A well-taken goal by forward Jonson Clarke-Harris after 28 minutes was sufficient to send Latics to another defeat. Peterborough’s centre forward had found himself unmarked in Wigan’s box.
With Tom Pearce still injured John Sheridan fielded the same team that started at Charlton with the exception of Matty Palmer making his debut in midfield in place of Dan Gardner.
Peterborough had come to the DW full of confidence following three successive victories. That confidence soon showed as their smooth passing movements put pressure on the home team’s defence. As the match continued Wigan’s front two, Joe Garner and Will Keane, were starved of possession and neither looked like scoring. The poor quality of crosses into the opposition box from open play and set pieces gave them scant opportunities. Keane was replaced by Chris Merrie after 68 minutes and Garner by Ollie Crankshaw after 81 minutes. Thelo Aasgard made his debut, coming on for Palmer after 88 minutes.
Following the game Sheridan commented:
“We try and tell them week in week out to pass the ball and be more adventurous and productive in passing the ball forward and trying to hurt teams quicker and we need to do that put teams on the back foot quicker, instead of allowing them to recover and get back into position.
It’s something we do work on but we need to do a lot better. Scoring goals is a problem at the moment. There are lots of deliveries going in the box at the moment with corners and set plays but our end product isn’t there at the moment.”
Let’s take a look at points arising from the game:
A rocky period for Latics
After losing the first two league games Latics rallied by winning the next two. The win at Portsmouth was well merited if the home victory against Doncaster owed as much to the visitors’ profligacy in front of goal as the fighting qualities shown by Wigan. The wins were followed by a 3-0 defeat at Crewe where Latics were outplayed. Poor refereeing decisions played a major hand in the narrow defeat at Charlton but Latics never truly looked like scoring in this encounter with Peterborough.
The prime goal for Latics this season is to avoid relegation, but that is by no means an easy task given the limited resources John Sheridan has at his disposal. The starting line-up last night contained five players from last season’s squad and six on short-term contracts which end in January, half of whom are on loan. The seven players on the bench were products of the U23 and U18 teams.
Recruiting players for a club with an uncertain future is always going to be difficult. Moreover, the League 1 salary cap restricts things further. Sheridan has to use the players remaining from last season’s squad as the backbone of the team over the course of the season, although some of those could depart in the January transfer window.
The football we have seen these last couple of months has been reminiscent of that of early last season in the Championship when we saw the bright, flowing side of Cook-Richardson football interspersed with spells where hoofball prevailed. Seeing Joe Garner struggle to receive any kind of service last night brought back memories of Kieffer Moore’s early days at Wigan when his main function seemed to be in chasing futile long balls.
Giving youth a chance
The departures of talented young players such as Alfie Devine, Joe Gelhardt and Jensen Weir for such meagre transfer fees was a bitter pill for us to swallow. However, the funds raised by their transfers helped the club to survive at a critical period in Wigan Athletic’s history. The good news is that the academy system is still intact and the U18 team has won all four of its games so far. There is still an abundance of teenage talent at the club.
It was good to see the 18-year-old Thelo Aasgard make his senior debut yesterday. Aasgard joined Latics in October 2016 and has represented Norway at the U16 level. A skilful player, well suited to the number 10 role, he has been a regular starter in the U23 team this season. He is the fourth teenager to make his League 1 debut this season following in the footsteps of the 19 year olds: Charlie Jolley, Adam Long, Emeka Obe. Divin Baningime was also 19 when made his debut in the EFL Trophy defeat by Port Vale.
Two more 19-year-olds have been making the bench but have yet to make their senior debuts. Both Kyle Joseph and Luke Robinson are Scotland youth internationals. Joseph is a striker with a good goalscoring record. Robinson is a left back who has shown expertise in shooting from outside the penalty box.
The development of home-grown talent is key to the long-term sustainability of the club. Previous managers have been reluctant to bring in young players, preferring to stick with their senior players. In John Sheridan’s case it has been a necessity because of the threadbare nature of the senior squad.
Sheridan’s main task is to avoid relegation on a budget that is shoestring compared with previous seasons that Latics have spent in League 1 over recent years. However, should he manage to keep the club in the division and give further experience to young homegrown talent, the season could be regarded as a success.
Naismith for number 10?
Since Nick Powell’s departure the number 10 position has been problematic for Latics. Various players have been tried there, including Lee Evans. The Welshman has returned to form in the last three games since returning to his favourite position in holding midfield. In the last couple of matches Sheridan has used Will Keane to support the central striker, rather than as an orthodox number 10. Although it has not been noticeably successful up to this point it remains an option that the manager might use as needs arise.
Kal Naismith has once again proved his flexibility in playing in different positions. When he has played in the centre of defence his creativity has been missed further up the pitch. But there is debate among fans as to what is his best position.
In these days of inverted wingers Naismith found himself on the right wing and Viv Solomon-Otabor on the left. The latter has impressed on both wings this season, although yesterday he was snuffed out of the game by the Peterborough defence. Naismith had some good moments but one cannot help but feeling that he looks uncomfortable playing on the right.
Despite being such an all-rounder Naismith has rarely played in central midfield. But he has all the attributes to be successful in that position. Why not give him a run as a number 10?
The Garrido takeover
The acquisition of the club by Jose Miguel Garrido is awaiting ratification by the EFL. Until that happens we will not be able to discern the direction of the club in the near future.
Garrido will be buying a club that won the FA Cup only seven years ago, has a thriving academy and is not riddled with the levels of debt which typify so many clubs in the higher levels of the EFL. On the downside he will have to support the club financially during an era in which supporters are not allowed into football grounds.
Looking forward to Plymouth on Saturday
The last two games have been tight contests where Latics have lost by the odd goal. With such a small nucleus of experienced players Sheridan will face challenges as the fixtures pile up.
We can assume that Sheridan will stick with that same nucleus of players on Saturday when Plymouth Argyle are the visitors. Let’s hope they can get back on track and pick up three valuable points.