Amigo and social media reaction to a narrow loss at Charlton

“We’re playing the twelve men at Old Trafford”.

In the Premier League days one rarely felt that Latics were going to get the balance of refereeing decisions going their way when playing the bigger clubs.

They certainly did not yesterday at The Valley.

John Sheridan had to reshuffle his pack for the game with left back Tom Pearce unavailable through injury. Gavin Massey was moved to right back, with Tom James moved across to the left. Darnell Johnson and Curtis Tilt formed yet another central defensive partnership. Will Keane was employed in a roving role behind Joe Garner. The seven substitutes on Wigan’s bench were graduates of the U23 squad.

I was a tight game ultimately decided by poor goalkeeping. The major refereeing decisions went to the home side, as noted by John Sheridan: “We are unfortunate to go away and get nothing from the game and it’s very disappointing.  We had two stonewall penalties and I will never know why he disallowed the Joe Garner goal; the linesman was 10 or 15 yards away from Will competing for the ball and he doesn’t give a foul but for some reason the referee – who is 40 yards away – gives a free-kick and disallows the goal.

The performance and the way the players went about getting something out of the game was a lot better. Again, we have lost the game and it’s disappointing because the goal is a direct free-kick and leading up to the goal we made ourselves vulnerable. The things we do, the decisions we make and we give too many little free-kicks away in dangerous areas, if you do that you get punished. It’s a shame we didn’t get something from the game because we deserved to.”

Sheridan did not use any of his bench, preferring to use the senior professionals at his disposal for the whole game. Despite the result it was a good performance with some bright spots. Gavin Massey had looked a shadow of his former self in the previous two games. He had a nervy start at right back, but grew into the game, looking more confident and assured. Curtis Tilt made an impressive debut despite not having played competitive football since March. It was good to see Lee Evans playing a more commanding role in the centre of midfield.  

Let’s take a look at how fans reacted to the match through the message boards and social media.

Our thanks go to the Vital Wigan – Latics Speyk Forum and Twitter for providing the media for the posts below to happen. Thanks go to all whose contributions are identified below.

The_Pon commented:

Absolutely shocking refereeing today. I’m not normally one to blame a ref. They do have a difficult job to do and I’m usually willing to let a few bad decisions go, especially when they’re are bad decisions that go both ways.

Today though, it was absolutely appalling. Every decision went the same way. Charlton players just hit the deck for free kicks whenever they like, whilst two very strong penalty claims turned down and a perfectly good goal disallowed for us. That’s not to mention the niggly trips and pulls that they got away with almost every time but the ref gave them pretty much every time.

Don’t mind cr.p referees that much when they’re cr.p for both sides, but obvious bias makes my blood boil.

SwindonLatic said:

Poor goal to concede. But we deserved at least a point. If we can get an end product out of Viv he can be as big for us at this level as Yanic was. Get the Palmer lad in, in place of Gardner and we could have the makings of a half decent team. Looked much more solid at the back. Liked the look of Tilt

Tilt was very good, head and shoulders our best player. Having Garner back certainly helped. Evans looked better than he has in recent games in def mid, but really started to look more like his old self after we went behind and it felt like he started to take more responsibility and dictating the play – that is what he is best at and hopefully with Palmer coming in he will be able to do more of it. Keane showed some nice flashes but he doesn’t really seem to be the Kieffer Moore type who can cope with the long balls and needs the ball more on the deck and players running off him. Otabor and Kal could really do some damage but they are so often taking on 3 players by themselves and crowded out – they need some help in the form of some runners and support to pull men away from them or give them options to slide someone in.

Felt that we aren’t really doing ourselves justice. We are not giving ourselves many options on the ball with a lack movement resulting in losing the ball by going long and we haven’t got a Moore to make it work. On the occasions we go up a gear start to up the tempo, show more urgency and commit men forward like we did towards the end we look a much better team. Not sure if the players are showing the opposition too much respect but if that the is the reason they really shouldn’t. Need to start games showing the urgency we show after we go behind.

Omar Bogle is still totally sh­.te – even at this level!

We’ve played about 5 of the likely teams in the promotion hunt this season and they’ve all been utter shte. We have been in turmoil with a team of cast offs yet if we could cut out costly errors to give away the points we could’ve probably won all 5. If we could get our takeover done and get our act together there is no reason we couldn’t fly up the league but we’ve got to do better ourselves.

 

TrueBeliever opined:

Quite an even game for me, Charlton looking to bed players in as were we. The goal was a mistake from Jones but overall he had a decent game and kept us in it when their forward turned Johnson in the first half.

Johnson and Tilt looked comfortable given it was the first game they had played together. Evans looked better running the show from deeper but Gardner is too loose on the ball and tries the flicks too often losing us possession.

Massey was half decent as a full back but still lacks confidence and pace going forward, maybe he is still trying to get his fitness back and will improve with game time. Solomon-Otabor drifts in and out but is dangerous in one on one situations when he gets the ball out of his feet.

I thought both Garner and Keane fought well against a couple of decent CB’s and won their fair share of the ball without actually creating much. No doubt if they get to play together more they will improve and form an understanding.

We should have been given at least one of the two penalty shouts as Evans had his standing foot whipped away as he was about to shoot. The one with Keane was more debateable but his set up for Garner was never a foul and the assistant ref, who had the better view, obviously thought so. Poor decision by the ref.

Overall a decent performance from yet another makeshift side still looking to find some consistency and getting to know each others games.

Onwards to Tuesday and the visit of Peterborough with at least an improvement on last week’s performance.

Stats courtesy of WhoScored.com

Five talking points following a gritty victory against Doncaster


Wigan Athletic 1 Doncaster Rovers 0

Who would have thought that a Wigan Athletic team built around the bare remnants of Paul Cook’s squad could be in mid-table after four games played? This win over an in-form Doncaster side who had been unbeaten in their first three games was the result of a well-taken goal by Joe Garner together with no mean amount of grit and determination.

There were surprises in John Sheridan’s opening line-up, with Nathan Cameron on the bench and Danny Fox in discussions with Robbie Fowler, manager of East Bengal, who play in Calcutta. Kal Naismith was moved back into the centre of defence with Darnell Johnson making his debut, on loan from Leicester City.

Darren Moore’s Doncaster looked a useful outfit in the first half, their movement and fluidity constantly challenging Wigan’s defence. But thanks to profligate finishing and fine saves from Jamie Jones the game was goalless at half time. Latics were much better in the second half, buoyed by Garner’s excellent header from Viv Solomon-Otabor’s cross after 59 minutes.

Following the game Sheridan commented: “I am very pleased with the result. It was a really tough game, which I expected because they’ve got a very good footballing side and they gave us a lot of problems in the first half. We were probably fortunate to go in level at the break because we didn’t really get going and we were a bit sloppy in the way we started the game. I felt we should have got up the pitch a bit further and got in and around people but what we asked of them at half-time they have gone and done in the second-half and I thought we were magnificent in the second-half; we created problems, got in and around them and played some excellent football ourselves, scoring a great goal to get the three points.”

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

Maintaining a style of play

John Sheridan’s appointment was hardly heralded by Latics fans. Most of us had expected Liam Richardson to take over as manager. However, the combination of the two has helped to stabilise things on the field of play.

The starting line-up from this match contained six players from last season’s squad, two who have stepped up from the U23 squad, the remainder being loan players or those on short-term contracts.

However, the style of play developed during Paul Cook’s three-year tenure has remained in place. This is something that has so often not been the case in the past.

Dave Whelan’s mistake of appointing Owen Coyle as successor to Roberto Martinez is the most memorable. A group of players weaned on patient possession football struggled to adapt to a long-ball approach from a new manager.

It is to Sheridan’s credit that has not tampered with the style and method of play that had been previously established.

A captain who leads by example

Sam Morsy’s departure from the club was a bitter blow. Morsy was not only a key player in midfield, but a captain who led by example.

Joe Garner was the obvious choice for the captaincy when Morsy departed, a senior professional, known for his gritty determination to succeed.

With five goals in six games the new captain has been in fine form. For the first time since joining Latics in August 2018 he is now the undisputed first-choice central striker at the club. He is thriving on it.

Garner is a combative figure on the field of play, not afraid to mix things physically with powerful central defenders who tower above him. He clearly relishes playing in the target-man role, but Garner is also capable of making killer passes as we saw yesterday when he put Solomon-Atabor through with a pass that should have led to Latics taking a two goal lead.

Joe Garner is now 32. He has had made more than 470 career appearances at nine clubs. Nevertheless, he retains an enthusiasm that must surely rub off on the less experienced players around him.

A young centre of midfield

Two young Liverpudlians, Chris Merrie and Alex Perry, have certainly caught the eye in recent weeks in establishing themselves as an option in the centre of midfield. Having operated together in the U23 team they know each other’s games and gel as a partnership in that key area.

Chris Merrie is 21 and a product of the Wigan Athletic academy. He joined Latics in 2013 after previously being part of the Everton youth system. Prior to this season his Latics appearances had been limited to cup competitions. In the 2017-18 season he went on loan to both Southport and Altrincham, making a total of 25 appearances. A regular at U23 level Merrie has stepped up to the senior squad. He is strong in the tackle and is an accurate passer with his trusted left foot.

Alex Perry is 22 and a product of the Bolton Wanderers academy. Latics acquired him from as a free agent with Bolton suffering financial difficulties in September 2018. Prior to this season Perry’s only first team experience had been during a month’s loan at Northern Premier League side Sutton Coldfield in November 2017 and a single appearance for Bolton in the Checkatrade Trophy.

Perry was a regular in the Latics U23 team and has made an impressive step-up to the senior level this season. He is an energetic midfielder, strong in the tackle, who shows vision in his passing.

Put Massey on the right

Gavin Massey is now 28. He joined Latics in July 2017. At his best he has used his searing pace to cut apart opposition defences, and he has scored spectacular goals. His partnership with Nathan Byrne on Wigan’s right was a key factor in Latics winning League 1 in the 2017-18 season.

Last season was not Massey’s best. He is an exclusively one-footed player, most effective on his “natural side”, the right. So often last season Cook would frustratingly play him on the left. Massey has always been willing to work hard for the team and does not shirk in his defensive duties. However, playing him on the left wing has hardly helped him be at his incisive best.

When yesterday’s team sheet came out one hoped in vain that Massey would be played on the right with Viv Solomon-Atabor on the left. The latter has shown is ability to play effectively on either wing. Although being predominantly right footed he can use his left to good effect.

Using Massey as a “workhorse” left winger has never got the best out of the player. Being so one-footed means he constantly passes the ball inside or backwards, lacking the option of going on the outside past the full back.

It can only be hoped that Sheridan will see this and employ the player in his most effective role.

Evans must gain more self-belief

Lee Evans is now 26 and should be nearing his peak as a midfield player. Evans is physically strong and possesses a fine technique and the vision to make a killer pass or score goals. With such attributes Evans should be further on in his career than he is.

Last season was tough for the Welshman with Sam Morsy and Joe Williams forming a formidable partnership in the centre of midfield. At times Evans played in the problematic number 10 role, sometimes looking good, but could not establish himself as the first choice for that position.

There is debate among supporters as to Evans’ best position. Before Williams’ arrival he would often partner Sam Morsy in central midfield. Although defensively solid he does not have the tenacity of such as Morsy and Williams, but his ability to launch pinpoint long passes from the centre of the pitch was a useful tool for the team.

We know that Evans can be an effective holding midfielder in League 1, but Sheridan has given him the chance to show what he can do as a number 10. In the opening games of the season he was somewhat anonymous, possibly shell-shocked like many others by what was happening off the field of play at the club. He has since improved.

Evans has the ability to be among the top midfield players in the third tier. But too often he makes the square pass rather taking the more incisive option which he is capable of. Moreover, he has scored spectacular goals in the past, but does not shoot often enough.

With belief Lee Evans can be a top player. He has the attributes necessary to be so. If Sheridan and his staff can continue to give him a good run of games and help instil more self-belief in the player, he could be key to Latics’ success in the near future.

 

Stats courtesy of WhoScored.com

Latics fans react on Social Media to a defeat at Forest

Nottingham Forest 1 Wigan Athletic 0

 

Latics’ forwards low on synergy

It was a spirited performance from Latics who made Nottingham Forest look distinctly ordinary. It could be said that Wigan deserved to win after dominating the match. But in reality, it was a familiar tale: a woeful lack of finishing and slack defending leading to a headed goal from a corner. Somehow it looked like Latics would not score, no matter how many chances they had.

Paul Cook has done well in changing the approach from hoofball to real football. But although the tactics are so much better his team selections remain poor. Seeing the team list beforehand we saw once again that Gavin Massey would be deployed on the left wing, where he has previously been ineffective.  Cook persisted with Jamal Lowe who was surely due for some time on the bench after so many ineffectual performances. Rather than play Josh Windass in his best position at number 10 he played him at centre forward. He also decided to employ his three key defensive midfielders, but rather than play them side by side he pushed Joe Williams forward to the number 10 position.

Once again, we saw either square pegs in round holes or players on the field who were not in the best of form. The end result was an energetic performance, interspersed with good football, but with no cutting edge. The attacking players continue to lack not only form, but synergy. The whole was much less than the sum of its parts.

Let’s take a look at how fans reacted to the match through the message boards and social media.

Our thanks go to the Cockney Latic Forum, the Vital Wigan – Latics Speyk Forum and Twitter for providing the media for the posts below to happen. Thanks go to all whose contributions are identified below.

Studs88 on the Latics Speyk Forum commented:

Doesn’t even have the good grace to mention Gelhardt’s performance. I’m sorry Paul, you’ve done a lot of good for this club. But by not walking away a few months ago you’re ruining any remaining goodwill.

It feels like you’re staying on for a big payday. Not making the best decision for the club.

BigRoy on the Cockney Latic Forum said:

Superb again. Can’t score. Gelhardt very good when he came on. Guess you haven’t seen game. So obvious we have no striker. Forest fans saying best team they’ve seen this season. Team playing for Manager and this run of us playing so well and losing can’t carry on forever.

Donny’sPage on the Cockney Latic Forum said:

Playing well… Part of the playing well is scoring goals or at least putting shots on target which could help if we started with a striker on the field or bring him on before the eighty odd minute mark.

He added:

Cook must have thought Gary Roberts was going to be a game changer. That says enough with Joffy and Big Joe warming the bench. What an absolutely idiotic substitution.

FrancosLoveChild on the Latics Speyk Forum commented:

Reality is, no win in 13, 1 win away for well over a year. A change was needed months ago, and today demonstrated that no matter how well we play we still lose. It is a results business and Cook is not getting them. He is a very fortunate person to even still be at the club. Anywhere else he would have been sacked months ago at the latest.

As for the match, nothing needs to be said, Massey, Lowe, Roberts, and Windass got taught a football lesson by a 17-year-old player who when he came on did more than all of them combined all game. Our attacking players are nowhere near championship quality. Their goal was again from a corner. Meanwhile the corners we took lead to absolutely nothing.

The defence was good, the midfield did their jobs, but as soon as the ball went into the final third, nothing at all, I mean all our good plays actually came from Byrne and Robinson. Massey, Lowe was horrendous, may as well played with nine men.

As for Windass, as soon as he stepped up, it was missed, I have no idea why he takes the penalties. 4 misses in a row now?

I will say the players only have themselves to blame today. I expect Gelhardt to start every game from now on as we need results and he is our only good attacking player. But Cook has had a generous amount of time now, it’s not going to improve, he needs to be ridden before the new year. Royles show some spine and do the right thing by the club. It is when you play well and lose which is the big worry.

Naismith, Gelhardt and Robinson had good games today.

HuddWiganFan on the Latics Speyk Forum commented:

 For the first time in my Tics supporting life, I honestly don’t even care anymore. Not bothered in the slightest – same old, same old.

This will continue to happen – week in, week out – until we are relegated/a managerial change is made. End of story.

Some talking points following Joe Gelhardt’s sensational equaliser at Hull

Hull City 2 Wigan Athletic 2

 

A moment of inspiration from the 17-year-old Joe Gelhardt helped Wigan Athletic share the points. It had been a scrappy game between two mediocre teams.

Paul Cook had named an unchanged side from the one that had started in a goalless draw with Barnsley.

Chey Dunkley put Latics ahead after 7 minutes after Hull keeper, George Long, had spilled Kieffer Moore’s header. But that early lead was thrown away within a couple of minutes by inept defending with Jarrod Bowen slotting home. Polish winger Kamil Grosicki had been causing Latics problems on the right side of their defence and it was he who scored a fine goal from a free kick after 20 minutes. Wigan went into the half-time interval trailing by a 2-1 margin.

Grosicki had another excellent free kick hit the post as Hull were getting on top. Wigan’s attacking was far from convincing and the game seemed to be heading towards a home win. But Joe Gelhardt was brought on after 72 minutes, playing in a more central role this time. After 75 minutes he turned past a defender in the penalty box and scored at the near post with Long rooted to the spot.

The point gained takes Latics to 5 points from 7 matches, third from bottom.

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

A goal for Dunkley – at last

Chey Dunkley is in his third season at Wigan. In his first, in League1, he was part of a formidable centre of defence with Dan Burn. Not only was Dunkley defensively solid, but he also scored 7 goals over the course of the season.

The transition to the Championship was difficult for a player who had not played at that level before. Like so many other players last season he certainly had his ups and downs, one minute making a superb last-ditch tackle, the next losing concentration. His goals also dried up. So many times, he seemed likely to score, getting himself in good positions, but he just could not put the ball home.

Dunkley’s goal yesterday will do his confidence the world of good. Now he has broken his duck in the Championship we can expect more goals from the big man.

Can Gelhardt seize the number 10 role?

Replacing Nick Powell was never going to be easy for Paul Cook. Lee Evans and Josh Windass have both stepped in with mixed results. Yesterday Cook played Jamal Lowe in a more central role in the advanced midfield trio. Lowe did not do badly but was not particularly convincing.

Powell usually played a classical number 10 role, receiving the ball in deep midfield, linking up with the forwards and overlapping full backs. But sometimes he would be pushed further forward, playing as a second central striker.

Joe Gelhardt certainly has an eye for goal, and he is not deterred by playing at this level. Not only does he have a great left foot, but he also has an eye for a pass. Will Cook be tempted to put the young player in the starting line-up against Charlton, playing behind the central striker?

Is football returning away from home?

Wigan Athletic’s poor away performances over the past twelve months have been typified by a reliance on the long ball. Moreover, signing a 6ft 5in centre forward has further invited under-pressure defenders and midfielders to lump the ball forward.

However, at Hull we saw signs of football returning, albeit riddled with errors. The possession stats showed Wigan at 58.3% and Hull 41.7%. Moreover 74% of Wigan’s passes were successful compared with 65% for the home team. In the previous game against Barnsley Latics’ successful pass stat stood at 64%.

The long-ball approach away from home has been woefully unsuccessful and we can only hope that the manager will insist that his defenders and midfielders minimise their use of the long ball. Nevertheless, it will take courage from players to play the ball out from the back, who have so often taken the easy way out.

The Byrne-Massey axis

The attacking play of Nathan Byrne and Gavin Massey was crucial to Latics’ winning the League 1 title in 2017. Indeed, Byrne went on to be voted Player of the Year. Last season was a difficult year for each of them, with Byrne losing his place to Reece James and Massey having a lot of time out injured. However, with James later being moved to midfield Byrne was able to reclaim the right back position. Massey’s return to the team saw him renew the link-up with Byrne, the two players knowing each other’s games so well.

The Byrne-Massey partnership has had a difficult start to the current season. Neither player has been at his best up to this point. Much of the opposition threat has come from their side of the pitch and their build-up work has not been at its best.

Recovering from injury Massey missed pre-season and still does not look like he is firing on all cylinders.

None of the wingers in Cook’s squad has shown real consistency this season. Michael Jacobs has blown hot and cold, Jamal Lowe has looked out of place on the left, Anthony Pilkington continues to be bogged by injury and Kal Naismith has been used sparingly.

Given the physical demands on the wingers, being expected to track back to help the full backs but also to go sprinting forward, Cook might be well advised to rotate them on a regular basis. With either Massey or Lowe on the right and Jacobs or Naismith on the left he has good options.

In the meantime, Cook will have to decide whether to stick with a below-par Byrne, in the hope that he will regain form, or bring in the young Chelsea loan player, Dujon Sterling, who has not even been appearing on the bench.

Stats courtesy of WhoScored.com

Five talking points following a home draw with Barnsley

Wigan Athletic 0 Barnsley 0

Following a spineless display in the defeat at QPR last we saw a spirited Wigan Athletic side fight for a point against Barnsley. The energy was there, but sadly the football was not. It was poor entertainment for the crowd of around 10,000.

After the game Paul Cook commented: “It was a fair result. Both teams were nervous, there was a little bit of nervous energy and tension around the stadium and you can understand that. We’ve had our first clean sheet of the season and it’s so important for me as manager that you give these lads the belief and confidence to go and play. We showed at times today the really good sides and today we had a real appetite to not get beat and that pleased me.”

Let’s look at some points arising from the game:

Another disappointing result in a six-pointer

Barnsley came into this match a point above Wigan. Like Latics they had won only one game on the opening day of the season. The Tykes will do well to avoid relegation. A win for Latics would have seen them leapfrog over the Tykes out of the relegation zone.

The more optimistic of Latics fans were expecting their team to pick up three points against a Barnsley team that was struggling. However, for others it was not a surprise to see Wigan once again disappoint in a “six-pointer”. During Cook’s reign Latics have so often disappointed when playing against teams close to them in the league table.

Cook keeps faith with Marshall

David Marshall has been in poor form in recent weeks and fans were clamouring for him to be replaced by Jamie Jones. However, without his fine performance Barnsley would surely have walked away with three points. Cook was justified in keeping faith with the goalkeeper.

Mulgrew can add an extra dimension

Charlie Mulgrew was a surprise signing. Yesterday was his first league start for Latics.

Mulgrew may be 33 years old and lacking the pace he had when younger but could prove to be a very useful signing by Cook. Yesterday he looked solid in the centre of defence and we got a glimpse of what he can do from set-pieces. Last season he scored 11 goals for Blackburn.

The Glaswegian can also play in the centre of midfield, which gives Cook another option. He can do a solid job defensively but having someone who can threaten from set-pieces is a bonus.

Are the new players settling in?

In midweek Cook talked about the settling in of new players: “The international break will be big for us because we get to train for two more weeks. That is something we did not get in pre-season. Our squad was put together very late. That is not a criticism. It is just how it is, to the point now where lads are still making their debuts and formations are coming up with players playing together for the first time.”

The starting line-up for the opening game against Cardiff City contained two new signings: David Marshall and Lewis Macleod. Yesterday there were four: Marshall, Charlie Mulgrew, Jamal Lowe and Joe Williams.

There is much debate on the message boards and social media about the quality of Latics’ players. Is this current squad better than the one that struggled in avoiding relegation last season?

The departures of Reece James and Nick Powell over the summer have hit Latics hard. James was way ahead of any other player in terms of talent, consistency and commitment. Powell had an injury-plagued season, but when he was fit and on-form he made a big difference to the team. Cook was always unlikely to get a like-for-like replacement for Powell, given the high price such a player would cost. He has experimented with other players in that role, but Powell’s creativity has been sorely missed. But the player continues to be plagued by injury and has only played one game for Stoke City in their opening game against QPR.

The results so far this season have been disappointing. It is last season’s players who have been largely involved. Will those new players make the difference over the coming week and help pull Latics out of the relegation zone?

Getting the best out of the more skilful players

The manager reverted to his preferred 4-2-3-1 formation yesterday after experimenting with a backline of three central defenders. The creative trio behind the central striker consisted of Gavin Massey, Jamal Lowe and Michael Jacobs.

On paper Cook had chosen a well-balanced line-up with Sam Morsy and Joe Williams protecting the back four and genuine pace and creativity further forward. However, the reality was something different. In a game where there was more “fightball” than football there was little chance for the creative trio to shine.

The manager would have been pleased with the commitment of his players yesterday. Following that insipid display at QPR he got the team to put in lots of sweat and toil this time around. But football was the loser in this game, and it was not the scenario for the creative trio to show their skills.

A chance for Gelhardt

It was a pleasant surprise to see the 17-year-old Joe Gelhardt come off the bench after 63 minutes. He and Jensen Weir were called up for the England U18 squad this week.

Cook deserves credit for giving youth a chance in a  fiercely competitive match. But what a pity that Gelhardt was played on the right wing, rather than in the number 10 position behind the central striker.

 

Stats courtesy of WhoScored.com