Five talking points following a crucial win at Doncaster

Doncaster Rovers 1 Wigan Athletic 4

It was arguably their best performance of the season as Wigan Athletic took a crucial three points in style. A rocket shot by Joe Dodoo had put Latics ahead after just three minutes, with Thelo Aasgaard rifling the ball home twelve minutes later. Wigan continued to attack with the home defence looking in disarray and skilful interplay between Dodoo and Will Keane saw the latter break forward and lay the ball on a plate for Viv Solomon-Otabor to slide the ball home on the 33-minute mark.

Wigan’s play up to that point had been a revelation, but Taylor Richards got one back for the home team after finding himself outside the penalty box, scoring with aplomb. Latics went into half time with a 3-1 lead. One wondered how they would approach the second half, having too often seen them drop back into massed defence on previous occasions, inviting pressure and squandering their lead.

However, thanks to the defence and Jamie Jones they managed to keep Rovers at bay, meanwhile continuing to threaten at the other end. Keane got on the end of a cross from Dodoo after 80 minutes and eventually came away with an impressive 4-1 victory.

After the game Leam Richardson commented:

“I thought every player was outstanding; the energy levels, the endeavour and certainly the front two epitomised the game and the result. The subs coming off the bench gave us good impact and helped us to see the game through; when you have a group of people trying to run in the same direction, you haven’t half got a chance.

A goal just before half-time from Taylor Richards made the second-half a fraction less comfortable for Latics but Leam was pleased with the way his side saw the game through after an excellent start.

“It was important to manage the game in the second-half because we seem to like to make a game of it, with the goal just before half-time for them. We had some good noises at half-time and we knew we had to meet them head on again. Doncaster have some really good players and play a good brand of football, so I felt we had to go on and score again. We could have scored more possibly but we’ll certainly take the hard work and result.”

Let’s take a look at points arising from the game:

Dodoo was a revelation

Although he is still only 25-years-old Joe Dodoo has played for 8 clubs scoring 13 goals in 100 league appearances. In 2019-20 he made 24 appearances for Bolton Wanderers, scoring 4. Despite these stats he looked a fine player yesterday, leading the line with energy and pace. His third minute finish was hit with stunning power. He linked up beautifully with Will Keane for the third goal and showed lightning acceleration in leaving Rovers’ captain Tom Anderson in his wake before putting in a great cross for Keane to score the fourth.

Dodoo was born in Ghana and moved to England when he was 8 years old. In 2013 he represented England U18 against Belgium. Dodoo is a product of the Leicester City youth system and made his first team debut in a League Cup game at Bury in August 2013. Latics signed him in January after he had been released by Ankara Keciorengucu where he had scored one goal in fourteen appearances in the second tier of Turkish football. Until yesterday he had made 5 starts with 8 appearances off the bench, scoring one goal.

The Dodoo we saw at Doncaster was a revelation compared with what we had seen before. Can he repeat yesterday’s form in the games that remain?

Keane back to near his best

Will Keane has certainly had ups and downs in his career. Now 28-years-old he has played for six clubs since making his debut for Manchester United in December 2011. Although many of Keane’s 131 league appearances have seen him operating as a number 9, he has played his best football in the hole behind the central striker.  

Keane signed an extension to his Wigan contract in January after some fine performances in that role. Since then, after illness and injury he had struggled to show that kind of form. But yesterday he looked back to his best, his movement and quick feet causing a headache for the Doncaster defence.

With such good performances from Dodoo and Keane, Leam Richardson will face a selection decision if Callum Lang is back from injury on Tuesday when Latics play Sunderland. Lang can play on the right wing but is much more effective in the middle. Moreover, if he were to be brought back on the right wing would there be a place for Thelo Aasgaard who was excellent at Doncaster?

Jamie Jones is back in form.

A feature of recent games has been the much-improved performances from goalkeeper and captain Jamie Jones. During the month of February things were not looking good for Jones whose keeping had been riddled with fundamental errors. Questions were being asked by fans why Jones was being chosen. However, Richardson is a manager who supports his senior professionals and he maintained faith in Jones.

The goalkeeper made some key interventions at crucial times when Doncaster looked like they might pull back another goal to bring the score to 3-2. Moreover, he has looked increasingly confident and alert in recent matches.

Latics will need Jones at his best if they are to get out of the relegation dog fight.

Goal difference could be crucial.

With Burton Albion looking all but safe in 18th position four of the six clubs below them are almost certainly going to be relegated. With those clubs so close on points the likelihood is that at least one of those relegation slots will be decided on goal difference. The +3 tally from this match certainly helped Latics in this respect.

Wigan Athletic play just one of the other five teams in the “drop zone” as the season winds down. With four home games and two on the road it would normally be a position of strength for Wigan compared with others in the relegation pack. But in these Covid-19 times home advantage is not as big a factor as it was when crowds were attending. Latics have done worse than most with a home record of W3 D5 L11 (compared with W7 D3 L11 away from home).

Latics have two games against high-flying teams, Sunderland and Hull City, three against teams in between the promotion and relegation zones, with just one against relegation-threatened Swindon.

A general rule of thumb suggests that clubs need to average a point per game to be close to avoiding the drop. Latics would need 8 points from the 18 available to reach that target. Would 9 points be enough? Is this Wigan team capable of winning 3 of their final 6 games?

When the season first started there were pundits who said that Latics’ final game of the season against Swindon could decide a relegation place. They could yet be right.

More dubious refereeing decisions?

There has been scarcely a game this season when refereeing decisions have not been a talking point among Wigan Athletic fans. So many 50-50 decisions seem to have gone against Latics over the course of the season.

Being a football referee in this day and age is not an easy job. There are players who try to deceive, and the cynicism of some teams can be sad to witness. Richardson’s Latics are a very physical side but are rarely cynical. According to footstats.co.uk Latics have committed an average of 14.5 per game against 12.2 in their favour. Only Charlton Athletic and Oxford United have conceded more fouls per game. Rochdale, currently in bottom place, have the lowest committed fouls average of only 10.5 per game.

There was an incident at Doncaster when it appeared that the home goalkeeper had handled the ball out of his area. The referee did not rule that he did so. Latics TV commentators Ashley Houghton and Tommy Gore certainly raised the point. They also questioned a number of other decisions by the referee. It has become the norm in so many commentaries.

Tommy Gore certainly deserves the title of “Latics Legend” through his 287 appearances for the club from 1974-1980. He was a very good non-league player, playing right midfield and right back, and made the big adjustment to playing at a higher level when Latics joined the fourth division in 1978. He was a real team player with a very positive attitude.

Tommy certainly has a love for the club, and it shines through his commentaries. However, his constant criticism of minor refereeing decisions has become irritating. We are in an era where players go down easily to gain free kicks which would not have been awarded in the 1970s. In recent games I have resorted to muting the sound when he has repeatedly complained about fouls being given in favour of the other team.

The standard of refereeing in the division leaves much to be desired. Perhaps over the course of the season more 50-50 decisions have gone against Latics than have gone for them. Watching a game one can make one’s own decisions as to whether the referee is right or wrong in a particular incidence. However, a significant number of supporters are listening to audio-only commentaries.

There have been dubious refereeing decisions that have hurt Latics this season. But are the referees in collusion against Latics? I sincerely doubt it.

Stats courtesy of WhoScored.com

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