When Wigan Athletic played at Southend in late November it was a cold and windy day in the seaside town. Latics had lost at home to Burton four days prior and they were to face one of the form teams in League 1 at the antediluvian Roots Hall ground. The portents were ominous.
Wigan had not played badly against Burton, but had got caught by a goal from a counterattack from a team with a well organised defence and a strong work ethic. A win over the Brewers would have seen them move into third place behind Coventry and Gillingham, but it was not to be. Following the disappointment of the 0-1 reverse they were keen to do better against Southend.
Getting a good result at Roots Hall was made difficult by the cold, blustery wind swirling around the tight pitch. It was not going to be a day for good football. Latics simply had to slug it out with the home team to come away with any points. In the end they came away with a well -earned point, thanks to the effort they put in.
Strangely enough Southend United are the visitors to the DW Stadium today following on from Wigan’s 1-1 draw at Burton on Tuesday. Gary Caldwell’s team have a pragmatic side to them which enables them to grind out results when they are not playing well. Although the Brewers were in a run of poor form they were going to be formidable opposition on the tight pitch at the Pirelli Stadium. Burton’s pitch is actually 72 yards wide, compared with Southend’s 74 yards, although both are 110 yards long. Once again Latics had put in a backs-to-the-wall performance on a small pitch to get a result.
Playing away on small pitches is a very different prospect to playing at the DW with a relatively expansive playing area measuring 115 yards by 74. Those extra few yards can make a difference to the style of football on display. The larger pitch surely suits Caldwell’s style of possession football and Latics have produced some sparkling displays over the season on their home ground.
However, it has not always been the norm. So often visiting teams will either “park the bus” or use pressing tactics to stop Wigan building up their moves methodically from the back. Moreover lenient and close to incompetent refereeing has too frequently allowed visiting teams the licence for tactical fouling of Wigan’s most skilful players. The end result has been sporadic flashes of the champagne football that Caldwell’s team is capable of producing. In fact the last three home matches have resulted in tight 1-0 wins for the Latics.
Wigan Athletic fans will be primarily looking at getting a positive result today, but a sparkling performance would be particularly welcome too. With adequate refereeing and a “get at them” approach from Latics from the onset a goal fest would be a distinct possibility. The alternative is a cagey approach, dominated by the promotion jitters that have hit so many of the League 1 promotion hopeful teams in recent weeks.
The swirling wind and the bumpy pitch made it difficult to play good football at Southend. But strong winds are not forecast for Wigan today and the DW pitch has performed well in recent weeks. Latics fans will be hoping their team will take the initiative from the get-go, blowing away Phil Brown’s Southend United in the process.