What wonderful enthusiastic support Wigan Athletic had at Fulham last Saturday. Stuck in the worst possible vantage point in the corner behind the goal at the Craven Cottage end they nevertheless gave it all they had. The constant chanting of “I’m a Believer” made a clear statement to the team that they had loyal support, which will be crucial in the remaining three matches.
After the elation of the wonderful displays against Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea came the disappointment of that late defeat at Fulham. On top of that, favourable results for fellow strugglers. The bottom line is that Wigan Athletic remain in the mire and the only way to get out of it is to win games. On paper, the Newcastle match looks the hardest of the three remaining. One might point out that playing away at Blackburn is no joy ride and a Wolves team with nothing to play for might be a tough nut to crack. Sometimes teams play better when the pressure is off. The good news is that QPR and Blackburn have tough fixtures remaining and Aston Villa are now in that same mire, having won only one out of their last 11 games. And Bolton? Who knows? They seem to be able to play poorly and still get good results. They have the easiest fixture list remaining, but can they continue to get away with it?
On the team front Hugo Rodallega is likely to be back and he could appear at some time in the game. Watching the Fulham match, I got into a conversation with a young man who is an AFC Wimbledon supporter. He was taking a break from his team’s match against Torquay to bring his little brother to Fulham to watch a Premier League encounter. He said he liked Wigan’s style of football and their organization and hoped they stayed up. However, he said that Latics didn’t seem to have anybody upfront. I explained to him that Di Santo went off injured in the first half with Sammon replacing him. However, the young man had a point. Looking back on the match and the second half in particular, Latics looked jaded and unambitious. The tough games prior to going to Fulham had taken their toll. More worrying – probably due to fatigue – was the lack of support for the lone centre forward. The midfield was just not going the extra mile and getting into the box. Whether it be Di Santo, Sammon or Rodallega playing there they need some support.
Let’s hope that the bruised and battered among Latics’ first choice starting eleven recover sufficiently well for the Newcastle game. Newcastle are a physically powerful team, brimming with confidence, and it is going to need a lot of running and harassing to knock them off their game. Their away record reads W7D3L6.
That said, they have been punching above their weight all season. They have two very dangerous central strikers in Ba and Cisse, a well balanced midfield and a very solid defence marshaled by Coloccini. However, they are definitely beatable. Alcaraz, Caldwell and Figueroa have played wonderfully well in recent games against the likes of Drogba, Rooney and Van Persie. The midfield of Boyce, the Jimmy Macs and Beausejour have competed on at least equal terms with star-studded opposition in the same matches. Back in October, Latics played pretty well at Newcastle, being unlucky to lose to a superb effort from Cabaye. They certainly matched Newcastle that day. This Saturday, with a tiny bit of luck and fair refereeing decisions, they can certainly beat Newcastle. I’m certainly a believer!