On the eve of the clocks springing forward, Oldham Athletic fell back again in their play-off bid.

Not numerically, thankfully. Defeat for Aldershot, with Halifax and Solihull also dropping precious points, means the deficit to seventh place is still four points. But there are fewer games left now, and fewer points to earn. Time is running out, and so is patience, hence a chorus of boos at half-time and full-time, with the scoreline 3-1 on both occasions.

Some were directed at the referee, who had wrongfully sent off substitute Mike Fondop on the hour, but others were directed at the players and/or manager.

The team that had given now champions Chesterfield a run for their money a fortnight ago to prolong their wait for the title and the only automatic promotion spot was mostly the same - barring Charlie Raglan and Josh Lundstram, who reported illness, while Joe Garner was the preferred strike partner for James Norwood on this occasion. But the difference between the two performances could hardly have been greater.


"I don't know," said manager Micky Mellon. "But maybe in there (the dressing room) is the answer.

"We don't know how they can't do that from game to game. Maybe that's a quality that isn't in the group that's in there.

"I've played in good teams, I've been in good teams and I know the qualities of good teams give you more consistency than that.

"That's the difficult thing to work out. I don't know."

There has not been consistency in performance, but equally - for one reason or another, there has not been consistency in selection. Up front alone there have been six different strike partnerships this calendar year, since the untimely injury to Josh Stones on December 30.

The most productive - in terms of goals and points - has been the pairing of Joe Garner and Mike Fondop.

In the six games they started up front, Latics won three and only lost once. And that run of games is the most for the same partnership on Mellon's watch.

Injuries to Andrew Dallas and top scorer James Norwood at the same time took the situation out of his hands.

But since all four strikers have been available, with Norwood returning from the bench against Southend earlier this month and starting the next game there have been three different pairings - Garner-Norwood, Garner-Dallas, Dallas-Norwood for two games, and back to Garner-Norwood for the Good Friday visit of Fylde, which Latics effectively lost in the first 45 minutes.

How can consistency be achieved when there is not a settled side?

Is finding the right pairing proving problematic?

"No. Why should it be difficult?" said Mellon.

"At the end of the day they all train the same, you go out there and you perform like a player that should play for Oldham. They've all been recruited here to play that way, no excuses, get out there and perform, simple as that. That's it."

But while Latics lacked an attacking spark until Dallas was introduced 10 minutes before the break, there were bigger dilemmas defensively on the day, not least at right back. Harrison McGahey, who has performed better in defensive midfield duties this season, has started the last two games here instead of Will Sutton, who although a natural centre half has worked hard on his fitness to equip himself for this role and has done well. There are square pegs in round holes.

Fylde scored their three goals with alarming ease, and could have had more.

Nick Haughton had just been denied by the crossbar from a free kick, and then the woodwork after the ball bounced off Mat Hudson's back and back towards goal, but slotted low across the keeper and into the bottom corner a minute later after Bryce Hosanna broke out from the back.

Norwood might have scored a couple, but should definitely have done better in clearing before the second. Instead he took a swing at a corner at the near post, missed completely, and Adam Long turned in the second inside the opening 18 minutes.

It was effectively game over just after the half-hour when Haughton's free kick into the box could not be headed out and Ethan Mitchell headed past Hudson.

Dan Gardner was one of few who battled gamely and offered quality, culminating in a great strike on the stroke of half-time to reduce the deficit.

But Latics could not bridge the gap any further in the second half, and must somehow raise themselves to move on to a massive game at Altrincham on Easter Monday.