Unlucky Latics fall apart – Bolton 3 Wigan Athletic 1

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How can a team that had more than matched the opposition fall apart as Latics did in this game? The capitulation in the second half brought back memories of  8-0 and 9-1 defeats in the Premier League days. Admittedly Latics did not concede a panful of goals, against a very ordinary Bolton side. But the way they played after Bolton scored their first goal was reminiscent of those debacles of the past.

Wigan had played well in the first half and were unlucky not to be ahead. Callum McManaman had hit both the crossbar and the post, they went close with other good efforts and had withstood the physical barrage of the opposition.

Uwe Rosler put out a well balanced team this time. James Perch moved across to right back to accommodate the return of Leon Barnett in the centre of defence. Emyr Huws returned in place of Don Cowie to form a useful-looking central midfield trio with Adam Forshaw and Roger Espinoza. Shaun Maloney and Callum were brought in to play wide with Marc-Antoine Fortune returning at centre forward.

Latics dominated the first quarter if the game, their high pressing leading to the home team struggling to retain possession. McManaman was making mincemeat out of Bolton right back Vela and he put in a superb left wing cross for Maloney to volley just wide. Then after cutting in from the left he hit a superb effort from 25 yards that scraped the top of the crossbar. Espinoza found himself free in the box but his claims for a penalty   were brushed aside as he went down. McManaman once again found space but goalkeeper Lonergan blocked his shot.

Bolton came back into the game and Max Clayton evaded the marking of Rob Kiernan only for Scott Carson to make a fine save from his angled shot. Latics were under more pressure now but the defence was holding firm. Espinoza had a chance to put Latics ahead from Fortune’s pass but the ball was on his weaker right side and the chance went begging.  McManaman’s shot hit the post and Espinoza shot wide.

One wondered if Latics could maintain their intensity in the second half. Sadly that was not to be. In the 50th minute Clayton was put free on the left of Carson’s goal and his shot somehow passed through the goalkeeper who had not made himself look big. That goal changed the whole tone of the game. Latics looked wobbly and Bolton got another five minutes later. A high cross from the right seemed to take an eternity to arrive, but when it did there was no sign of either of Wigan’s centre backs as Bolton centre forward Craig Davies headed home.

Rosler made a double substitution after 58 minutes with James McClean coming on from Maloney and Chris McCann for Huws. A couple of minutes later Barnett wrestled Matt Mills to the ground in the box, almost in front of the referee. Lee Chung-Yong easily beat Carson from the penalty with shot through the middle.

Latics had fallen apart. William Kvist came on for Forshaw after 69 minutes, but none of the substitutions had made a difference. Latics had simply fallen apart. Somehow in the 79th minute they got a goal with a rocket shot from McManaman from McClean’s cross, but more goals were not likely to come from a side looking desperately low on confidence.

A limited Bolton side had won on grit and determination against a Wigan team with enough talent to have beaten them.

The Good

McManaman was back to form and with luck could have had a hat trick. But once again he did not see enough of the ball. Fortune did well, especially in the first half. His hold-up play was excellent despite the presence of two powerful Bolton centre halves.

Following his cameo appearance at Brighton, Chris McCann was brought on earlier this time, after 58 minutes. Latics are going to need him back to his best if they are to reverse this awful sequence of results.

The Bad

Wigan Today quotes Rosler as saying ““We gave up in the second half and I felt embarrassed. I’m not sure it meant as much to some of my players as it meant for our supporters and our chairman. In any competitive game of football, you never give up, you always fight to the end.  To give up at Bolton, in a derby game? It’s unforgivable.”

One wonders what might have happened if one of those Wigan chances in the first half had gone in. They could have gone on to win the game. But the reality was that they did not go in and the confidence drained out of Latics with Bolton’s first goal.

The fan forums and social media are awash with demands that the manager be sacked. Dave Whelan was at the game and would surely have been furious to see his highly paid professionals being taken apart by a team lying second from bottom.

Somehow the negative streak has to be reversed. The big question is whether Rosler is able to accomplish that change.

Player Ratings

Scott Carson: 5 – it was sad to see him beaten by Clayton’s shot. He has been Latics’ best performer this season.

James Perch: 5 –looked rusty, misplacing passes and not tacking with his usual verve.

Leon Barnett: 4 – fell apart in the second half, although he made some good interventions in the first.

Rob Kiernan: 4 – poor. Lacked the physical presence needed in a game of this type.

Maynor Figueroa: 5 – not at his best.

Adam Forshaw: 5 – started well but faded.

Roger Espinoza: 5 – lively in the first half but faded.

Emyr Huws: 4 –  poor. Substituted after 58 minutes.

Shaun Maloney: 5 – lively early on. Substituted after 58 minutes.

Marc-Antoine Fortune: 7 – worked hard in the lone centre forward role.

Callum McManaman: 7 – not involved enough, but dangerous when he had the ball. His goal was superbly taken and he was unlucky in hitting the woodwork twice.

Substitutes

James McClean: – his cross led to Wigan’s goal.

Chris McCann: – it will take him time to get match fit.

William Kvist: – brought in from the cold. Why has he been left out over recent weeks?

Three points thrown away – Brighton 1 Wigan Athletic 0

BrightonPier

Latics missed a golden opportunity to pick up three much needed points against a Brighton side that was there for the taking.

We have come to expect some unusual team selections from Uwe Rosler and last night’s was no exception. It left one with a sense of foreboding, even before the game started.

Marc-Antoine Fortune was rested and Rosler brought in Martyn Waghorn at centre forward, leaving Oriel Riera on the bench and Andy Delort out altogether. An even bigger shocker was the absence of Ivan Ramis at centre back, Rosler bringing in James Perch to play there in place of the suspended Leon Barnett. Despite his indifferent recent form, Rob Kiernan kept his place at centre back. Rosler continued with his modified 4-4-2 system, with Don Cowie on the wide right of a central midfield trio of Roger Espinoza, Adam Forshaw and Shaun Maloney. James McClean played wide on the left.

Wigan were playing with a new pairing in the centre of defence and it showed in the first minute when Gary Gardner was gifted a goal. The home team had built up a nice move resulting in a cross from Elliot Bennett which Latics’ defence failed to clear.

Latics gradually started to assert themselves but Brighton remained dangerous in breakaways. Liverpool loanee Joao Teixeira had the freedom of the park in a Wigan midfield lacking steel. That same player was unlucky not to score in the 14th minute when Kazema LuaLua squared the ball across to him in the penalty box. Luckily for Wigan Teixeira’s shot hit the underside of the crossbar and Latics survived.

As Wigan came more into the game Brighton went into their shell, hoping to protect their lead for three points they desperately needed. However, despite having the possession Latics could not seriously test Albion’s 18 year old goalkeeper, Christian Walton.

The second half saw Latics continue to dominate possession, with Brighton massing their defence and making little effort to go forward. However, they could not translate their domination into goals. Walton made saves from a couple of Waghorn efforts and a rasping drive from Forshaw from outside the box. Otherwise there were decent efforts from outside the box from Maloney and Espinoza that went wide.

Despite the substitutions of McManaman for McClean and Riera for Cowie Latics just did not have the finishing to beat a team that had not won for 12 matches. But it was pleasing to see Chris McCann come on near the end for Espinoza following his long absence.

The Good

The return of Chris McCann was the highlight of the evening for the Latics. Maybe Ben Watson will make a similar cameo appearance at Bolton?

Waghorn tried hard in the lone centre forward role and had shots on target. Forshaw played with tenacity in a holding midfield role.

The Bad

The Latics back four were not tested that much by a Brighton side desperately low on confidence. However, even then the home side could quite easily have been two up in the first quarter. Tavernier continues to look vulnerable in defence and a central defensive pairing of Perch and Kiernan hardly inspires confidence. Are Rogne and Caldwell frozen out completely?

Playing Cowie in wide right midfield is a ploy that appears sound. However, Tavernier still continues to look exposed despite Cowie being there to cover him. Tavs just does not look like a Championship quality full back. Better to play him in right midfield and send Cowie back to a midfield holding role or leave him on the bench.

Player Ratings

Scott Carson: 6 – largely unemployed.

James Tavernier: 5.5 – strong going forward, out of touch in defence.

James Perch: 5 – a bad start, got better but had little to do.

Rob Kiernan: 5 – continues to receive the backing of the manager despite indifferent performances.

Maynor Figueroa: 6 – solid.

Adam Forshaw: 7 – industrious and committed.

Shaun Maloney: 6 – looked useful in the second half.

Roger Espinoza: 6 – worked hard.

Don Cowie: 5 – poor.

Martyn Waghorn: 7 – worked hard as the target man. Maybe more effective as the second striker?

James McClean: 5 – poor. Withdrawn after 67 minutes.

Substitutes

Callum McManaman: – could not make the difference in that last half hour.

Oriel Riera: – brought on after 75 minutes, but made little impact.

Chris McCann: – a welcome return, coming on after 84 minutes.

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What a Game! Wigan Athletic 3 Fulham 3

 

Adam Forshaw is congratulated after his penalty.  Photo courtesy of Fulham FC.

Adam Forshaw is congratulated after his penalty.
Photo courtesy of Fulham FC.

It was as entertaining as any game could be – with six goals and two red cards it kept us on our toes for 96 minutes.

Uwe Rosler shocked the fans by resisting his tinkering tendencies and naming an unchanged lineup from the one that started the previous game against Derby.

Latics started well, their pressing allowing Fulham no time on the ball. In the 9th minute Callum McManaman was tripped in the box for a penalty. Adam Forshaw stepped up and scored his first Latics goal, hitting through the middle as goalkeeper Bettinelli dove to his right. Latics continued to look bright but their incisive approach play did not produce another goal.

But by around the 20 minute mark Latics’ high pressing had practically evaporated as Fulham crowded out the midfield and started to dominate possession. It did not come as a big surprise when in the 30th minute Scott Parker put through a superb ball for Lasse Vigen to evade Leon Barnett and tuck the ball past Scott Carson. Then six minutes later Ross McCormack’s right footed punt from the left was easily chested home at the far post by Bryan Ruiz with the left side of Wigan’s defence caught sleeping. Fulham’s wide players had caused Latics’ defence constant problems and Hugo Rodallega was looking lively. The visitors went into half time with a 2-1 lead.

Latics came out in the second half showing renewed vigour and got the equalizer after 52 minutes. The ball came to Roger Espinoza some 25 yards out and he hit a fine volley past Bettinelli. The game became open with end to end play, neither defence looking comfortable. Callum McManaman had a good effort saved, then the dangerous young left winger George Williams crossed for McCormack to force a fine save from Carson. James McClean replaced an out of sorts Emyr Huws after 61 minutes, with Don Cowie moving into the centre of midfield. McCormack handed Latics the advantage after 74 minutes when he received his second yellow card after an altercation with McClean.

Shaun Maloney came on as substitute for McManaman and scored a well taken goal in the 82nd minute following an exchange of passes with Espinoza. It looked as if Latics were going to snatch a much wanted three points but it was not to be. In the 86th minute Kiernan’s inability to clear a lofted ball saw Rodallega running through on goal, to be cut down by Barnett. Barnett received a red card and Ruiz slotted home the penalty. Ivan Ramis came on for Espinoza as the game continued for another 10 minutes, until reaching its conclusion.

The Good

Latics extended their unbeaten run to six, albeit including five draws. Confidence is increasing and new partnerships on the field are being built.

Rosler’s pressing tactic worked well for the opening quarter. It helped Latics get off to a good start and they looked the better team at that stage, with good movement from the midfield.

Despite being behind at the interval they did not drop their heads and would probably have won the game if it weren’t for a defensive error.

Tavernier’s crossing was of high quality and he looks such a fine player going forward. Forshaw was involved throughout and is coming to terms with the physical side of play in the Championship division.

Espinoza was an inspiration. His passing was crisp and precise, he scored a cracking goal and made an assist for another.

Marc-Antoine Fortune once again was tireless in the target man role, his hold-up play being excellent.

The Bad

The back four were awful. Tavernier was repeatedly exposed by the 19 year old Williams and the centre backs did not mesh together. On the left Maynor Figueroa was useful going forward, but looked vulnerable in defence.

The ploy of playing Cowie in right midfield to allow Tavernier to attack did not work. On occasions when Tavernier was found wanting Cowie was not able to provide the support. Cowie looked one dimensional and short of pace on the right, but much better when moved into central midfield later in the game.

It appears that Cowie is heading the same way with the DW crowd as did Jordi Gomez in his early days at Wigan. Roberto Martinez always had faith in Gomez, despite the frustration he could cause among fans in passing the ball backwards or sideways. However, Gomez was never an automatic choice for Martinez, but Cowie has been so under Rosler.

After dominating the opening stages through their high pressing it was frustrating to see Latics drop back and allow Fulham to control the game. Was it something coming from the manager or were the players physically unable to keep up the pressing for longer than 20 minutes or so?

Tavernier is a talented young player, who will hopefully have a bright future at Wigan. In some ways he is reminiscent of Ryan Taylor. Taylor joined Latics as a right back, but was not a success in that position. Taylor proved to be so invaluable from set pieces that Steve Bruce would find a position for him in the team. That might also become the case with Tavernier.

Player Ratings

Scott Carson: 7 – made some good saves, but was stranded for Fulham’s second goal.

James Tavernier: 5.5 – good in attack, vulnerable in defence.

Leon Barnett: 4.5 – good in the air but otherwise poor.

Rob Kiernan: 4 – poor.

Maynor Figueroa: 5.5 – not at his best.

Adam Forshaw: 7 – worked hard, rarely wasted the ball.

Emyr Huws: 5 – not as involved as usual. Is his ankle still troubling him? Taken off after 61 minutes.

Roger Espinoza: 9 – the best player on the pitch.

Don Cowie: 4 – poor.

Callum McManaman: 6 – heavily marked, but still posed a threat to Fulham’s defence. Fouled for the penalty. Lasted until the 81st minute.

Marc-Antoine Fortune: 8 – clearly relishing his place in the lineup ahead of Delort and Riera.

Substitutes:

James McClean: – full of running, but unable to provide that final pass.

Shaun Maloney: – took his goal well.

Ivan Ramis: – came on 85 minutes too late. Why was he not in from the start?

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Rosler gets it right – Derby County 1 Wigan Athletic 2

James McClean’s brace wins the match for Latics. Photo courtesy of the BBC.

Rosler got his tactics and team selection right this time and the result was a shocker. A Latics team that had not won for eight matches went on to beat a Derby outfit that had been unbeaten in twelve. Wigan just would not allow the home team time and space on the ball and fully deserved their victory.

As we have come to expect from him Uwe Rosler made changes in his lineup, causing due consternation among fans. He was to stick with the eleven that completed the last game against Millwall except Emyr Huws and Don Cowie came back from injury to replace James McClean and Shaun Maloney. The 4-4-2 formation saw Marc-Antoine Fortune and Callum McManaman playing up front, with Cowie in wide right midfield. Leon Barnett was named captain.

The first half hour was scrappy as Latics’ pressing tactic disrupted the home team’s game. Derby just did not look convincing and Wigan looked full of energy and sacrifice. However, the left footed right winger Johnny Russell curled a shot marginally wide but Latics gradually started to threaten the Derby defence. Huws had an effort saved by Jack Butland, then Roger Espinoza put a great pass through for McManaman, whose effort was blocked by Butland’s legs.

Just before half time Latics were awarded a penalty with John Eustace handling the ball as Espinoza threatened. James Tavernier hit the ball to Butland’s left but the home keeper made a fine save. The same Eustace then scored at the other end after Zak Whitbread had headed on a free kick for the experienced central midfielder to bundle home.

Latics went into half time a goal down after having looked in control. Conceding that goal so soon after missing a penalty was a body blow from which they might not recover.

Steve McLaren surprisingly made two changes at half time, Will Hughes and Ibe being replaced by Simon Dawkins and Jeff Hendrick. In the 56th minute Scott Carson could only parry Hendrick’s shot, but Latics managed to clear the ball. Ten minutes later Craig Bryson’s shot deflected off Hendrick to go narrowly wide. However, Latics were still in the game and playing with spirit. With the protection provided by Cowie, Tavernier was able to move forward and attack the Derby defence.

McClean had come on for McManaman after 62 minutes. Seven minutes later he put the ball home from short range after Cowie had put the indefatigable Espinoza through on the right for a cross into the box. Shaun Maloney came on for Huws a couple of minutes later. Latics were on top and McClean had a header go wide from a Maloney free kick and Tavernier’s fine shot from the edge of the penalty area went narrowly wide.

In the 83rd minute Tavernier ‘s corner caused problems for the Derby defence. Adam Forshaw’s shot was parried by Butland, but from the resulting melee the ball fell to McClean who scooped it home.

Espinoza’s shot from outside the box brought a fine save from Butland. William Kvist replaced Kiernan after 87 minutes. In the five minutes time that was added on, Barnett committed a foul just on the edge of the box in a dangerous position. Fortunately for Wigan, Chris Martin’s powerful shot passed wide of the far post.

There was widespread celebration among Wigan fans when the referee signaled the end of the game. Derby had gone 644 minutes without conceding until McClean’s first goal. Latics win was well deserved from a performance full of spirit and passion.

The Good

Rosler’s team selection had raised eyebrows with such as McClean and Maloney left on the bench. However, he surely appeased many fans by the selection of Espinoza in the centre of midfield.

Espinoza’s inclusion proved to be the catalyst that galvanized Latics’ midfield into action. His enthusiasm is infectious. Like Espinoza, Forshaw and Huws were tireless in their efforts to control the centre of the pitch. Despite playing so little competitive football over the past couple of months, Espinoza was a revelation, pressing the opposition and attacking with gusto.

McClean added his usual amount of energy when he came on, but importantly got a couple of opportunist goals. All too often in the past he has got himself into good positions without having the composure to finish. This time he got it right and his goals won the game for Wigan.

The unpopular Cowie played an important role in right midfield, allowing the exciting Tavernier to attack down the right flank. Nevertheless Tavernier worked hard on the defensive side of his game too. Cowie’s play may be unspectacular but he is tireless in his efforts, a consummate team player.

It was the kind of display that we saw in the early days of Rosler’s reign last year. Latics were bristling with energy, closing down the opposition and looking threatening in the second half as they moved forward. Rosler’s dream of high tempo, high pressing football may not be an illusion after all.

The Bad

It had taken Rosler so long to give Espinoza a chance. The reasons are unknown to most of us who are not privy to what is going on at the club. Given the American/Honduran’s impact on the game one wonders why he was not included before.

 

Player Ratings

Scott Carson: 7 – did all that was required of him.

James Tavernier: 8 – a display of attacking promise, with a high workrate in defence.

Leon Barnett: 8 – a captain’s performance. The defence has tightened up since his return.

Rob Kiernan: 7 – solid in defence and unruffled and accurate in his distribution.

Maynor Figueroa: 7 – a typical performance from him, full of endeavour.

Adam Forshaw: 8 – unable to show his silky skills, but was a real dynamo in the centre of midfield.

Emyr Huws: 8 – combative and good in his use of the ball. Went off after 70 minutes.

Roger Espinoza: 8.5 – a remarkable performance considering his lack of match fitness.

Don Cowie: 8 – a tireless worker, sacrificing himself for the team.

Callum McManaman: 7 – worked hard against a tight Derby defence. Substituted after 62 minutes.

Marc-Antoine Fortune: 7 – a typical hard-working performance.

Substitutes:

James McClean: – the match winner.

Shaun Maloney: – looked lively in those last 25 minutes.

William Kvist: – came on after 87 minutes.

 

 

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Incohesive Latics let down the fans– Wigan Athletic 0 Brentford 0

Scott Carson was Wigan's best player.

Scott Carson was Wigan’s best player.

That goalkeeper Scott Carson was Wigan’s best player was a reflection on the mediocrity of Latics’ performance. It was a display so lacking in cohesion that an outsider might wonder if Wigan’s players had ever played together before. Brentford will probably be happy with a mid-table spot at the end of the season, after coming up from League 1, but it never seemed like Latics would beat them.

Uwe Rosler chose the kind of lineup that could be labelled “attacking”. He left James Perch on the bench to put in James Tavernier, left William Kvist out to include Adam Forshaw, and put in Oriel Riera for Marc-Antoine Fortune, Callum McManaman for Emyr Huws. The 4-3-3 lineup would have pleased those fans who have been demanding a more attacking lineup, but one wondered if it would have the right balance.

Both sides were cautious early on, but Brentford looked more dangerous. However, in the 12th minute Riera found Don Cowie on the edge of the box with a shooting opportunity that was deflected wide. Brentford continued to threaten Wigan up front and the Latics’ defence was at sixes and sevens keeping them out. The “light” midfield of Adam Forshaw, Don Cowie and Shaun Maloney was not able to repel the visitors forward movement. Callum McManaman looked disorientated, not seeming to know where he was meant to be playing, hardly in the game.

However, on the half hour mark Riera did well to put through Maloney, whose low shot was pushed wide by Brentford goalkeeper David Button. But Brentford continued to press and Andre Gray found himself clear of Wigan’s defence but chipped his shot over the bar.

Brentford had been the superior team in the first half against a Wigan team that looked rock bottom in terms of confidence.

The game continued in a similar vein. In the 55th minute McManaman’s good work caused a goalmouth scramble, but no Latics player was able to force the ball home. Then the ball came to Leon Barnett close to the goal but he was surrounded by defenders and the opportunity was lost. Brentford then really tested the Wigan defence, Scott Carson having to make two fine saves to keep out efforts from Pritchard and Jota, and then Douglas shot into the side netting.

In the 63rd minute Rosler had brought on Andy Delort for Riera and Fortune for McManaman. Kvist replaced Cowie in the 78th minute. A couple of minutes later Latics were awarded a free kick on the edge of the box, but Maloney’s well struck shot was well saved by Button. Then five minutes later Tavernier put in a superb trademark cross on to James McClean’s head but the Irishman put it wide.

That was to be the final chance for Latics and the game finished as a goalless draw, which Latics might have just about deserved. The fans had given the team terrific support throughout the game and they deserved more than this.

The Good

Despite playing so poorly, Latics could have won the game if they had taken the limited chances they created.

Tavernier did not have an easy first start for Latics in the Championship, but he nevertheless conjured up that superb cross in the 85th minute that McClean was unable to convert. Despite having a fine pre-season the ex-Rotherham and Newcastle man had to wait for his chance to get into the starting lineup. In this game he had to play in a flat back four, but he is more likely to prosper as a wing back, where he has more freedom to go forward.

Carson once more proved what a fine keeper he is. Not only was he Latics’ best player in this game, but he has been the most consistent all season.

The Bad

On paper and man-for-man, Latics looked a much stronger team than Brentford, but Rosler’s lineup just did not work. Although it looked like a bold attacking move, the end result was something different.

The centre backs, Barnett and Ramis, deserve credit for their perseverance. Brentford sensibly put a man on Ramis when Carson had the ball. The result was Barnett having to distribute the ball from the back, which is not his strong point. The midfield did not support him sufficiently and too often the ball was wasted.

Forshaw struggled in the role of holding midfielder and Cowie looked pedestrian. Maloney certainly did not look the same player who had done so much for Scotland over the international break, although he forced a couple of good saves from Button.

Playing Forshaw and Maloney together in central midfield role is unlikely to work, as both need a lot of the ball to be effective. Leaving a ball-winner like Kvist on the bench until the latter part of the game was a mistake.

Player Ratings

Scott Carson: 8 – a fine performance. He kept Latics in the game.

James Tavernier: 5.5 – looked exposed at times, unable to attack in the way he would have liked.

Ivan Ramis: 7 – solid defensively, but Brentford seldom allowed him to display his fine passing skills.

Leon Barnett: 7 – a defensive rock.

Andrew Taylor: 6 – worked hard.

Don Cowie: 5 – poor.

Adam Forshaw: 5 – poor.

Shaun Maloney: 5.5 – disappointing.

Callum McManaman: 5.5 – disappointing and substituted after 63 minutes.

Oriol Riera: 5.5 – apart from a couple of good passes he looked peripheral. Substituted after 68 minutes.

James McClean: 5.5 – energetic as always, but ineffective.

Substitutes:

Andy Delort: – came on after 63 minutes, but apart from one delightful flick he was unable to impose himself on the game.

Marc-Antoine Fortune: – also came on after 63 minutes, tried hard but with little effect. Why was he not on from the start following his performance at Wolves?

William Kvist: – brought on after 78 minutes.

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