Doncaster Preview – Maynard set for debut


Wigan Athletic travel to the Keepmoat Stadium this afternoon having won their last three away games and being unbeaten in the league in seven matches under Uwe Rosler. Doncaster are fighting to get themselves out of the relegation mire, currently sitting on 22nd place. Their home record reads W4 D2 L6.

Under normal circumstances one would expect an emphatic Latics win. However, Wigan come into the encounter following an energy-sapping 120 minutes FA Cup win at MK Dons on Tuesday. It is by no means an ideal preparation for a trip to any team in the Championship division.

Uwe Rosler will be keen to avoid slipping on the banana skin with three points going begging. Ideally he would refresh his starting lineup to rest some of the tired legs in his squad. However, his options may be limited because of injury problems. In the centre of defence both Ivan Ramis and Thomas Rogne have been out for several games and Emmerson Boyce has had to move over to cover from the right back position. This might be the case today with James Perch on the right. The attacking option on the left of defence is Jean Beausejour, but Stephen Crainey is a possibility.

Midfielders Roger Espinoza, James McArthur, Chris McCann and Ben Watson played the full two hours at Milton Keynes.  At least two of them will make today’s lineup, with a possible start for Jordi Gomez, who came on after 72 minutes in midweek.

Callum McManaman was rested in midweek and could prove a key player today. Rosler wants to avoid burn-out of his young players. He is clearly nurturing McManaman, who has been starting to regain his form. Rosler is also concerned about overplaying the excellent 19 year old Nick Powell. However, had Powell not come on in the second half at Milton Keynes Latics might well have been knocked out of the FA Cup. He provides that extra touch of class and creativity that the team lacks when he is not on the field.

Marc-Antoine Fortune can at last see some light at the end of a dark tunnel, having scored two well taken goals in his last two games. Fortune was in danger of being written off by some fans and lumped into the same category as the hapless Grant Holt – that of two 32 year old strikers past their best.

Fortune has always been a good footballer, a mobile striker with no mean level of skill. His career record shows he has never been a consistent goalscorer, but with his previous clubs he would often be played wide, away from his natural position in the centre. The French Guianian might be into his thirties, but he still has pace and is benefitting from an extended run in the team. In league matches he now has 2 goals from 10 starts, but he leads the ‘assists’ with four.

Fortune fits in the Rosler mould as a mobile centre forward who can contribute towards the high pressing, but also has the pace to launch rapid counterattacks. The same cannot be said of Holt, who has temporarily left the club.

Holt was brought in by Owen Coyle to employ him in the kind of role that Kevin Davies played in the manager’s time at Bolton. He scored two goals in nine starts at Wigan. There has been much vitriol from fans aimed at the big Cumbrian, who has been offered a lifeline by his old manager Paul Lambert at Aston Villa. This is a good move for Wigan, not only freeing up space on the wage bill, but giving the player a fresh chance to show that he is not ‘over the hill’.

This week the social media has been riddled with images of Holt as an overweight, out-of-condition player. However, he was recently quoted as saying that he is in the best shape of his career. Holt has never been a player known for his pace, but more of an old fashioned English centre forward, a battering ram to attack any defence.  A future for Holt at Wigan remains unlikely given the style of play that Rosler seeks and the fan reaction towards him.

Rosler will probably start Fortune at centre forward at Doncaster today, bringing on Nicky Maynard at some stage. However, Fortune has started in the last four matches in a space of 17 days, including the marathon at Milton Keynes. A bold move on the manager’s part would be to put on Maynard from the start.

Maynard fits into the Rosler mould as a mobile central striker who can score goals. At 27 he should be nearing his peak, but serious injuries have held him back. Rosler will ease him in gradually and he could well share that centre forward position with Fortune, the two interchanging between the starting lineup and coming off the bench.

Whether Wigan Athletic come away with the points from today’s game depends largely on the energy and commitment they can put into it. Quite often the adrenalin that comes from a successful run of results can be sufficient to keep those tired legs moving.

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Latics and Height

Do you need height to win matches in the Championship?

Doncaster Rovers were already 1-0 up in the 43rd minute at the DW Stadium on Tuesday when the 6’2” Bonjani Khumalo crossed the ball to the 6’7” Rob Jones. Jones headed the ball into the path of 6’1” Chris Brown who headed home. Soon after half time Khumalo saw his header strike the post. Then after Wigan’s last minute equalizer a header from 6’1” substitute Billy Painter hit the crossbar in time added on.

To be fair Doncaster’s football is not only about aerial power. Their first goal came from 5’9” striker Theo Robinson who turned and slotted the ball home in style. On the other hand when a team has a defence as tall as Doncaster’s they are less likely to concede headed goals from crosses or set pieces.Latics please take note.

Wigan Athletic’s tallest defender in that match was Leon Barnett, at 6’2’. Both Emmerson Boyce and James Perch are 5’11”, while Stephen Crainey is 5’9”. This is not to say that Wigan didn’t have tall players in their squad. Chris McCann is 6’1”, although not  well known for his heading ability. Central strikers Grant Holt and Marc-Antoine Fortune are both 6’.

Surely the best way to unlock a defence like Doncaster’s is to run at them and not to loft the ball in the air. In order to do that Wigan need to win those 50-50 balls in midfield and use the ball intelligently. The central striker needs support from the flanks and the midfield.

It needs a lot of graft and hard work to overcome teams like Doncaster who can be uncompromising, well organized and industrious. An interesting statistic was that no Latics player received a card, while Doncaster got three yellows.

The Bournemouth and Doncaster games have given Wigan Athletic a wakeup call. Latics are in a period of transition and are struggling to find a consistent style of play. Ideally they should be able to switch from the possession-mode to the direct-mode as required, but this is still a work in progress.

In that final Premier League season the opposition had started to realize that the stylish football played by Roberto Martinez’s teams could be disrupted by “high pressing”, preventing them from stroking the ball around in their own half.

Championship teams will surely follow suit with Owen Coyle’s teams. When this happens Wigan are going to need more ‘off the ball’ movement from players further forward, allowing defenders to bypass the press. This is a different matter to what we have seen so far when defenders have too often put in hopeful punts which have been gratefully received by the opposition defence.

Not all teams in the Championship will pose an aerial threat like Doncaster and the understanding between Leon Barnett and James Perch in the centre of defence will surely grow as the season moves on. But there will be competition for defensive positions.

The Honduran, Juan Carlos Garcia,  6’2” , can play left back or centre back and is likely to be pushing for a place. The 6’4’ Thomas Royne and 6’2” Ivan Ramis remain on the injury list, but their aerial power is going to be useful once they get back to full fitness. If Gary Caldwell can fully recover from hip surgery he will be a real force at this level.

Let’s hope that the last two games have been a learning experience for Latics. The squad is laden with players with the quality to excel at Championship level, but they need to be physically and mentally tougher if they are to regularly beat teams like Doncaster.

The aerial threat of the opposition is minimised when you cut off their supply lines. Doing so requires hard work and commitment.

Only time will tell if this talented Latics squad has the steel to match its skill. The Middlesbrough game on Saturday will give Latics the opportunity to show that they can learn from adversity.

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Doncaster Preview

Tonight Wigan Athletic entertain Doncaster Rovers in a match that was rearranged because of Latics’ Community Shield appearance.

Following a disappointing defeat at Bournemouth promotion-chasing Latics will be keen to win at home for the first time since March. Doncaster might well suffer the whiplash. Wigan will be going into the match without the suspended Callum McManaman but can be expected to field an attacking lineup.

Owen Coyle fielded a crowded midfield at Bournemouth, sacrificing width. However, we can expect him to play two wide players tonight in a home match where Latics need three points to push them up the league table.  Shaun Maloney may be pushed wide after playing in a central position at the weekend.  An alternative would be to use James McLean and Jean Beausejour on the flanks, with Maloney or one of the three holding midfielders being left out.

Given that this is Wigan’s third game in ten days Coyle might want to rotate his squad, but the lack of defensive cover rules out many of his options. With Thomas Royne, Gary Caldwell and Ivan Ramis out through injury the defensive  option would be  Juan Carlos Garcia, who can play at centre back or left back. The midfield trio of Roger Espinoza Jordi Gomez and Chris McCann – all of whom would be regular starters in most Championship lineups – will be keen to get their chance of game time.

It is the first league  game between the two clubs in 16 years. In previous contests Wigan have won 10, and Doncaster 9, with 7 draws.  Doncaster come on the back of  a 2-0 win over Blackburn Rovers, after losing their first match at Blackpool. Last year they won the League 1 title, winning a remarkable 15 games away from home.

Doncaster come into this match with optimism but they are going to meet a Wigan team that needs the three points and will be keen to impress the home crowd. A Wigan win is on the cards.

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