthusiastic kid in the park, who never gives in, chases everything and just seems to love playing. ‘Sign him up!’