JOHN Hughes accused his Hartlepool United players of letting down the club – admitting they now need a “miracle” to avoid relegation to League Two.
Pools were wello beaten at Oldham last night as the margin to safety was extended to seven points with just seven matches remaining.
The result saw The Latics climb clear of the drop zone and prompted Pools boss Hughes to deliver a stinging assessment of his side’s lack-lustre performance.
“They let the club down and they let themselves down,” the Scot said.
“My biggest disappointment is that this was our cup final and we’ve played like it was a first-round tie.
“If you’re going to get beat, then do it having a right go.
“I can only be honest in my assessment of the game – that was men against boys. Now we need a miracle to stay up.”
Oldham, under the care of new boss Lee Johnson for the first time, outfought and outplayed their visitors with first-half goals from Robbie Simpson and former Sunderland man Jean-Yves M’Voto and a fine second-half strike from Jose Baxter sealing victory.
In comparison, Pools did not draw a save from the home goalkeeper and they have now gone seven-and-a-half hours without a goal.
And Hughes, whose side face Walsall at Victoria Park on Saturday, reflected: “I did not see any leaders out there for us – they were all in Oldham shirts.”
Oldham’s opener came on 17 minutes. Baxter was afforded too much space to cross from the left and his incisive whip was turned home by the forehead of Simpson.
It should have been two when Croft ran unchallenged through the heart of the Pools backline but his low blast was saved by the on-rushing Scott Flinders.
Pools were forced into a change on 26 minutes with James Poole, having landed awkwardly on his left knee, replaced by Andy Monkhouse.
But within 60 seconds they had conceded again – and it was another free header.
M’Voto was the man to profit this time as he stretched to flash home another Baxter centre from eight yards on 27 minutes.
The home side continued to dominate and were good value for their two-goal lead entering the break.
Hughes sought to energise his side with the introduction of teenage striker Luke James, Nathan Luscombe the man making way.
But still they struggled to threaten the home goal and by the hour mark the closest they had came was a Monkhouse shot which was scuffed wide from 14 yards after good work by Horwood down the left.
Antony Sweeney might have done better with a header from a Franks corner on 67 minutes but his six-yard effort looped over the crossbar.
But The Latics put the game out of sight just two minutes later when Baxter dispatched a sweet half-volley into the bottom corner from 20 yards.
Pools centre-back Sam Collins spurned a glorious chance late on when Franks landed a free-kick on his brow inside the six-yard area but the veteran steered wide.
Oldham: Bouzanis, Brown, Mvoto, Tarkowski, Grounds, Wesolowski, Korey Smith, Croft (Millar 71), Baxter, Simpson (Obita 79), Barnard (Iwelumo 83). Subs Not Used: Cisak, Montano, Byrne, Mellor. Goals: Simpson 17, Mvoto 27, Baxter 69.
Hartlepool: Flinders, Austin, Collins, Hartley, Horwood, Franks, Walton, Sweeney, Luscombe (James 52), Poole (Monkhouse 27), Howard. Subs Not Used: McHugh, Rutherford, Holden, Hawkins, Wyke.
Att: 3,269 Ref: Oliver Langford (W Midlands).