Latics rally as the DW crowd gets behind them – Wigan Athletic 2 Charlton Athletic 1

February 12, 2022: Wigan Athletic 2 Charlton Athletic 1

“The character and response were fantastic. I felt the fans gave us a real big lift during the game today and we’ll need them more than ever going into the midweeks and the fixture list coming. We need this place bouncing and rocking because the lads need all of the energy they can get.”

Leam Richardson and the club in general constantly remind us of the importance of vocal fan support to the morale of the team. The loud, fanatical away support, buoyed by a strong element of younger fans, has proven a key factor in Latics’ success on the road. But that kind of raucous support has rarely been the norm in home games.

Much has been said in the past about a lack of atmosphere at the DW Stadium, particularly from fans of visiting teams. Theories abound as to the reason why, ranging from the fickleness of Wiganers to the stadium being too big, rarely being half filled. Supporters preferring the East and South Stands shun the West Stand, perhaps the bastion of the more fickle.

But the home crowd really got behind their team yesterday, as Latics rallied after a very poor start.

Portents were looking ominous in the opening quarter with a weakened Charlton side looking a cut above Latics. The warning signs were there, with those awful hoofballs coming from the defence and a lack of cohesion among the team in general. Elliot Lee’s 7th minute opening goal from Adam Mathews’ cross looked so easy, both players given so much space by the home side. They almost scored a second eight minutes later when Jack Whatmough blocked a low drive from Lee, with Alex Gilbey hitting the crossbar from the rebound.

But with the crowd behind them Latics started to claw their way back into the game. The home team and its fans were equally incensed when Josh Magennis was clattered to the ground. The initial contact was on the edge of the penalty area. Some referees might have awarded a spot kick, others a free kick, but this official simply offered neither. However, the referee was more decisive minutes later when he gave Latics a “soft” penalty after Callum Lang had gone down in the box. Will Keane converted with aplomb.

As the game had progressed Wigan had cut back on the hoofball, playing the ball more through midfield. Jack Whatmough has been an ever-present in the league 1 lineup this season and his solidity in defence has been key to his team’s success. Whatmough has the ability to play at a higher level and it was a masterstroke from Wigan’s recruiting team to get him on a free from Portsmouth. However, if Latics were to step up into the Championship next season he would need to improve his distribution.

Whatmough may have been playing under orders but he has pumped forward so many of those “hopeful” long balls which have made life easier for opposition defences. He did it again in the opening minutes yesterday until we later saw a most welcome change in approach. Instead of taking the easy option Whatmough stepped forward with the ball, using his pace to approach the half-way line where he was able to find a teammate close at hand. Whatmough also poses a threat on set pieces and his header back to Stephen Humphrys created Wigan’s winner after 74 minutes.

This was an important win for Wigan who have edged closer to Rotherham who have a difficult game today at Sheffield Wednesday. It was a spirited comeback backed by a vocal home crowd. It was the opener to a tough week for Latics who are at home to Crewe on Tuesday, with a trip to Rotherham on Friday.

For this game Richardson utilised a back three and resisted the temptation to resort to the habitual 4-2-3-1 in the second half. By doing so he was able to put out possibly his strongest lineup, although many would say that Humphrys should have been the central striker, rather than Magennis, at the start.

Magennis has had a difficult start at Wigan, looking ineffective in the target man role and lacking the sharpness needed to convert chances into goals. His career record reveals a strike rate of around 0.2 goals per game, his best season being in 2020-21 when he scored 19 goals for Hull City in League 1 from 29 starts and 11 appearances off the bench. However, Magennis was recovering from injury when Latics signed him from Hull and may need more game time to regain his sharpness. Moreover, he could have had two penalties yesterday, with a more blatant one near the end when the giant central defender Inniss pushed him as he was about to score.

It will be interesting to see how Richardson shuffles his pack for the Crewe game with that tough trip to Rotherham to follow. Given his history it is unlikely that the manager will make many changes for Crewe, but if he does not make at least a few how fresh are his players going to be at the New York Stadium?

Stats courtesy of WhoScored.com

A Portsmouth fan view of Jack Whatmough

Last week Wigan Athletic announced the signing of 24 year-old central defender Jack Whatmough on a free transfer from Portsmouth.

Whatmough made 136 appearances for Pompey and is among the most talented defenders in League 1. If he can stay clear of injuries, he could prove a great signing for Latics. Leam Richardson knew him from his time with Paul Cook at Portsmouth in 2015-17. After Whatmough signed for Latics he commented:

Jack has very good attributes. He is a centre half who has a good mix of the old-fashioned centre half who likes to defend, but also the modern defender where he can handle the ball. One of the most important factors is how much of a good person he is. He is fantastic in the dressing room and he brings maturity to the football club. He is a leader. I think he will show that with his performances and with how he is in the dressing room. He is a brilliant addition to Wigan Athletic.”

Jack Whatmough was born in Gosport on the western side of Portsmouth harbour, opposite Portsmouth. Up until the age of 13 he played at south coast rivals Southampton. After joining the Portsmouth Academy, he signed a two-year scholarship contract in July 2012. Just over a month later he was on the bench for the senior team in an away game at Plymouth.

In August 2013 Whatmough signed a three-year professional contract, making his debut as a 17-year-old in a home game in November 2013 in a League 2 home game against Southend United. He went on to make 12 appearances in the 2013-14 season, also playing for England U18 against Croatia in March 2014.  Whatmough made 24 appearances in the 2014-15 season before suffering a serious knee injury in March 2015. In January 2016 he made his return when playing on loan at Havant and Waterlooville.

After suffering three serious knee injuries he was excellent last season, making 38 appearances for Pompey and would have surely exceeded the 40 mark if it were not for suspensions at the end of the season. Due to financial losses caused by the coronavirus  last season Portsmouth offered reduced terms to Whatmough and three other players whose contracts were expiring. Whatmough was quoted in the Portsmouth News as saying:

“Some have said I left for the money – and it’s a load of rubbish. It was nothing to do with wages at any point. It was always to do with the length of the deal. Always.

I know I can rest easy having not left Pompey for the wrong reason. It was just the length of the deal. I wanted to do it, Danny wanted to do it – the club didn’t.

That was Pompey’s decision and one I fully respect. I will never hold anything against the club, they have done so much for me. Not a bad word will come out of my mouth about what has happened.”

To learn more about Whatmough’s time at Portsmouth we contacted Jim Bonner (@FrattonFaithful) of the Fratton Faithful fan site.

Here’s over to Jim:

Jack was Pompey’s best defender based on ability. He’s good in the air and with the ball at his feet playing out from the back and was one of the few players many fans believed could have made the step up to the Championship.

However, his positional sense is lacking, he has a few own goals to his name and can be rash in the challenge, missing seven games last season due to receiving two straight red cards.

However, what makes this signing such a gamble is Jack’s injury record. Although he played most of last season following successful surgery, in previous years he hasn’t made many appearances due to a career blighted by injuries and the belief is that one more will finish him.

If he can stay fit, he knows Leam Richardson well from his days at Fratton Park and will be an astute addition to the Wigan backline. Maybe Pompey will regret letting him go rather than offering him the longer deal he wanted?