A dull, scrappy game offering little in the way of entertainment seemed to be heading for a goalless draw until Abdenasser El Khayati scored for the visitors from a breakaway in the 74th minute. Au ugly, but well organised Burton Albion side, who had looked like they had come for a draw went on to inflict on Wigan their first league home defeat of the season. Once again Wigan were unable to defeat a team in the upper reaches of the League 1 table.
Gary Caldwell had chosen to field an unchanged starting lineup, following a 1-0 victory against lowly Shrewsbury on Saturday. It was to be a 3-4-3 formation with Alex Revell in the lone centre forward role and Michael Jacobs and Yanic Wildschut playing wide.
Wildschut made one of his trademark runs in the first minute with a cut back to Tim Chow in a good position, but the young player fluffed his shot. But Burton tightened up. They had clearly done their homework and Wildschut was heavily marked. Jacobs was ineffective on the right and Revell a lonely figure up front. Latics were playing cautiously, unwilling to put enough men into the penalty box for the fear of a breakaway at the other end. Their right hand side was having a torrid time, with Chow way out of sync, Daniels poor in his passing and Jacobs looking like a shadow of his normal self. Latics main idea of attack was to feed Wildschut, although the service he received left much to be desired. But Burton had little to offer going forward too.
Given the way Latics were struggling to break down the Burton defence one wondered if Caldwell would make a change at half time, not only in terms of players on the pitch, but in the team’s shape. The rigid 3-4-3 system was not getting the best out of the players, who looked lethargic. With such talent on the bench, surely Caldwell would bring on someone like Francisco Junior who can change the tempo of a game, but the African was not to come on until after Burton scored.
The second half started with another cross from Wildschut finding Chow at the far post, but he could not get high enough to head the ball down and the chance was lost. Burton had shown us an ugly side to their game in the first half with players going down as if poleaxed, with the referee surrounded by their teammates. It continued in the second half, much to the crowd’s frustration.
Latics just could not find a way through Burton’s defence and the game seemed to be heading for a draw. Craig Davies had come on for Revell after 65 minutes, but Latics had kept to the same shape and there seemed to be no way through the visitors’ defence. Then came Burton’s breakaway goal in the 74th minute, which prompted Caldwell to bring on both Junior and Will Grigg. Junior was pushed into an advanced midfield role, with Grigg partnering Davies up front. However, Burton continued to defy Wigan although a goal seemed certain after 85 minutes when Max Power’s shot inside the area was somehow blocked and Reece James hit the post from the rebound.
Given the amount of timewasting from Burton, the referee added seven minutes on at the end of the game, but Latics were unable to get the equaliser.
On a day when so many players were below par it is hard to come up with positives. Caldwell had clearly been preaching patience to his players, as they struggled to break down the Burton defence. Sadly the patience was there, but it was dynamism that was lacking.
Caldwell had put out the same lineup despite a lacklustre performance in the previous game. Sadly in this match he did not get the best out of the players at his disposal.
The rigid 3-4-3 was easy for the visitors to read and the situation was crying out for a change in approach. Jacobs looks only half the player when playing wide. He has been most effective in a free role supporting the forwards from central midfield. Playing ugly to get a result is one thing, but Latics seemed happy to keep grinding away with little end-product.
Caldwell had a wealth of talent at his disposal, but left it too late making the necessary changes. Revell put in a good shift as a lone centre forward in the Fortune style. He could not be faulted for effort or commitment. However, Grigg’s career goalscoring record shows a strike rate almost twice as much as that of Revell and Davies’ too is 50% more. A twin strike force of Grigg and Davies could have been employed from the start, rather than at the later stages when things were getting desperate. It could be argued that Caldwell is using Davies cautiously because of potential injury, but he is clearly not getting the best out of Grigg. Grigg’s self-confidence can hardly be expected to be high after being repeatedly left out of the starting lineup.
Caldwell deserves some credit in persevering with Chow after an unimpressive display against Shrewsbury. He is a local lad and his presence in the starting lineup will give young players in the development squad the message that there are potential chances for them too. However, Chow looked out of his depth in this game, short of confidence and off the pace of the play. Chow’s more natural position is in midfield. Moreover questions need to be asked about bringing in a rookie young player against a team that is a rival for promotion.
Jussi Jaaskelainen: 6 – a quiet night apart from the goal conceded. Calm in his distribution.
Tim Chow: 4 – sadly lacking.
Donervon Daniels: 5 – played better in the second half, but not at his best.
Craig Morgan: 6 – generally solid, but beaten for pace on the Burton goal.
Chris McCann: 7.5 – solid in defence, with good distribution from the back.
Reece James: 6 – worked hard.
Max Power: 6 – worked hard, if not at his best.
David Perkins: 6 – a bundle of energy as always, but not as influential as he often is.
Michael Jacobs: 5 – was he fit after the injury he received on Saturday?
Alex Revell: 6 – worked hard.
Yanic Wildschut: 6.5 – not at his best, being heavily marked, but was nevertheless the main danger to the visitors.
Craig Davies: – a frustrating evening for him.
Will Grigg: – not at his best leaping for long balls. But why is he not in the starting lineup?
Francisco Junior: – added creativity to the midfield, but brought on too late.