Wigan Athletic have reached the 6th round of the FA Cup only once before. That was in the 1986-1987 season, when they were unluckily beaten by Leeds United on a bitterly cold and blustery afternoon at Springfield Park. On Sunday they will be hoping to get there again when they travel to meet a Huddersfield Town team that pulled off a surprise 2-1 victory at high flying Championship rivals Leicester on Tuesday.
The last time Wigan played Huddersfield in the FA Cup was in 1973, when Latics were a non-league side and the Terriers were in Division 3. The result at the old Leeds Road stadium was a 2-0 win for the home team. Huddersfield moved to their new ground, now known as the John Smiths Stadium, in 1994. Not surprisingly there have been some concerns about the state of the pitch, since Town share the ground with the local rugby league club. There has been debate among Town supporters as to what has caused the recent problems. Some say it has been churned up by having rugby matches played on it; others say it is been because of the bad weather and the need for undersoil heating. A familiar debate well known to Wigan fans. Let’s hope the issue does not rear its ugly head again in the matches remaining this season at the DW Stadium.
Given their current predicament in the relegation zone of the Premier League, Wigan will be reluctant to risk first choice players for this game. However, a few are likely to be drafted in to provide balance. There appears to be an outside chance that Emmerson Boyce will make a return, following his recent hamstring injury. However, Martinez will probably play safe and play Ronnie Stam at right wing back, saving the senior professional for the Reading game.
The big Spanish goalkeeper Joel Robles will have the opportunity to stake a claim for a first team place. He is likely to see much more action against a Championship side than he did against Conference side Macclesfield in the last round. Roman Golobart is likely to step into central defence, with Adrian Lopez alongside him, if fit. The third central defensive position would go to a senior player, although the return of Antolin Alcaraz is still in doubt. Jordan Mustoe staked a claim at left wing back in the Macclesfield game in the previous round, but it could also be taken by Maynor Figueroa or Jean Beausejour.
David Jones will surely start in the centre of midfield, but Fraser Fyvie is injured, so Roger Espinoza will probably step in. Jordi Gomez will surely start in the front three, together with two of Callum McManaman, Angelo Henriquez and Nouha Dicko. Given that he has not had much football in recent weeks we can expect Arouna Kone to feature at some time during the game.
This will be a stern test for the second string. Huddersfield currently lie 18th in the Championship table, but they have only lost 4 matches out of 16 at home. All teams in the Championship are competitive and this Huddersfield side is likely to stretch a Wigan lineup that only plays together in cup matches. However, the second string has already shown this season that it can take its chances clinically and grind out results. A good result at the John Smith’s Stadium would lift the spirits of all at the club.