The Valley had not been a happy hunting ground for Wigan Athletic, but it was last night. Latics simply blew a decent Charlton side away with a scintillating display of football.
Gavin Massey has been growing in stature as the season has progressed, gradually making the adjustment to a higher division. His brace of goals will do his confidence a world of good.
Latics have now moved up to 6th place, 2 points behind Charlton in 3rd. Their next games are at home to Bristol Rovers (currently in 12th place) and Northampton Town (17th).
Let’s take a look at some talking points arising from yesterday’s match:
Paul Cook’s side plays a “fearless” brand of football
Latics were traveling to play a side who were second in the table, with an impressive home record over several months. Moreover they had gained just one point from their previous two matches. But they attacked Charlton from the get-go, with Gavin Massey almost scoring in the first minute from Michael Jacobs’ superb cross.
Cook has revolutionised the style of play. No longer does the team make a slow, cautious start, more concerned about the danger posed by the opposition. Last night the Charlton defence was under fire, as Latics employed a high press and poured men into the box. Massey’s first goal was scored from the kind of position a centre forward would take up and central midfielder Sam Morsy had moved forward into the box to notch the third.
There will be games where Cook’s side cannot quite get their act together, as we saw on Saturday at Shrewsbury. But their intent is going to be attacking, come what may.
Sam Morsy needs to keep a cool head
Morsy is a complete midfield player, rugged in defence, but so capable going forward. Given the way Cook throws men forward in attack the protection Morsy provides his back four is crucial. His passion for the game is what makes him a fine choice as captain, leading by example, totally committed to the cause. However, there can be times when he looks close to receiving a red card. Last night he was clearly incensed by a bad tackle on Nick Powell, his teammates having to drag him away. Opposition players also know he has a short fuse and last night a Charlton player followed him after he had been dragged away from the scene of the foul.
Morsy will continue to be baited by the opposition as the season continues. His challenge is to retain his passion, but to keep a cool head at crucial moments.
Reece James was a revelation last night
There were certainly doubts whether James would get back to his previous fitness levels following a season and a half out through injury. Indeed Cook brought in Callum Elder for cover. However, James has been excellent since his return.
Cook expects his full backs to push forward into attack. Nathan Byrne clearly relishes that role on the right. Under Gary Caldwell, James was often played as a wing back, although he tended to be conservative in his play. However, in this brief spell under Cook there has been a transformation that has seen the player attack with gusto and no mean level of skill. It was from his crosses that the first and third goals came last night.
James is still only 23 years of age and his contract expires at the end of the season. Providing he stays clear of injury can we expect him to be offered an extended contract?
The centre of defence is solid
The loss of Chey Dunkley through suspension looked like it would unsettle the defence, but Alex Bruce has made a seamless transition into the side. Dan Burn remains a tower of strength and either Bruce or Dunkley can step in at his side.
There will be much more to come from a Grigg-Powell partnership
Will Grigg is still finding his feet after a long injury lay-off. Nick Powell continues his rehabilitation, his time on the pitch being carefully monitored by Cook. Should they both reach full fitness and match sharpness, League 1 defences had better beware. They are both intelligent players who know how to get into good positions. What a partnership it could become.