It was a truly insipid performance from Wigan Athletic. Their display was as muted as was the atmosphere in the DW Stadium.
From the very start Oldham were dominant on the pitch and their fans so dominant in vocalising their support. They not only reminded us that they considered their club to be the true Latics, but they lifted their team into a commendable display against their high flying opponents.
Gary Caldwell admitted after the game that “We were lucky to come away with a point”. Such was the dominance of Oldham. Most of us had expected Wigan to win comfortably, but the sheer energy that epitomised their win at Bramall Lane was sadly lacking yesterday. A disappointed fan summed it up on his way out of the stadium when he said “They were hungry for points and were just weren’t hungry enough.”
As usual Caldwell had kept us guessing about his team selection and shape. He was to opt for a return to 3-4-3. Reece Wabara came in at right wing back, Donervon Daniels moving back into the centre of defence, Sam Morsy being relegated to a place on the bench despite a good performance at Sheffield.
Oldham dominated the first half. New manager, John Sheridan, set up a game plan that nullified Wigan’s creative players. Oldham were physically stronger, so often winning the second ball. They were getting so many players behind the ball when the home team attacked, closing down Wigan players, harassing them when playing the ball out from the back. Oldham crowded the midfield, Perkins and Power looking swamped and the wing backs out of touch. Grigg was isolated in the lone centre forward role and there was little creativity on view.
Wigan went into the half time interval thankful for Jussi Jaaskelainen’s solid goalkeeping, which had kept them in the game. The Oldham goalkeeper had hardly been troubled.
One expected Caldwell to boost his midfield in the second half and he duly obliged. Morsy was brought on as the teams came out, with Wigan switching to a version of 4-3-3 akin to the 4-1-4-1 we saw at Sheffield. The surprise was the exit of Daniels, rather than Wabara who had been peripheral throughout the first half.
The change in shape did have some positive effects, but the lack of creativity in Wigan’s play continued to show. Grigg had worked hard in the first half, despite being outnumbered. He continued to be lively in the second.
Oldham had clearly done their homework on dealing with Yanic Wildschut, although the service he was receiving left much to be desired. However, the Dutchman kept plugging away. Sadly when he was to get into the opposition box his decision-making was to let him down.
Conor McAleny was struggling as the second half went on and it seemed likely he would be substituted around the 60 minute mark. But the next substitution turned out to be Ryan Colclough for David Perkins after 76 minutes.
Wigan pushed their full backs well forward, Craig Morgan and Jason Pearce becoming virtually a two man back line. Oldham came close a couple of times before Craig Davies was brought on after 81 minutes for McAleny. Davies’ arrival was to give Grigg more support and their linkup saw Grigg come close near the end.
But it was not to be. The game ended goalless with the Oldham players clearly delighted. In truth they probably merited more than their well-earned point.
“I don’t think we can take any positives” said Caldwell after the match.
The manager was spot-on in his comment.
But keeper Jasskelainen and defenders Morgan and Pearce were solid and Grigg did what he could up front.
But perhaps the result was not so surprising after all. Oldham are the draw specialists of League 1 having tied 13 of the 28 league matches they have played this season.
As usual when the result does not go according to plan the manager’s tactics and team selections come under fire. But more than anything else the poor team display should be put down to the poor performances of individual players.
However, this time around Caldwell was somewhat cautious in making second half substitutions.
Davies’ introduction came maybe 20 minutes too late and one wondered why the creative Haris Vuckic had been once again left on the bench. The Slovenian had started in the previous three home games when Wigan scored nine goals. In the absence of Michael Jacobs through injury he remains the obvious player to link the holding midfield and the attack.
Jussi Jaaskelainen: 7 – solid and reliable.
Reece Wabara: 4 – peripheral, although he improved in the second half.
Donervon Daniels: – solid until being withdrawn at half time.
Craig Morgan: 7 – solid and did what he could in his distribution which was difficult at times with so many players static.
Jason Pearce: 7 – as solid and determined as ever.
Chris McCann: 5 – poor after a string of fine performances.
Max Power: 5.5 – struggled to make purposeful passes, although the lack of movement around him did not help.
David Perkins: 5 – struggled to make his mark on the game. Came off after 71 minutes.
Conor McAleny: 5 – had one excellent moment in the first half when he was through to goal before being tripped. Apart from that he had little effect on the game. Substituted after 81 minutes.
Will Grigg: 7 – full of effort with some nice touches.
Yanic Wildschut: 6.5 – not one of his better days, being deprived of good service, but still worried the Oldham defence.