Five talking points following a crucial win at Doncaster

Doncaster Rovers 1 Wigan Athletic 4

It was arguably their best performance of the season as Wigan Athletic took a crucial three points in style. A rocket shot by Joe Dodoo had put Latics ahead after just three minutes, with Thelo Aasgaard rifling the ball home twelve minutes later. Wigan continued to attack with the home defence looking in disarray and skilful interplay between Dodoo and Will Keane saw the latter break forward and lay the ball on a plate for Viv Solomon-Otabor to slide the ball home on the 33-minute mark.

Wigan’s play up to that point had been a revelation, but Taylor Richards got one back for the home team after finding himself outside the penalty box, scoring with aplomb. Latics went into half time with a 3-1 lead. One wondered how they would approach the second half, having too often seen them drop back into massed defence on previous occasions, inviting pressure and squandering their lead.

However, thanks to the defence and Jamie Jones they managed to keep Rovers at bay, meanwhile continuing to threaten at the other end. Keane got on the end of a cross from Dodoo after 80 minutes and eventually came away with an impressive 4-1 victory.

After the game Leam Richardson commented:

“I thought every player was outstanding; the energy levels, the endeavour and certainly the front two epitomised the game and the result. The subs coming off the bench gave us good impact and helped us to see the game through; when you have a group of people trying to run in the same direction, you haven’t half got a chance.

A goal just before half-time from Taylor Richards made the second-half a fraction less comfortable for Latics but Leam was pleased with the way his side saw the game through after an excellent start.

“It was important to manage the game in the second-half because we seem to like to make a game of it, with the goal just before half-time for them. We had some good noises at half-time and we knew we had to meet them head on again. Doncaster have some really good players and play a good brand of football, so I felt we had to go on and score again. We could have scored more possibly but we’ll certainly take the hard work and result.”

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

Dodoo was a revelation

Although he is still only 25-years-old Joe Dodoo has played for 8 clubs scoring 13 goals in 100 league appearances. In 2019-20 he made 24 appearances for Bolton Wanderers, scoring 4. Despite these stats he looked a fine player yesterday, leading the line with energy and pace. His third minute finish was hit with stunning power. He linked up beautifully with Will Keane for the third goal and showed lightning acceleration in leaving Rovers’ captain Tom Anderson in his wake before putting in a great cross for Keane to score the fourth.

Dodoo was born in Ghana and moved to England when he was 8 years old. In 2013 he represented England U18 against Belgium. Dodoo is a product of the Leicester City youth system and made his first team debut in a League Cup game at Bury in August 2013. Latics signed him in January after he had been released by Ankara Keciorengucu where he had scored one goal in fourteen appearances in the second tier of Turkish football. Until yesterday he had made 5 starts with 8 appearances off the bench, scoring one goal.

The Dodoo we saw at Doncaster was a revelation compared with what we had seen before. Can he repeat yesterday’s form in the games that remain?

Keane back to near his best

Will Keane has certainly had ups and downs in his career. Now 28-years-old he has played for six clubs since making his debut for Manchester United in December 2011. Although many of Keane’s 131 league appearances have seen him operating as a number 9, he has played his best football in the hole behind the central striker.  

Keane signed an extension to his Wigan contract in January after some fine performances in that role. Since then, after illness and injury he had struggled to show that kind of form. But yesterday he looked back to his best, his movement and quick feet causing a headache for the Doncaster defence.

With such good performances from Dodoo and Keane, Leam Richardson will face a selection decision if Callum Lang is back from injury on Tuesday when Latics play Sunderland. Lang can play on the right wing but is much more effective in the middle. Moreover, if he were to be brought back on the right wing would there be a place for Thelo Aasgaard who was excellent at Doncaster?

Jamie Jones is back in form.

A feature of recent games has been the much-improved performances from goalkeeper and captain Jamie Jones. During the month of February things were not looking good for Jones whose keeping had been riddled with fundamental errors. Questions were being asked by fans why Jones was being chosen. However, Richardson is a manager who supports his senior professionals and he maintained faith in Jones.

The goalkeeper made some key interventions at crucial times when Doncaster looked like they might pull back another goal to bring the score to 3-2. Moreover, he has looked increasingly confident and alert in recent matches.

Latics will need Jones at his best if they are to get out of the relegation dog fight.

Goal difference could be crucial.

With Burton Albion looking all but safe in 18th position four of the six clubs below them are almost certainly going to be relegated. With those clubs so close on points the likelihood is that at least one of those relegation slots will be decided on goal difference. The +3 tally from this match certainly helped Latics in this respect.

Wigan Athletic play just one of the other five teams in the “drop zone” as the season winds down. With four home games and two on the road it would normally be a position of strength for Wigan compared with others in the relegation pack. But in these Covid-19 times home advantage is not as big a factor as it was when crowds were attending. Latics have done worse than most with a home record of W3 D5 L11 (compared with W7 D3 L11 away from home).

Latics have two games against high-flying teams, Sunderland and Hull City, three against teams in between the promotion and relegation zones, with just one against relegation-threatened Swindon.

A general rule of thumb suggests that clubs need to average a point per game to be close to avoiding the drop. Latics would need 8 points from the 18 available to reach that target. Would 9 points be enough? Is this Wigan team capable of winning 3 of their final 6 games?

When the season first started there were pundits who said that Latics’ final game of the season against Swindon could decide a relegation place. They could yet be right.

More dubious refereeing decisions?

There has been scarcely a game this season when refereeing decisions have not been a talking point among Wigan Athletic fans. So many 50-50 decisions seem to have gone against Latics over the course of the season.

Being a football referee in this day and age is not an easy job. There are players who try to deceive, and the cynicism of some teams can be sad to witness. Richardson’s Latics are a very physical side but are rarely cynical. According to footstats.co.uk Latics have committed an average of 14.5 per game against 12.2 in their favour. Only Charlton Athletic and Oxford United have conceded more fouls per game. Rochdale, currently in bottom place, have the lowest committed fouls average of only 10.5 per game.

There was an incident at Doncaster when it appeared that the home goalkeeper had handled the ball out of his area. The referee did not rule that he did so. Latics TV commentators Ashley Houghton and Tommy Gore certainly raised the point. They also questioned a number of other decisions by the referee. It has become the norm in so many commentaries.

Tommy Gore certainly deserves the title of “Latics Legend” through his 287 appearances for the club from 1974-1980. He was a very good non-league player, playing right midfield and right back, and made the big adjustment to playing at a higher level when Latics joined the fourth division in 1978. He was a real team player with a very positive attitude.

Tommy certainly has a love for the club, and it shines through his commentaries. However, his constant criticism of minor refereeing decisions has become irritating. We are in an era where players go down easily to gain free kicks which would not have been awarded in the 1970s. In recent games I have resorted to muting the sound when he has repeatedly complained about fouls being given in favour of the other team.

The standard of refereeing in the division leaves much to be desired. Perhaps over the course of the season more 50-50 decisions have gone against Latics than have gone for them. Watching a game one can make one’s own decisions as to whether the referee is right or wrong in a particular incidence. However, a significant number of supporters are listening to audio-only commentaries.

There have been dubious refereeing decisions that have hurt Latics this season. But are the referees in collusion against Latics? I sincerely doubt it.

Stats courtesy of WhoScored.com

Amigo and Social Media reaction to a limp display at Accrington

Accrington Stanley 3 Wigan Athletic 1

It was always going to be a challenge playing on a small and bumpy pitch against a physically imposing Accrington side. With the absence of wingers  Viv Solomon-Otabor and Gavin Massey through injury and the expectation of an aerial barrage from the home side, Leam Richardson employed a back line of three central defenders and two wing backs.

Callum Lang’s opportunist goal in the first minute gave Latics genuine hope, but it was nullified when the 6ft 4in central defender Cameron Burgess was left unmarked to equalise two minutes later. Then after 15 minutes awful defending allowed another 6ft 4in central defender, Callum Nottingham, to bundle the ball home.

With an uncoordinated  rearguard and a goalkeeper rooted on his line Latics continued to be vulnerable to the crosses the home side would put in. It came as no surprise when Accrington got a third through a soft penalty against Tendayi Darikwa in the 61st minute. Striker Dion Charles’ spot kick was practically straight at Jamie Jones, who did not react. Was it the sheer pace of the shot that beat him?

After the game Leam Richardson commented:

“It’s very disappointing and I’m disappointed in the fact you knew what was coming, you prepare for what’s coming and then you succumb to that. I’ve been fortunate to work [at Accrington] as a player and manager and I’ve worked with John [Coleman]’s teams and if you don’t match the fight against his teams then you lose the game and that’s exactly what happened here this afternoon.

They’re built off a solid base and physicality and they want to run through you and around you and you can’t allow that or give possession away and give free kicks away.We got beat today by two balls into our box with no contact, no endeavour and we lost nine or ten battles on the pitch and that’s why we lost.”

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:

FormbyLatic wrote:

That was truly one of our worst performances of the season by some margin. Really, really disappointing.

Moonay opined:

It doesn’t take much, does it.

7 points from the last 3 games, just the one goal conceded, all forgotten, cos too many players have had a poor afternoon, and the manager has maybe got his selection (and tactics?) wrong.

Plenty of criticism of the defence for the goals, (and rightly so) but the the goals (all avoidable) were from 2 set pieces and a pike with full twist of a penalty.

Some had OK games, but even those players had black marks against them: Lang, but should have had a second early on, Darikwa, but shouldn’t have allowed the opportunity for the dive, …to be fair, I’m struggling to class anyone else as OK.

As Oscar said, poor decisions let us down at times. It wasn’t a great pitch, but that can’t be an excuse.

Richardson and Rioch watch the players in training, and know far more about football and footballers than all us keyboard critics, but I struggle to see what Dodoo offers that Proctor doesn’t. Also, if you’re going to play a back 3, then the wing backs have to get forward, but young Robinson struggled to do that.

A bad day at the office, with a few toys strewn around the cot, but still plenty to play for in the coming games. Cookie up next. Let’s hope he does us a favour.

True Believer stated:

We changed our game plan to nullify theirs, in my book that is a negative attitude.

I like to see teams play three at the back, as Accy do.

However in order to play that your wing backs have to assist in midfield, today Robinson wasn’t able to do that. Darikwa had some success on the right but cost us with a poor decision. We effectively played five at the back for most of the game and the two errors came from misunderstandings from players adjusting to playing a different formation. We lost the runners and it cost us.

Hopefully we learn from this and move on but we really must play to our strengths and not negate our play by trying to counter opposition set ups. We need to play our own game and not be intimidated by other teams, let them worry about us and not the other way around. Sure we will lose some games but at least we will go down playing our own game.

Kendal Blue summarised:

Very poor day at the office today. Bad decisions, lack of clinical touch and also a lack of positive risk taking. Our defence has improved tenfold since the dark days of winter, but took a step back today and was particularly disappointed with how easily we were bullied when the ball was in the air. Have always thought that Evans needs to push on and have a few more shots and at this level he should be taking a risk. Our chance conversation ratio is supposedly one of the best in the league but I don’t think that stat is quite as positive as it sounds.

Putting it down to an awful day, but not a complete catastrophe. Certainly not a complete undoing of the last 3 games. Nothing a good old fashioned b.llocking and extra days training can’t put right.

Victor Moses commented:

Evans has been poor for me this season, at the beginning of the season he was giving the ball away cheaply and since his return from injury he has continued to do so. He plays emotional, one mistake affects the rest of the match for him. Used to be my favourite player, the 1st spell here on loan he was outstanding. Has gone backwards, probably needs to play as the central midfielder in a 3 like Wilder used him, can’t see him being effective anywhere else anymore.

Aasgaard to be out of the team for Dodoo or Gardner is something I cannot understand, neither bring anything to the team currently.

Stats courtesy of WhoScored.com

Amigo and Social Media reaction to an important win at Plymouth for Wigan Athletic

Plymouth Argyle 0 Wigan Athletic 2

After a depressing February with the relegation fight an uphill struggle the month of March brings so much promise. With back-to-back wins and ownership issues nearing resolution there has been an uplift for both players and fans at Wigan Athletic.

This was a fine performance by a Latics side that was as well-balanced and cohesive as any seen this season. Wigan looked dangerous throughout the first half with their pace and willingness to run at the home side’s defence. They scored two fine goals and came close to adding more. Despite Plymouth coming close on several occasions Latics went into the interval with a two goal lead.

But Latics have had first half leads in the past and have blown them. When the second half began one wondered if the defence could stand firm and avoid making errors that could let the Pilgrims back into the game. In the end it was a resolute defensive performance, together with a touch of good fortune, that kept Plymouth out.

Players from last season’s squad made a significant impact. Lee Evans was excellent in midfield despite not having played for months. Gavin Massey looked like his old self on the right wing, after the struggles he has suffered this season. His link-up play with Tendayi Darikwa was reminiscent of that he would have with Nathan Byrne in earlier times. Jamie Jones has had a topsy- turvy season and has been fortunate to keep his place in recent weeks. But he has started to repay Leam Richardson’s faith in him and had a good game last night.

It was the most experienced line-up Richardson had chosen this season, with the exception of a 19-year-old left back. Luke Robinson was drafted in because of a long-term injury to Tom Pearce. The latter had been one of Wigan’s better performers, his bold attacking runs, and dangerous crosses having become a major attacking arm for the team.  Robinson is a solid and tenacious defender who looks comfortable at this level despite his lack of experience. Although he is being employed in a more defensive role than his predecessor, he has shown his abilities in attack.

After the game Richardson commented:

“We know how much change there has been over the last few months since February and then passing the responsibility to – and challenging – this new group. It’s not an easy task but the performances and relationships have grown over the last few weeks.

It’s all about the new group coming together, individually as units and then into the team and being able to see through games when you’re ahead. The game management was fantastic.”

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:

FrancosLoveChild stated:

Mental how much difference off the field matters affect on the pitch, the whole atmosphere has gone right back up to the time last of season before July. Very refreshing!

You are my sunshine concluded:

Another brilliant win to move us out of the bottom 4! Really enjoyable 1st half! We could’ve scored 5 and looked a real threat, but on the other hand could’ve conceded a couple in that 10 minute spell that we were under severe pressure.

2nd 45 we were much less of an attacking threat, but took the sting out of the game well and managed the game successfully. We defended well for the most part and when it was breached Jones made some solid saves and didn’t put a foot wrong all night. I thought he could’ve been replaced after the Wimbledon and Hull defeats, but since he has been solid, so fair play to him.

Impossible to pick a mom as everyone was excellent again in another superb team performance and big 3 points! Good to see Evans back out there and Massey getting stronger.

Hopefully by the end of the week we get further positive news on the takeover front!
What a difference a week makes, UTFT!

Moonay wrote:

Took chances, missed chances, and rode our luck, but overall, definitely deserved to win.

Superb. Now for the play-offs!

Ooohaaahdonniespage added:

Evans class first game in ages. Massey best player on pitch for me. If he can keep on the up like he is we have a real chance. And LMB wouldn’t you agree that Jones is much improved?

Victor Moses summarised:

Did well to see the game out, ball hit the woodwork 6 times over the past two games with them all deflecting away from goal. Not had that luck all season, been punished for everything but when we needed it the most it came on the back of two good performances.

Jones did well in goal tonight, a lot of their shots were at him but he was solid and dealt with everything required of him.

Johnston must of made 15 tackles, being first to the ball ahead of their attacker almost every time.

Tilt made some good blocks and scored an important goal.

Ojo has played well recently.

Lang’s ability to run the channels and give us control in their half cannot be underestimated he’s brilliant at it.

Massey and Otabor excellent 1st half, both tired in the 2nd but put shifts in.

Well done to all the staff and Leam over the past 2 games to turn it around, still a long way to go but back in the pack with a shot at staying in L1.

Evans class first game in ages. Massey best player on pitch for me. If he can keep on the up like he is we have a real chance. And LMB wouldn’t you agree that Jones is much improved?

Degsy1 added:

We played well but Lady Luck was on our side tonight as Plymouth hit the woodwork 3 times but it’s about time we got the roll of the dice !

Well done you tics !

Stats courtesy of WhoScored.com

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