NEW year, same old problems for Oldham Athletic.

After signing off 2021 with a goalless draw at Barrow, 2022 began in the same manner.

The optimists will point to back-to-back clean sheets, as interim head coach Selim Benachour did. This has only been achieved once before in the league this season, and only once last term.

But away draws would be more palatable if they could be backed up, and bettered, at home. That has not been the case for some time.

With just eight points from a possible 36 at Boundary Park, they have some way to go to turn it into the fortress they need to get off the bottom and out of trouble.

Above them, a third defeat in four for Stevenage keeps them in touching distance, just two points and two places adrift. But a run of three wins from four has seen Carlisle, who beat second-bottom Scunthorpe on New Year's Day, open up a four-point gap with two games in hand.

Oldham have been one of the few teams throughout the divisions to have fulfilled all of their three festive fixtures, which should be deemed a success in the current Covid climate. Credit is due for the way they have stuck to their protocols to keep cases to a minimum.

But they have not used them to their full advantage to steal a march on their relegation rivals. Instead, they have now played the most games in the division and have not even got games in hand to rely on to claw points back, meaning their predicament could worsen when surrounding teams complete their catch-up games.

That is a situation that is out of their hands though. All they can focus on is themselves and picking up as many points as possible in the second half of the season.

Better finishing is crucial to that.

It has been like feast and famine for Latics in recent weeks.

Coming back to take a point from a 10-goal thriller with leaders Forest Green Rovers suggested that they have plenty of fire power.

But since then they have scored just one goal in three games.

Their attacking cause has not been helped by the absence of three players from the starting line-up, with Dylan Bahamboula, Benny Couto and Harry Vaughan named on the bench for the games at Barrow and Hartlepool.

After the Barrow stalemate Benachour said he had rested Couto and Vaughan in a bid to avoid burn-out, with Latics playing three games in less than a week in the ever-hectic festive period.

But the trio's continued absence from the XI at Hartlepool only served to fuel speculation that they will be sold this month and are attempting to avoid injury. Time will tell if that really is the case.

Vaughan has been linked with Burnley, while Bahamboula will be hoping to step up a division or even two after his trial with Championship club Middlesbrough in the summer, although he has been off the boil of late.

The pressure of being brought on as the targetman in the second half seemed too much initially for a man whose impact on games has minimised as the season has gone on, and his confidence has taken a hit as a consequence.

But he grew into the responsibility, and perhaps even relished it as there were glimpses of the Moyo magic that strikes fear into defences.

Latics had earlier been forced into defensive changes, with Jordan Clarke replaced in the first half because of sickness, and Harrison McGahey making way for Jamie Hopcutt at the break through a combination of form and walking a tightrope after picking up a sixth minute booking.

The pendulum swung both ways throughout the game.

After Jayson Leutwiler made a good low save to deny David Ferguson's drive, Jordan Cook fired a shot off the inside of the post.

At the other end Keillor-Dunn squandered a gift of a chance having won possession deep in the Hartlepool half, but in lifting his shot over goalkeeper Ben Killip he only succeeded in clipping the crossbar.

Ferguson was also denied by the woodwork in the second half, striking the post having been unmarked when he received Jamie Sterry's cross.

Leutwiler was a match for Gavan Holahan's header, so too was Killip at the other end in thwarting Keillor-Dunn, while Hallam Hope miscued a couple, and Stobbs will not want to see repeats of the late sitter he missed.

The wide man was presented with a glorious chance after Bahamboula had beaten three surrounding opponents to supply the perfect throughball. Stobbs had only the keeper to beat, but he opened his right foot too far and put a golden opportunity agonisingly wide of the right hand post, to leave Latics winless in seven.

Benachour said he had called on experience to see them through games against Barrow and Hartlepool.

In the fight for survival the owner really must do the same when it comes to a managerial appointment. (And preferably with the title of manager as opposed to head coach, which suggests someone else is calling the shots.)

Benachour's playing career started in France with PSG and has taken him all over the world, and he is still a fledgling coach.

And while that does not necessarily mean he cannot ultimately make a difference, his lack of experience both as a coach not just in this division but English football is a concern.

If the club is to stand a realistic chance of avoiding becoming the first former Premier League side to exit the Football League, it does not need football ‘philosophies’ at this stage of proceedings, it needs someone who knows the league inside out; someone who has been here before. It needs a quick fix.