THERE is a theory within football that teams need to play 10 matches at the start of the season before you can accurately determine their fortunes.
Oldham Athletic reached that figure after Saturday’s home defeat to Harrogate Town which leaves them rooted in the relegation places.
Only a superior goal difference of one prevents Latics from being bottom after they have recorded two wins, one draw and suffered seven defeats.
And it is pretty evident from the opening two months of the campaign that Latics are going to be looking down rather than up and a battle to preserve their proud EFL status, which goes back to 1907.
Setting aside the derby win at Rochdale and home draw against Hartlepool United, September was a dismal month with heavy league losses to Barrow, which promoted another pitch invasion and protest against owner Abdallah Lemsagam, and Leyton Orient, a 7-0 Carabao Cup defeat at Brentford and reverse to Leeds United U21s in the Papa John’s Trophy.
Looking ahead to October, it is a hugely important month as Latics’ next four fixtures are all against teams in the last third of the table.
Matches don’t become bigger than the basement battle on Saturday (Oct 9) at Mansfield Town involving the teams which are third and second bottom respectively.
That is followed by back-to-back home games against 17th placed Stevenage and 21st placed Walsall on October 16 and 19 and a visit to Carlisle, who are 19th, on October 23.
They round off the month with a home game against Swindon Town who are fifth and in the play-off places.
A string of positive results could see Latics climb out of immediate trouble, but negative ones would see their plight worsen.
Latics are desperately short of firepower following the summer departure of Conor McAleny, who hit 21 last season, to Salford City. They have managed only six in 10 league games which is simply not good enough.
The season is also turning out a mirror image of the last campaign when Latics had a wretched home record but prospered on their travels.
They lost 15 of their 23 home games last season, winning only six and being bottom of the home table with the absence of fans blamed as a possible factor.
Nothing has changed as they have picked up one point from a possible 15 at Boundary Park, and that is with crowds back.
Yet Latics are 12th in the away table with two wins and three losses. Last season they had nine wins and seven draws in their 23 away league games to lie fifth in that table as they again seem more suited to playing on the road.