12th Man: Key Period

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A return of seven points from a possible nine with two difficult away games thrown in for good measure is an excellent return for Latics and sets Gary Caldwell and the lads up nicely for a key period of games.

It has been a slow start to the season in many ways but was it ever going to be anything else? With a brand new squad of players to bed in, a drastic change in style of play and all the upheaval of relegation meant that we were never going to start the season in blistering form. Indeed many of the Latics faithful said before the start of the season that they would be happy with a season of consolidation and then a promotion push next year but as it is and with the current performances I think that would be a disappointment.

After two hard away games we get a welcome return to the home comforts of the DW on Saturday, Swindon look to be in turmoil off the pitch at the moment. Still without a replacement for Mark Cooper who was sacked by chairman Lee Power earlier this month Power himself has been in charge for the last two games and looks to carry on as caretaker manager on Saturday. Where Latics have been unbeaten in nine games Swindon have failed to win in the same number of games. Everything on paper points to Latics keeping up their impressive run of form but be wary of a wounded Swindon – they scored two goals in the last five minutes last weekend to earn a credible draw with play-off chasing Coventry so clearly aren’t the push over many would expect.

It’s been over three years since our last game against Swindon, when a very different Wigan Athletic exited the FA Cup at the first hurdle following that defeat Roberto Martinez’s side went on one of the best runs of any Wigan Athletic side in history playing fast free flowing football and wiping aside some of the biggest names in world football. It would be nice if this new incarnation could follow a similar path as we look to get back to the Championship.

A note about the FA Cup – although many of us were hoping for a glamour tie against one of the many non-league sides left in the competition Bury could still be the ideal tie, David Flitcroft’s side are currently in the midst of an injury crisis. The last thing you want is an extra game against one of your nearest rivals. With what should be a large away following at Gigg Lane Gary Caldwell could have the ideal opportunity to progress to the second round of the competition.

 

12th Man: A forward line to rival any

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Two wins in a week displays the growing maturity of this Wigan Athletic side. Those two wins now form part of an un-beaten eight game spell in all competitions and although many of those have been draws I think it’s safe to say that the Latics are finding their feet at this level.

Many of us have said the same over the last few months that this side needed time to gel, time to get to know each other and time to get used to the managers style of play and hopefully that’s now happening.

It was always going to take time and we still have a long way to go but the determination showed in the two wins this week – firstly over Colchester and then Peterborough will stand us in good stead over the next few months. Both wins were totally different but showed important parts of our play, in both games we showed the increasingly clinical nature of our attacking play which looks a world away from the early games of the season were we struggled to make an impression on the oppositions goal.

Where the Colchester game was comfortable, Peterborough was nothing but. Once again we showed our defensive frailties in conceding the two goals but as per usual there’s no giving up with this Latics side and the immediate response from Craig Davies and Max Power paid dividends.

It was pleasing to see Max Power get on the scoresheet again, he had been unfairly criticised in some quarters earlier this month and considering he’s only 22 it looks like he’s now fulfilling his potential with us.

It was good to see Craig Davies return and with Grant Holt impressing in his four recent cameo appearances we’ve now arguably the strongest forward line in the division.

Hiwula, Grigg, Davies, Holt, Wildschut and not to mention Vukic and Coulthirst still to return from injury.

All in all it points to a positive last few weeks for Gary Caldwell’s side if we can keep that up with a result at Bradford we’ll be well on our way.

Sean Livesey

First published in the Wigan Evening Post, Friday 23rd October 2015

12th Man: Dividing opinion

crewe-alexandra-2-wigan-athletic-3-jordy-hiwula-goal-celebration-for-highlights-4x373-2733053_478x359Only one loss in eight games, unbeaten at home, on the periphery of the play-offs and through to the next round of the Johnstones Paint Trophy. Some would deem that a successful start to the season but still there are rumblings of discontent amongst the Latics faithful.

I left the stadium on Saturday surprised and a little disappointed at the reaction to the draw with Walsall. Admittedly it was a game we should have won, but the fact we came out of the game with a draw after going down to ten men whilst on top is testament to this team and it’s ethos.

If we’re being truthful a draw against one of the top sides in the division shouldn’t require a reaction like that anyway. I understand that the style of football we’re playing under Caldwell will always divide opinion amongst Latics fans. As it did under Roberto Martinez before him but we need to get used to it – because it isn’t going anywhere. After last season and the disastrous reign of Malky Mackay the club will stick with this for as long as it takes.

In all the games I’ve seen so far this season I’ve been entertained and that was the case in point again on Tuesday as Latics progressed to the quarter finals of the Johnstones Paint Trophy.

I said at the time it was one of the most enjoyable nights I’ve had watching Latics in a long while. It’s a competition that’s often derided but I think most Latics fans would be happy with the value they got for their ten pound ticket. With the draw coming up on Saturday let’s hope it’s a favourable one as Latics aim to return to Wembley.

First published in the Wigan Evening Post, Friday 9th October 2015

12th Man: Taking the positives

Will Grigg

I thought there was a lot to be pleased about after Tuesday’s match with Millwall, admittedly it wasn’t a great performance. Some would even argue it was a bad performance which is understandable but if we take a step back and look at things subjectively there are a lot of positives to take from Tuesday’s game.

Millwall came in to the game on the back of four games unbeaten away from home with three of those being wins – away form in stark contrast to our own. We were still missing a number of key players from our starting line-up including Jason Pearce, Craig Morgan, Will Grigg, Craig Davies, Haris Vukic and Francisco Junior.

We dominated the first half and it wasn’t a surprise when we went ahead through Jacobs but as too often this season we couldn’t capitalise on our lead, we looked nervy at the back when Millwall pushed forward and it was only a matter of time until they equalised. A bigger disappointment was to see Millwall go ahead in a game which we had dominated their physical tactics had us struggling – we quickly need to learn to close teams out and to be more clinical in the games that we dominate. I go back to my original point with all of those players missing and a patched up defence a draw against a team with one of the best away records in the football league shouldn’t be looked on as all doom and gloom.

Despite the continued absence of Jason Pearce there was brighter news as Will Grigg made a goal scoring return to earn us a point whilst the return to midfield of the on-loan Francissco Junior made a massive difference to our attacking play in the second half. It isn’t perfect at the moment – not by a long stretch but it also isn’t as terrible as some would believe, unbeaten at home and only two points away from a play-off place at this stage of the season with all of the changes we made in the summer is a promising position to be in. The key now is to build on that – starting with second placed Walsall on Saturday – it won’t be easy but if we can do that we’ll be flying again.

Sean Livesey

First published in the Wigan Evening Post, Friday 2nd October 2015