THE calendar year ended more positively for Oldham Athletic than it had begun. But only just.

Having kicked off 2021 in League Two with a 3-2 defeat at home to Mansfield, they signed off with a goalless draw at Barrow.

Latics had the better of the first half but were unable to capitalise on their chances, in what has become a familiar tale.

Tonight, at least, they were able to get something out of the game.

A point, though, is neither here nor there in their current predicament. But what they really need - apart from wins - as at the very least some direction from the people at the top.

Selim Benachour and Conor Marlin have made a decent fist of their interim roles. The players are making the right noises about enjoying the work they are doing, and have demonstrated they can be easy on the eye in an attacking sense.

But how much longer can they lurch from one game to another without a clue what happens next?

The players need to have uncertainty replaced with clarity, the club - with a January transfer window fast approaching - needs it, and the long-suffering Oldham fans not only need but deserve it, before it is all too late.

A remarkable total of 466 made the journey to Holker Street, where Benachour made five changes to the team that was beaten by Scunthorpe United on Boxing Day to sink to the foot of League Two.

The interim head coach had praised his youngsters for their endeavour in defeat, most notably Benny Couto, who had scored his first senior goal in the game. So it was a surprise to find the teenager on the bench, along with flair players like Harry Vaughan and Dylan Bahamboula.

Latics' set-up looked more geared to the priority being to avoid defeat than anything else, and to that end they were successful.

They even started the game on the front foot and with an attacking intent that looked to exploit Barrow's vulnerability at the back.

Carl Piergianni cleared the bar with an early speculative chance, but the attacks kept building.

The returning Jordan Clarke whipped a dangerous ball into the box which Davis Keillor-Dunn was unlucky to flick narrowly wide of the left hand post, but soon after brought a save - albeit an awkward one - from Paul Farman with his low, long range strike.

Latics' top scorer created space for himself in the left channel and struck the ball sweetly, Farman stopped it but couldn't keep hold of it, and for a split second lost the ball and his bearings, only to gather it at the second attempt before anyone else could react.

Barrow had penalty appeals dismissed when Josh Gordon went down under Harrison McGahey's challenge as the forward found himself in a one-on-one and prepared to pull the trigger.

Latics immediately got back on the front foot. Nicky Adams dug a cross out on the right, Hope headed it at the far post off Hart's back and the ball was scrambled out of play.

It had been all Oldham up to the midway point of the first half, but when Mike Jones got a sight of goal he almost took it. His low strike took a wicked deflection that wrong-footed Jayson Leutwiler but the keeper managed to adjust himself quickly and dive down to his right to push the ball behind.

Just after the half-hour Leutwiler was beaten by Patrick Brough's effort, but Piergianni came from nowhere to head off the line. An incredible goal-saving intervention.

Latics found their attacking feet again and Keillor-Dunn laid a short ball off to Hopcutt, and although his shot on the turn was eye-catching it did not dip in time and dropped over the bar.

Latics had played well but had not taken their chances.

But they managed to avoid another case of deja vu in a second half in which they had to be more resolute after Barrow changed their shape at the break and had more of an attacking say on proceedings.

Leutwiler was called on to make another good save, after Latics played themselves into trouble for persisting in playing out from the back. But other than that there was litt;e to stretch them, and Hope went close at the other end.

But in the end, they were grateful of a clean sheet and point.

The players have responded to Benachour's instruction and have said they are enjoying the training ground work. But how much longer can an interim command complete respect? How long does an interim role last? About the same length as a piece of string? Abdallah Lemsagam, it's over to you.

BARROW (3-4-2-1): Farman; Arthur, Grayson (Kay 46), Brough; Brown, White, Jones (Zanzala 46), Brough; Stevens, Gotts (Beadling 72); Gordon

Unused subs: Lillis, Ellis, Beadling, Hutton.

LATICS (4-1-3-2): Leutwiler; Clarke, McGahey, Piergianni, Hart; Diarra (Couto 90+3); Adams, Whelan, Hopcutt (Bowden 70); Keillor-Dunn (Stobbs 79), Hope.

Unused subs: Rogers, Bahamboula, Luamba, Couto, Vaughan.

Attendance: 3,495 (466 Latics fans)