Walsall 0 Oldham Athletic 2
Whoever lands the job of managing Walsall Football Club faces a massive task in attempting to save the club from dropping into the Coca-Cola League Two.
Without a win in the last eight league matches, having failed to score in six of them, the Saddlers are in a mess and may pay the penalty for waiting too long to dispense with the services of Paul Merson.
Under his management last season Walsall were knocked out of the FA Cup by tiny Slough Town and only escaped relegation with a late run of wins due mainly to borrowed players.
Merson departed three games ago, with the team he promised could win promotion sliding into big trouble, and while caretaker manager Mick Halsall briefly stemmed the tide with a couple of draws, this home defeat by a not-so-hot Oldham was probably his last match in charge.
He admitted he was unlikely to be in running things when Walsall visit topof-the-table Southend United next Saturday, adding that a number of possible contenders were at the match.
The spectators included Chris Nicholl who once led the Saddlers to promotion only to quit with the observation that he had taken the club as far as he could.
Now Nicholl is ready for a second crack at the job. He has had an interview, but so far chairman Jeff Bonser has given no hints, though rumours suggested an announcement might be made today.
The club owner will be anxious to resolve the situation quickly, especially as a few fans turned on him near the end of the game with chants of "Bonser Out".
In a match which Oldham manager Ronnie Moore correctly described as "dire", Walsall managed only one genuine scoring attempt and that was from defender Anthony Gerrard whose 69th-minute drive was well saved by Latics keeper Lee Grant.
Halsall's game plan, with three men at the back and five stretched across midfield, kept Oldham fairly quiet for most of the time, but it was all thrown away in a desperate two-minute spell.
Luke Beckett shook off the defence in the 72nd minute to go round keeper Andy Oakes and put his team in front, then just two minutes later Gerrard's attempt to blast the ball to safety saw it cannon off Paul Warne into the net to end the contest.
Halsall said later: "It was never going to be a classic against Oldham, who are a well organised and well drilled side. I told the lads at half-time we could go on and win it 1-0 because I didn't think they were causing us any problems at all.
"It was just two minutes of madness . . ."
But it was more than that. Walsall lacked conviction and confidence going forward, had no-one capable of holding the ball up front, so it was pretty obvious that if Oldham managed to score first they would win. So it proved.
Since selling top-scorer Matty Fryatt to Leicester City, allowing homesick second leading scorer Jorge Leit?o to return to Portugal and selling defender Julian Bennett, the club have borrowed players with only limited success.
Defender Pablo Mills, hired from Derby County, looks the best of the arrivals, but whether the latest recruit, Brentford striker Scott Fitzgerald, can solve the striker problem, remains to be seen.
He only came off the substitutes' bench in the 59th minute and clearly needs time to settle in. Unfortunately Walsall are running out of time.
Despite seeing his men slip to third from bottom of the table, however, Halsall is confident there is enough talent at the club for a new manager to turn things round.
"I feel whoever comes in will have enough to work with," he said.
If the next manager was at the game, however, he will know the size of the task.