Wigan Athletic travel to the Keepmoat Stadium this afternoon having won their last three away games and being unbeaten in the league in seven matches under Uwe Rosler. Doncaster are fighting to get themselves out of the relegation mire, currently sitting on 22nd place. Their home record reads W4 D2 L6.
Under normal circumstances one would expect an emphatic Latics win. However, Wigan come into the encounter following an energy-sapping 120 minutes FA Cup win at MK Dons on Tuesday. It is by no means an ideal preparation for a trip to any team in the Championship division.
Uwe Rosler will be keen to avoid slipping on the banana skin with three points going begging. Ideally he would refresh his starting lineup to rest some of the tired legs in his squad. However, his options may be limited because of injury problems. In the centre of defence both Ivan Ramis and Thomas Rogne have been out for several games and Emmerson Boyce has had to move over to cover from the right back position. This might be the case today with James Perch on the right. The attacking option on the left of defence is Jean Beausejour, but Stephen Crainey is a possibility.
Midfielders Roger Espinoza, James McArthur, Chris McCann and Ben Watson played the full two hours at Milton Keynes. At least two of them will make today’s lineup, with a possible start for Jordi Gomez, who came on after 72 minutes in midweek.
Callum McManaman was rested in midweek and could prove a key player today. Rosler wants to avoid burn-out of his young players. He is clearly nurturing McManaman, who has been starting to regain his form. Rosler is also concerned about overplaying the excellent 19 year old Nick Powell. However, had Powell not come on in the second half at Milton Keynes Latics might well have been knocked out of the FA Cup. He provides that extra touch of class and creativity that the team lacks when he is not on the field.
Marc-Antoine Fortune can at last see some light at the end of a dark tunnel, having scored two well taken goals in his last two games. Fortune was in danger of being written off by some fans and lumped into the same category as the hapless Grant Holt – that of two 32 year old strikers past their best.
Fortune has always been a good footballer, a mobile striker with no mean level of skill. His career record shows he has never been a consistent goalscorer, but with his previous clubs he would often be played wide, away from his natural position in the centre. The French Guianian might be into his thirties, but he still has pace and is benefitting from an extended run in the team. In league matches he now has 2 goals from 10 starts, but he leads the ‘assists’ with four.
Fortune fits in the Rosler mould as a mobile centre forward who can contribute towards the high pressing, but also has the pace to launch rapid counterattacks. The same cannot be said of Holt, who has temporarily left the club.
Holt was brought in by Owen Coyle to employ him in the kind of role that Kevin Davies played in the manager’s time at Bolton. He scored two goals in nine starts at Wigan. There has been much vitriol from fans aimed at the big Cumbrian, who has been offered a lifeline by his old manager Paul Lambert at Aston Villa. This is a good move for Wigan, not only freeing up space on the wage bill, but giving the player a fresh chance to show that he is not ‘over the hill’.
This week the social media has been riddled with images of Holt as an overweight, out-of-condition player. However, he was recently quoted as saying that he is in the best shape of his career. Holt has never been a player known for his pace, but more of an old fashioned English centre forward, a battering ram to attack any defence. A future for Holt at Wigan remains unlikely given the style of play that Rosler seeks and the fan reaction towards him.
Rosler will probably start Fortune at centre forward at Doncaster today, bringing on Nicky Maynard at some stage. However, Fortune has started in the last four matches in a space of 17 days, including the marathon at Milton Keynes. A bold move on the manager’s part would be to put on Maynard from the start.
Maynard fits into the Rosler mould as a mobile central striker who can score goals. At 27 he should be nearing his peak, but serious injuries have held him back. Rosler will ease him in gradually and he could well share that centre forward position with Fortune, the two interchanging between the starting lineup and coming off the bench.
Whether Wigan Athletic come away with the points from today’s game depends largely on the energy and commitment they can put into it. Quite often the adrenalin that comes from a successful run of results can be sufficient to keep those tired legs moving.