Oldham Athletic have been relegated from the English Football League for the first time after defeat by Salford City in a game interrupted by a supporters’ on-pitch protest against the club’s owners.
It ends 116 years of league football for the Boundary Park club, and also means they are the first former Premier League team to drop into non-league since its creation in 1992.
The Latics, who needed to avoid defeat to keep their hopes of League Two survival alive after wins for both Barrow and Stevenage, trailed 2-1 with 14 minutes to play against Salford when fans poured on to the pitch.
The players were taken off by referee Robert Madeley as supporters staged a centre-circle sit-in against owner Abdallah Lemsagam, despite appeals from boss John Sheridan to return to the stands.
Protests remained in place for some time after, but once the pitch had been cleared, the teams returned to play out the remaining time behind closed doors.
An EFL spokesperson said: “This afternoon’s League Two fixture between Oldham Athletic and Salford City has been concluded behind closed doors.
“The remaining 14 minutes played resulted in a final scoreline of Oldham Athletic 1 Salford City 2, and as a result Oldham Athletic have been relegated from League Two.
“Despite the earlier announcement of the abandonment of the fixture, after discussions with both clubs, match officials, and stadium security it was agreed the match could be concluded today.
“The decision was taken in order to maintain the integrity of the competition given the importance of the fixture at both ends of the League Two table.”
Salford, who needed the points to maintain their play-off hopes, took an early lead through ex-Oldham striker Matt Smith who tucked into an open goal.
Davis Keillor-Dunn stroked home a penalty to give the home side hope after a handball by Jordan Turnbull, but Brandon Thomas-Asante’s near-post header in first-half injury time restored the Salford lead.
With pressure mounting, Oldham went for the goal they needed to delay the drop, with Keillor-Dunn’s tame chip saved by Tom King after Jamie Hopcutt’s header was ruled out.
No further score was achieved after the resumption, and Oldham’s fate was sealed before eerily empty stands.
Latics’ fall from grace
Relegation to the National League marks a huge fall from grace for a club who were founder members of the Premier League, League Cup finalists 32 years ago and Wembley FA Cup semi-finalists as recently as 1994.
In a cruel twist of fate, they are set to begin their first season outside of the EFL on the 30th anniversary of the breakaway division.
Oldham’s likely drop rounds off a miserable spell for the club in recent times.
Keith Curle, appointed in March 2021, looked set to inspire some hope in the beleaguered Latics when he arrived at Boundary Park.
Arriving at the club having won promotion from the fourth tier with Northampton as recently as 2020, supporters would be forgiven for thinking he could turn around the fortunes of a club who have slumped to their lowest point in recent memory.
It took seven games to find a win in any competition this term and the club’s form did not noticeably improve in the first half of the campaign.
Curle left in November, just eight months into his tenure, amid the backdrop of heightened tensions with the club’s support.
Three fans were banned in December for “promoting their dislike” of the club, with one of the trio branding it a “dictatorship”.
The bans – which were issued directly by the club and were not court-issued football banning orders – were overturned just two days later after a public outcry, but the damage was done.
Protests continued and less than a month later Lemsagam announced that he was willing to sell the club, a U-turn on the position he had taken in September 2021 when he claimed he did not want to.
Under his tenure there have been accusations of late payment of salaries and threats of player strikes – as well as the prospect of administration, which was eventually avoided.
After more than a month without a permanent manager, Sheridan arrived in January for his sixth stint at the club.
Despite a bright run of form in February which took them out of the League Two drop zone, as well as two successive wins in March and April, nine defeats in the past 11 games before Saturday saw a slide into trouble that could not be halted, not even by a club legend.
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- 17stobbsSubstituted forHopcuttat 68′minutes
- 19Da Silva
- 3. 4vaughan
- 16TurnbullBooked at 32mins
- 8LundSubstituted forSees itat 49′minutes
- 37Thomas-AsanteBooked at 78mins
- 10HunterSubstituted forBoltonat 66′minutes
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Match ends, Oldham Athletic 1, Salford City 2.
Second Half ends, Oldham Athletic 1, Salford City 2.
Brandon Thomas-Asante (Salford City) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Foul by Brandon Thomas-Asante (Salford City).
Jordan Clarke (Oldham Athletic) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Corner, Oldham Athletic. Grant by Jordan Turnbull.
Foul by Luke Bolton (Salford City).
Hallam Hope (Oldham Athletic) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Substitution, Oldham Athletic. Harry Vaughan replaces Callum Whelan.
Foul by Brandon Thomas-Asante (Salford City).
Kyle Jameson (Oldham Athletic) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Attempt saved. Davis Keillor-Dunn (Oldham Athletic) right footed shot from the center of the box is saved in the center of the goal. Assisted by Nicky Adams.
Corner, Oldham Athletic. Granted by Theo Vassell.
Foul by Jason Lowe (Salford City).
Junior Luamba (Oldham Athletic) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Handball by Hallam Hope (Oldham Athletic).
Attempt blocked. Jamie Hopcutt (Oldham Athletic) header from the right side of the box is blocked. Assisted by Nicky Adams with a cross.
Corner, Oldham Athletic. Granted by Stephen Kelly.
Substitution, Oldham Athletic. Jamie Hopcutt replaces Jack Stobbs.
Foul by Ryan Watson (Salford City).
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.