With renewed confidence following a hard fought victory at Leeds on Boxing Day, Wigan Athletic face Sheffield Wednesday at the DW tomorrow night. A win for Latics would see them climb out of the relegation zone.
In an attempt to draw in more support the club are offering ground admission at £10. Not surprisingly after so many poor performances at home this season’s average attendance stands at 12,518. It is down 18% from last season’s average of 15,176.
Interestingly the DW Stadium was the most popular venue for away supporters in the Championship last season, with an average of 1,968 per game. If this had been a weekend game we could have expected a significant number of away supporters making the journey across the Pennines. However, with a 7:45 pm start on a Tuesday evening in cold weather it is going to take the most loyal of Owls’ fans to make the journey.
Malky Mackay will continue to rely mainly on his experienced players for this match. Latics have the second oldest squad in the division, although Mackay fielded a couple of younger players against Leeds in Rob Kiernan and James Tavernier, both 23 years of age. He will surely stick by the 3-5-2 system that worked well at Leeds, giving wing backs Tavernier and Andrew Taylor the opportunity to move forward to support the attack. Tavernier has the ability to launch superb crosses and it will be interesting to see if the probable strike force of Marc-Antoine Fortune and James McClean can show the heading ability needed to capitalize on his deliveries. Oriol Riera would surely thrive on such service should he come on the field at some stage.
Mackay will be tempted to name an unchanged lineup, providing there are no fitness issues among those players. At Leeds he had a bench that would be the envy of many clubs – Ali Al Habsi, Emmerson Boyce, Roger Espinoza, Adam Forshaw, Shaun Maloney, Callum McManaman and Oriol Riera. However, he will be keen to keep a settled lineup, particularly on the centre of defence where a new trio of James Perch, Ivan Ramis and Rob Kiernan did well at Leeds.
It is only four weeks since Latics were defeated at Hillsborough in a mediocre match. That day the giant centre forward Atdhe Nuhiu gave Latics’ central defence a torrid time. Ivan Ramis had a rare off-day and had to be substituted at half time. Tomorrow Nuhiu will find it harder, facing a backline of three central defenders, with Ramis keen to atone for his display that day.
Since then Wednesday won 2-1 at Blackburn, lost 0-1 at home to Wolves and 4-0 at Fulham, but beat Blackpool 1-0 at home on Boxing Day. They lie in 13th place, 11 points above Wigan. It will be the fourth time the two clubs have met in a league game in the 2014 calendar year.
If Latics are to climb the table they need to be able to beat sides like Sheffield Wednesday. It could be a tight encounter tomorrow night at the DW Stadium.