DINO Maamria was left aghast at David Wheater’s decision-making after the centre-back saw red to set up a miserable night for Oldham Athletic as they fell to a 5-1 defeat against promotion-chasing Exeter City.

Wheater had earlier been a hero for the Latics as he cancelled out Jayden Richardson’s opener for the hosts, but a Matt Jay penalty and second half goals from Archie Collins, Ryan Bowman and sub Brennan Dickenson sealed an emphatic win for the Grecians.

And Maamria condemned Wheater’s decision to attempt to stop a Randall Williams shot on the line with his hand as half time approached.

“I’m really disappointed because as a captain he should know better than to give a penalty away with a sending off on his goal line,” he said.

“The worst-case scenario as that we go a goal down and play with 11 men and we try to come back stronger.

“To lose 5-1 is hard to take and I’m bitterly disappointed with the second half display. At half time the message was clear: ‘try and stay in the game as long as possible, stay compact and stay tight.’

“I’m sorry for the fans who travelled all that way – apologies to them. At the start of the game we had a good 42 to 43 minutes when things were going well.

“Everyone who turned up tonight would have appreciated that and they saw our domination in the first half. The sending off changed the game.”

After a slow start, the Latics went close on five minutes as Jonny Smith cut in from the right to produce a cross that Grecians’ keeper Lewis Ward fumbled, but Danny Rowe could not convert the rebound.

In the 20th minute, the Latics’ defence was carved open by an intrinsic passing move which saw Matt Jay set up Jayden Richardson who lifted the ball over Oldham keeper Zeus De La Paz to give the Grecians the lead with his first goal for the club.

The Latics’ response to going behind was both swift and sharp as the Grecians’ defence failed to deal with a cross from Smith, following a short corner, which Wheater bundled home to score Oldham’s equaliser on 23 minutes.

Equalising gave the Latics a lift as four minutes later Johan Branger-Engone went close from a free-kick, which was quickly followed by a powerful effort from Rowe that Ward parried away.

Four minutes before half time, Oldham were reduced to 10 men after Wheater was adjudged to have handled a shot from Exeter’s Williams on the line; Jay then stepped up to convert the spot-kick which he drilled past De La Paz.

In the second half, the hosts began to make their extra man advantage count as skipper Archie Collins fired home with a shot from 20 yards which was too powerful for De La Paz on 51 minutes.

The Grecians added a fourth in the 61st minute when leading scorer Ryan Bowman connected with a cross from Jay to produce a headed effort which looped over De La Paz and went in off the bottom of the post.

De La Paz was twice called upon to prevent the Grecians before substitute Brennan Dickenson whipped in a fifth from a free-kick, as Oldham slipped to a disappointing defeat – a second on the spin that keeps them mired in 19th.

And though he has not necessarily achieved what he set out to, Maamria remains optimistic that he oversee a dramatic transformation in the long term.

“You are always learning about the team, their character when things are not going well,” he said.

“I am building for next season and I want to win the league next season and I’m trying to build a team that will come to Exeter and grind a result out and I’m looking for characters who can do that.”

Exeter (3-5-2): Ward, Sweeney, Martin, Parkes (Moxey 29), Richardson, Atangana, Collins, Jay, Williams (Dickenson 72), Bowman (Fisher 64), Ajose. Subs not used: Arthur, Martin, Holmes, Taylor

Oldham (4-5-1): De La Paz 7, Hamer 7, Piergianni 7, Wheater 5, Borthwick-Jackson 7, Branger-Engone 7 (Mills 44 6), Sylla 6 (N’Guessan 59 6), McCann 7, Missilou 7, Smith 7, Rowe 6 (Dieseruvwe 71 6). Subs not used: Allen, Maouche, Nepomuceno, Wilson,

Referee: Keith Stroud

Attendance: 3,527