Stormclouds loom over Wigan Athletic’s fight to avoid relegation: time for changes?

The dedication and sheer hard work of the management team of Leam Richardson and Gregor Rioch has kept Wigan Athletic in with a fighting chance of avoiding relegation from League 1. That Latics are not totally adrift of the teams above them in the table is a testimony to their endeavours. The league table shows the task ahead of them.

Courtesy of SkySports.com

After Jamie Jones had somehow allowed an innocuous shot to go through him in the 27th minute on Wednesday evening it was always going to be an uphill struggle for Latics against high flying Hull City. Up to that point they had matched the visitors and had looked solid. However, with five losses in the previous six games Wigan’s confidence was bound to be brittle. Another goal five minutes later was no surprise and as the game continued, with their confidence shot, the Wigan team capitulated. Hull could have scored more than five.

Wigan’s starting line-up against Hull consisted of just one player, Chris Merrie, who had come through their academy. There were five players new to the club over the January transfer window. Much had been said earlier in the season of a young team giving away goals through a lack of experience. In the January window the club had done well to bring in new players who might provide an experienced backbone to the squad. But goals continue to be given away with more seasoned pros having taken the place of U23 players.

With so many new players arriving it was always going to take time for the new blend to gel. The comings and goings of so many players over the course of the season has made things extremely difficult for management. Moreover, the long-term injuries to Kyle Joseph and Tom Pearce have thrown another spanner in the works.

Following poor performances and results against relegation rivals Wimbledon and Swindon, Richardson switched to a back line of three central defenders for the next game at Northampton which was decided by an opportunist strike by Callum Lang. That backline had the experience of Scott Wootton and Curtis Tilt, both 29-years-old, with over 360 career league appearances between them, together with the very capable 22-year-old George Johnston. It looked like a combination that could provide solidity at the back with enough height and muscle to deal with the aerial threat posed by so many teams in the division.

Latics did not perform badly in the following game against an Oxford team in top form, another well taken goal from Lang putting them in front. Sadly they went on to lose the game through goals created by centres into the box.

It was a surprise to see that for the Hull game Richardson had ditched his back three in favour of an orthodox back four, with Johnston pushed to left back. But what was more puzzling was his advanced midfield trio with Viv Solomon-Otabor on the left and Dan Gardner and Will Keane in the centre and on the right. The new shape did not work and all three were taken off after 56 minutes, with Latics already four goals down.

Managers under pressure tend to rely on experienced players and that showed in Richardson’s team selection. Thelo Aasgaard was rested and not in the squad. Luke Robinson and Callum Lang were on the bench and brought on in the second half. Alex Perry, whose range of passing from the centre of the field can be a real asset, has been pushed out by the arrival of the more conservative Funso Ojo. The problem over recent games has been that too many of those senior professionals have been way off form. However, Richardson has stuck with them. Jones in particular has been fortunate to have kept his place despite poor goalkeeping that has cost Latics dearly.

If Latics are to lift themselves for the visit of top-placed Lincoln City tomorrow a shake-up is needed. Having a backbone of experienced players can be of great value in a relegation dog-fight, but some need a break to help them regain their form. There are lots of hungry, talented young players at the club who can step in.

Amigo and Social Media reaction to giving away three points to Wimbledon

Wigan Athletic 2 AFC Wimbledon 3

Reckless goalkeeping knocked the stuffing out of a Wigan Athletic team that had gritted its teeth and dragged the scores level after trailing by two goals in an awful first half display. Curtis Tilt’s header had pulled one back just before the half time whistle and debutant Jamie Proctor finished clinically to equalise after 68 minutes following awful defence by the visitors. It looked like Latics could go on and win the game until the 76th minute when Jamie Jones had a rush of blood to the head and clattered into Joe Pigott, who converted the ensuing penalty.

There were few bright spots for Latics in a mediocre game of football, but the return of Viv Solomon-Otabor was a welcome sight. Jamie Proctor had arrived on loan from Rotherham to cover the absence of Kyle Joseph who is out for the rest of the season with a back injury. Proctor is the kind of big target man centre forward that can be prevalent in the division. Like Marc-Antoine Fortune his career conversion rate has been unimpressive, but his physicality can upset defences and create opportunities for his teammates. It was good to see how he put away the goal today.

After the game Leam Richardson commented:

“The biggest disappointment for myself was how we started the game. We know what Wimbledon are, how honest they are as a team and we knew what to expect. I thought we responded okay with the goal before half time and came out in the second half the better team in the ascendency and then we don’t see it through which disappoints me.”

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:

Degsy1 said:

After a dismal 1st half we came back in the second and after levelling up we looked like we were good to take it !.

Let down again by a big defensive mistake !

I’m feeling so so p.ssed off this evening – if I wasn’t doing a “dry February” I’d defo get a few down my neck tonight !

Every bl..dy game I think – “this is where it turns around” …….”surely we’ll get three points ….” etc etc and each time we seem to get let down by giving silly goals away !

I think just a couple more inept performances like this and last week and we will be cut so far adrift it will take a miracle to get us back on tack !

FormbyLatic commented:

I’ve seen enough in this second half to think we have scope to improve once these players get used to playing together. We just need to knock the suicide defending on the head and continue to play with aggression. Another massively disappointing afternoon though.

Jonnysking added:

Play Evans (take your pick which one) in goal or no keeper at all and we couldn’t be much worse.
Wimbledon had four shots and three went in. Jones may be nice guy, but he is still a sh.t keeper which ever way you look at it. If a takeover does go through I can’t see anyone keeping this manager either.

Loudmouthblue opined:

It is not the job of the fans to offer alternate names, what worries me is we have not secured a loan keeper during the window and why management haven’t made it a priority.

I have been actively watching football as an adult for 47 years been a season ticket holder at WAFC for well over 30 of those years so please indulge me that while I dont always get it right with a good footballer as their style might not suit my liking, but I know a bad un when I see one especially in a keeper, I honestly cannot remember one as consistently error prone as Jones, you can put your mortgage on him giving at least one goal scoring opportunity in a game with an unforced error and that is unacceptable.

True Believer commented:

We definitely improved when VSO came on. We became more direct and the only problem was we didn’t get him involved enough. Should start him Tuesday if fit.

I am also not convinced that Callum Lang should be played wide, he has a tendency to let the ball go across his body and fails to control it then ends up fouling the defender to try to rescue the situation. Might be better as a number ten playing off Proctor.

Stats courtesy of WhoScored.com

Amigo and Social Media reaction to a woeful football game at Swindon

Swindon Town 1 Wigan Athletic 0

I did not have high hopes for Latics winning this game. In recent years Wigan have so often performed poorly against teams close to them at the top or bottom of a division, although Kyle Joseph’s epic hat-trick helped buck that trend fairly recently in a win at Burton. Moreover, Latics were fielding yet another new line-up in the centre of defence in Scott Wootton and Curtis Tilt, together with a debut for Funso Ojo in midfield. No time to gel.

After 17 minutes a lack of mutual understanding between the two centre backs allowed an unmarked Tyler Smith to head the ball at Jamie Jones who parried the ball away to an offside Brett Pitman to slot the ball home. It had been a dire game of football up to that stage and sadly for Wigan it got no better. Even though the home team were down to 10 men after Dion Conroy’s red card in the 64th minute Latics were toothless and devoid of imagination in attack. The midfield was static, as were the front three. More than anything else Latics seemed to lack the passion to get back into the game.

It was a frustrating game for Latics fans to watch, nothing more so than the sheer wastage of corner kicks. The quality of delivery of balls launched directly into the box from corners was woeful, but what was even more frustrating was a sterile routine on short corners, with the ball so often going back towards the half-way line, relieving pressure on the opposition defence. This is nothing new, but it was particularly frustrating in this game. A rethink needed from the coaching staff on the matter.

After the game Leam Richardson commented:

“It was a tough night. It took is 15-20 minutes for us to try and impose our style in tough conditions.The goal was very disappointing and then when they go down to 10 men, it’s about our decision making and asking the question of how can we be more productive?

Tonight wasn’t our night. The players were honest in their approach and we tried to play the right way, but we’ve got to be better with our quality and our end product.We’re disappointed with the goal, but when there’s change there are always going to be a few teething problems. We’ve changed again, drastically, and we aren’t blessed with great numbers to mix it up, but what we have got is an honest group who stand for each other in this situation. All we can do is continue to do our best for the club.”

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:

King_dezueew06 said:

Gardner didn’t bother closing down full back, Tilt didn’t pick up his man but Jones still should’ve done better. All deserve blame but Jones mucks up what should be routine saves too often.

True Believer responded:

Come on KDZ, the guy was left exposed again and actually made a snap save from a free header. That was never a routine save.

Once again the keeper will be ostracised for a complete shambles by the defence and blamed for a loss whilst the rest of the “toothless” team fail to get a shot on target.

The passing tonight was abysmal all sideways and backwards none of the midfield played a decent pass all night and because of this we failed to threaten a weakened defence after their CB and captain was sent off.


Too many people on here looking for a scapegoat and blinded by the fact that the keeper we have is L1 keeper and not a world class stopper.

FrancosLoveChild opined:

No excuses for that performance. Not buying the players need to gel or that we have a young side. Absolutely no fight for a relegation 6 pointer. Completely deserve relegation with torrid performances like that.

FormbyLatic stated:

I’m absolutely convinced that this is a confidence issue. The players are much better than the cr.p we saw tonight.

True Believer summarised:

TBH and getting away from the criticism of Jones we were absolutely clueless tonight. From back to front we didn’t help each other. The midfield were guilty of allowing runners to use the wings all game and failed to stop the crosses that were putting the CB’s under pressure.

The CB’s were asleep for the goal and the constant passing across the back slowed the game to walking pace and allowed the opposition to get their defence set.

Pearce was once again our main threat, but his throw in routine is crap. He ambles over to the ball and then waits to allow the opposition to mark up the runners before looking to play the ball. Darikwa on the other hand used Wootton on a good few occasions to get the ball back in play quicker.

Our forwards were static and gave the midfield no opportunity to play the ball to them. They should have been moving the CB’s around and making runs to break the line but instead stood in front of the backs giving them the time to make a challenge. When they did break the line the final ball was poor and often over hit allowing the opposition to mop it up and snuff out the threat.

All in all it was a poor performance and had Swindon had the confidence and players that Blackpool had we would probably have shipped more goals as in my opinion this was a worse performance than the one against the seasiders.

Hopefully we can put it right next time out and I still believe the players are capable of getting us the results we need
.

Stats courtesy of WhoScored.com

Amigo and Social Media Reaction to a well-earned point at Fleetwood

Fleetwood Town 1 Wigan Athletic 1

A spirited performance saw Latics share the points in a scrappy game played at a windy Fleetwood. Jamie Jones conceded another goal to a long shot: this time from Fleetwood’s Danny Andrew, but redeemed himself with a brilliant save at the death when Paddy Madden ran through the Wigan defence following an error from Tom James. Moments before Ollie Crankshaw had equalised in the 91st minute after Will Keane’s effort had been parried by Fleetwood’s Swiss/Canadian keeper Jayson Leutwiler.

We had a message on the Wigan Athletic site before the game started that we would not be able to get the usual commentary of Ashley Houghton and Tommy Gore due to technical issues at the Highbury Stadium. In the event Gore did materialise but together with a Fleetwood commentator who had difficulties in recognising the Wigan players and in pronouncing some of their names.

Latics had held their own defensively until the long shot went in after 28 minutes. Fleetwood continued to press but Wigan held them back. However, Wigan’s attacking intent was largely limited to hopeful long balls that were gobbled up by the home defence. Put simply, they did not look like scoring.

But Latics came out for the second half with more attacking intent and although the long ball tactic did not disappear it was interspersed with good football. After looking so confident in the first half Fleetwood dropped back in defence as Latics took the game to them. The late equaliser was a just reward for the sheer effort Latics had made to get a share of the points.

The point keeps Wigan off the bottom and within reach of safety from the relegation zone.

Following the game Leam Richardson commented:

“I thought the energy and endeavour – certainly in the second-half – was fantastic to see; we were playing on the front foot a lot more. The weather played a part but at half-time I said to the lads that I wanted to see them play with more belief because on the back of Tuesday’s result I think they were a little bit reserved and on the back foot, which I don’t accept.

Second half we played with a lot more freedom to get into their final third and make things happen. We thoroughly deserved the result.”

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

Jeffs right wrote:

One shot on target one goal. Could make a difference with four relegation places to avoid. Well done Latics.

Degsy stated:

I don’t understand why we have a midfield, they don’t win second ball and must have sore necks watching the ball soar over them every time the keeper or back four get hold of the ball.”

Hoofing the ball up the pitch is on instruction of manager and not the fault of the players !

I agree it’s stupid in such conditions and should be kept with the players on the ground !

When played through midfield, I thought Perry & Merry controlled it well and I don’t think you can fault Merrie in his commitment and success in tacking, winning the ball more often than losing it !

SwindonLatic added:

Barton will be fuming but his team did eff all in the second half apart from time waste. Well done to the boys for sticking at it even if we did lack quality in the final third.

True Believer commented:

Worst commentary I have ever heard on a game. You would have thought he would have learnt the players names and he couldn’t even pronounce Tommy Gores name correctly.

All that said the first half we looked completely out of it and I feared we were in for a pasting after the goal. We never got going and kept hitting the ball high into the wind without anyone of height to try and get on to it. I don’t understand why we have a midfield, they don’t win second ball and must have sore necks watching the ball soar over them every time the keeper or back four get hold of the ball.

Second half with the wind at our backs we persisted with kicking it long for most of the third quarter only to see it catch on the wind and fly through to their keeper whilst our forwards failed to press the centre backs. When we did start to get the ball down and play through the midfield we started to get on top and the possession stats started to even out and we looked more in control of the game.

Their keeper made a terrific save only to see it parried out to “Cronksoe”, or whatever name he called him, to head the ball in after following the shot in. Well done Ollie.

Not a game for the purist but in the scheme of things a valuable point, a much improved performance on midweek, and despite some of the miserable posters on here we are still only three points off safety with a new owner and transfer window to come.

Stats courtesy of WhoScored.com

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