Thorsten Stuckmann was the hero – scoring the winning penalty in an amazing shoot out that went to the very last man to find a winner.
The German keeper made it 10-9 to the Lilywhites – a record tally for a PNE penalty shoot out as the Lilywhites progressed to the area semi-final of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy.
Scott Laird had given North End a first half lead before a treble change by Lee Johnson turned the game on its head, Dominic Poleon and Danny Philliskirk giving the Latics a 2-1 lead, until a late Tom Clarke goal five minutes from time took the game to the epic penalty shoot out.
Laird powered home Tom Clarke’s cross just after the half hour mark to light up what had been a fairly sedate first half to that point.
The home side drew level in the first minute of the second half when Dominic Poleon fired home at the back post from Jonathan Forte’s left wing cross and before the hour mark it was 2-1 as Philliskrik converted Forte’s lay off from ten yards out.
North End drew level again with ten minutes to go when Clarke poked home from close range after Huntington’s shot had been blocked by the home side keeper Etheridge, but neither side could get a winner and penalties decided the outcome.
Manager Simon Grayson introduced Laird as one of six changes to the starting line-up that beat league leaders Bristol City the previous weekend, with Jermaine Beckford making his debut, partnering Kevin Davies as part of a 3-5-2 formation.
And the new man was involved as the yellows almost made a dream start. A long ball was flicked on first by Beckford and then cushioned down by Kevin Davies for Kyel Reid to rush onto it on the edge of the box, he took one touch but fired over from 18 yards out.
On five minutes the new loan man showed what he was about as Reid this time played the ball into Beckford 25 yards out. He showed strength to hold the ball up, and spun away from his marker and shot, former North End trialist goalkeeper Neil Etheridge pushing the ball away and gathering eventually at the second attempt.
Just before the quarter hour mark it looked very close to a penalty for North End. James Wilson brought down John Welsh, who’d exchanged a 1-2 with Kevin Davies, right on the edge of the box, maybe an inch away from being a penalty, but Tony Harrington awarded a free kick. Reid took the shot but it was over the bar and onto the roof of the net – very hard to get it up and down from where it was.
After a slow start to the game the home side created some openings. Firstly on 26 minutes Mike Jones had a free kick out on the left and whipped it across beating everyone and thankfully just inches past the right hand upright.
And shortly after Joseph Mills flashed shot wide when in space in left hand corner of box.
However, on the 32minute mark the deadlock was broken. It was a pinpoint ball from skipper Tom Clarke on the right and Scott Laird had raced in from the left and powered a diving header into the bottom right hand corner from ten yards out.
The goal came initially from an excellent break, won by John Welsh in the centre circle and then he and Kevin Davies broke and fed Beckford, who recycled it and switched play to Wiseman who laid it back for Clarke to cross.
Lee Johnson rung the changes at the break and they paid immediate dividends as the Latics were level in just 53 seconds.
The ball was delivered by substitute and former PNE loanee Jonathan Forte from left right in between the defence and Stuckmann and Dominic Poleon found time and space at the back post to slam home from eight yards out.
Stuckmann was then called upon to keep things level, saving Mills shot with a strong arm and then watching on as Poleon fired the rebound over the bar.
The visitors change of personnel also saw a change of formation, matching the Lilywhites’ three at the back.
The heavens opened at the start of the second half as well, with the pitch slickening up and after getting to grips with it North End started to impose themselves again. Beckford was fouled on 57 minutes on the left corner of the box and Laird delivered perfectly to the back post where Davies’ header beat Etheridge but came back off the woodwork denying him his 150th career goal.
But it was the home side who turned the game on its head on the hour mark as Forte received the ball on the penalty spot, held it up and laid it off to Danny Philliskirk, who slotted coolly past Stuckmann into the bottom left hand corner.
There was almost an immediate response as Beckford qwas denied by a brilliant flying save from Etheridge after Kevin Davies’ clever cross with the outside of his boot was met powerfully by the new No.10.
Neil Kilkenny and Will Hayhurst were brought on by the manager, with North End switching to a 4-4-2 with Reid and Hayhurst operating down the flanks.
And it was the young Irishman who created the equaliser. Kilkenny was fouled on the left, Hayhurst whipped over an inviting cross that Huntington fired goalwards, only for Etheridge to block it but only to the feet of Tom Clarke, who powered home from close range.
Clarke was forced off with an injury shortly after the goal as the two sides pressed to win it before the end of the 90 minutes, with four minutes added on by the match official.
In the second minute of stoppage time Kevin Davies had a gilt-edged chance to win it as the ball fell invitingly at his feet after a game of head tennis, but his sliced effort flew wide from ten yards out, but it was penalties.
Penalty Shoot Out – In front of the PNE fans
Oldham– Philliskirk – scored low right 1-0
PNE – Laird – scored top right 1-1
Oldham - Kelly – scored bottom right 2-1
PNE – Davies – saved bottom right 2-1
Oldham – Jones – saved bottom left 2-1
PNE - Kilkenny – scored bottom right 2-2
Oldham – Forte – scored high centre 3-2
PNE – Hayhurst – scored bottom left 3-3
Oldham – Kusunga – scored bottom right 4-3
PNE – Beckford – scored centre high 4-4
Oldham – Poleon – scored down middle 5-4
PNE – Welsh – scored high left 5-5
Oldham – Mills – scored bottom right 6-5
PNE – Reid – scored bottom right off post 6-6
Oldham – B Wilson – scored bottom right 7-6
PNE – Buchanan – scored bottom right 7-7
Oldham – Dieng – scored middle right 8-7
PNE – Wiseman – scored top left 8-8
Oldham – J Wilson – scored bottom right 9-8
PNE – Huntington – scored bottom right 9-9
Oldham – Etheridge – missed over top 9-9
PNE – Stuckmann – scored top right 10-9
Oldham Athletic line-up: Etheridge, Mills, Dieng, Dayton (Forte, 46), Jones, Poleon, Philliskirk, Winchester (B Wilson, 46), J Wilson (c), Tidser (Kelly, 46), Kusunga. Subs not used: Rachubka, Mellor.
PNE line-up: Stuckmann, Wiseman, Laird, King (Kilkenny, 62), Clarke (c) (Buchanan, 87), Huntington, Welsh, Brownhill (Hayhurst, 62), Reid, Beckford, K Davies. Subs not used: Jones, Ryan.
Attendance: 3,056 (636 away fans)
Referee: Mr T Harrington