“I was looking for a response and a reaction and I think the players delivered that. I am also happy with the response from the supporters and the chairman. He came into the dressing room before the game and was very positive and reassuring to me and the players.” The words of Uwe Rosler following last night’s game.
The German was right – Latics looked a different team than they have been of late. Although the result places them 20th in the Championship table, the fighting spirit has returned which, in time, will propel them back up.
The match programme notes included a comment from Rosler “Wigan Athletic is a club that thrives in moments of adversity – we have shown it for years – so let’s all go and put a real Wigan Athletic performance in tonight, on and off the pitch. “ The performance showed that kind of spirit.
Rosler made four changes from the team that played at Bournemouth, switching to a 4-3-3 formation. William Kvist came into midfield to join Don Cowie and Emyr Huws, with Adam Forshaw on the bench. Callum McManaman, Andy Delort and James McClean were brought in upfront. Emmerson Boyce and Ivan Ramis played at centre back with Rob Kiernan omitted.
McManaman looked dangerous early on, giving Eric Lichaj a hard time. However, in the 11th minute a wild shot from the American found Michail Antonio in front of the goal, some four yards out, but somehow he blazed his shot high over the bar. However, Latics were to settle into their rhythm, their midfield dominating possession and there were some promising passing movements. However, the nearest Wigan came to scoring was a spectacular volley from James McClean which went over the bar.
Boyce went off injured during the half time break and was replaced by Leon Barnett. The second half continued in the same vein. Shaun Maloney replaced McManaman after 58 minutes. McClean’s energy and drive had added life to Wigan’s play and on the hour mark through his hard running and persistence he found a way through Forest’s well organised defence. However, the ball fell to his weaker right foot and he kicked the ball wide. It was to turn out to be the only clear-cut chance for Latics.
Rosler made an attacking move after 73 minutes, bringing on forward Oriel Riera for midfielder Cowie. Forest had started to look threatening. Britt Assombalonga forced Scott Carson to a good save and Henri Lansbury drove just wide in the final quarter of an hour.
Despite being a goalless draw, punctuated by 38 fouls (19 from each side), it had been an entertaining game. Either team could have won it. Both teams had two shots on target, Forest from 9 goal attempts. Latics from 13. Wigan had 56% of the possession.
The tale of Dave Whelan’s eventful visit to the dressing room in the early days of Paul Jewell’s reign is etched in the minds of Latics supporters. Jewell was going through a hard time as a young manager, dealing with too many players who were not supporting him. The story goes that Whelan let the players know in no uncertain terms that the manager was staying and that they could leave if they were not happy with that. It was to ultimately lead to Jewell taking Latics to the Premier League and the League Cup final.
Whelan’s intervention this time around might well have sent a similar message. The result was clear to see – a team putting in a real Wigan Athletic performance. Rosler will be buoyed by not only the chairman’s support, but by that of the crowd. The fans present last night gave the team great support and the chanting of Rosler’s name at the end will surely have lifted the manager’s spirits.
The midfield was a revelation in comparison with previous matches. Kvist was a rock in front of the back four and the unsung Cowie had his best game so far, with an all action display. Huws continues to impress. They provided the link between defence and attack that had been too often absent in recent games.
The protection from midfield surely helped the defence which looked solid. Boyce and Ramis were a solid pairing in the first half and Barnett’s forceful play added another dimension in the second. He surely deserves a regular place. The full backs looked comfortable.
McClean was a livewire throughout, bristling with commitment. His unique blend of raw energy and willingness to run at the opposition defence added an extra dimension to Wigan’s play. McManaman faded after a bright start. Delort battled hard and put in some nice touches, although he was once again starved of goal scoring opportunities.
Despite their effort and good approach play Latics rarely troubled the Forest keeper. In the long run they will surely be depending on the likes of Forshaw and Maloney to provide the type of incisive passing that can unlock opposing defences.
Forshaw has still not reached peak fitness and stayed on the bench for this game. Sadly Maloney looked a shadow of his former self.
Latics continue to pose little threat from set pieces. It seems to be a lottery who takes the free kicks and corners.
Scott Carson: 7 – solid and reliable. With more players forward his long kicks were more effective.
James Perch: 7 – solid and hard working.
Emmerson Boyce: 7 – solid until he went off injured after 45 minutes.
Ivan Ramis: 7.5 – excellent throughout.
Andrew Taylor: 7 – solid and hard working.
William Kvist: 7.5 – strong in the tackle and rarely wasted the ball. Conceded five fouls but drew three.
Don Cowie: 7.5 – his best game for Latics so far. Full of commitment and running.
Emyr Huws: 7 – faded at times, but at 19 years of age looks an outstanding prospect. Tough in the tackle with good distribution.
Callum McManaman: 6.5 – faded after a lively start. Went off after 58 minutes.
Andy Delort: 6.5 – full of effort and showed flashes of skill. Frustrating when committing unnecessary fouls. Gave away six in total with just one in his favour.
James McClean: 8 – surely his best performance in a Wigan shirt.
Leon Barnett: 7 – full of power and authority in defence.
Shaun Maloney: – tried hard, but could not impose his mark on the game.
Oriel Riera: – came on after 73 minutes.