Charlie Wyke’s brilliantly taken goal after 44 minutes was a rich reward for a Latics side that had held their own with Sunderland’s intricate close passing and their intimidating crowd. If Wigan could hold on to the 1-0 scoreline it would put them in the top six if other results remained the same.
But Tony Mowbray’s more expensively assembled side were to dominate the second half and the final scoreline was not a surprise, given the pressure they had put Wigan under.
It was a disappointing result but there were positives in today’s display that suggest that Latics are making the transition towards being a team capable of holding its own in the Championship.
Let’s take a look at some talking points:
Latics show composure
The composure shown in the first half was a very good sign. Rather than lump the ball long during periods of opposition pressure Wigan made a real effort to keep possession.
There are critics who will say that the players are not up to playing possession football, being a largely a third tier squad playing in the Championship. However, there are lots of teams in League 1 who refute the long ball approach and like to build up from the back. Last season’s MK Dons side was a shining example of how teams can play effective, attractive possession-based football without having a bloated wage bill.
So often in the Cook/Richardson era we have seen hopeful long balls launched forward from defence in an attempt to relieve pressure. The result has been quite the opposite with possession squandered inviting the opposition to continue their pressure.
The composure in the first half was not matched in the second, but it was nevertheless welcoming to see.
Charlie Wyke shows his mettle in the second tier
So much has been said about Wyke’s courage and resilience in facing serious medical conditions and coming back to play his first season in the second tier of English football. Leam Richardson has wisely eased him into the side, giving the player time to adjust back to playing full time competitive football again.
Wyke is by no means a pacey centre forward and can look ungainly, leading to questions as to whether he can be effective in the Championship. Last season we learned that he can effectively play the traditional target man role and he played a major role in the earlier days.
However, Wyke is much more than a target man. He is intelligent and links up well with his teammates. His brilliant pass to set up Nathan Broadhead’s winner at Birmingham was memorable as was his left footed finish today.
Wyke is now 29 and if he can maintain his fitness and health, he will have the chance to show us all that he has the quality to be a successful central striker in the Championship.
Pushed back in defence?
“I just thought in the second half we possibly played the result a little bit. For 15-20 minutes we were maybe five yards too deep…”
Magennis is not a replacement for Wyke
Josh Magennis is a player who gives 100% for the cause, someone who cannot be criticised for his commitment. Such players will always be appreciated by home crowds who recognise that level of involvement and hope that other players would be as full of effort.
However, Magennis is a striker with a poor scoring ratio in his career. He has scored 4 goals in 28 appearances for Latics.
The pundits will say that Magennis’ signing in January 2022 was a knee-jerk reaction after Richardson lost Charlie Wyke last season. The manager insists on having a target man upfront and he thought that Magennis was the best choice available on his budget.
The big Northern Irishman was released by Hull City after helping them get promoted the previous season. He had his most successful goalscoring season, with 18 goals from 40 appearances in League 1. However, he had scored 2 goals in 19 appearances in the Championship when Richardson signed him.
Magennis is not a natural target man. He can outjump defenders, but so few of those defections result in Latics gaining possession. He plays much better in a front two where he has time to use his pace and crossing ability.
Richardson and substitutions
A delay in making substitutions has always been an issue in the Cook/Richardson era. Both have tended to change things much later than opposition managers.
Richardson was too slow to react to Sunderland’s second half dominance. The home team’s half time change of Diallo for Gooch proved to be the catalyst for their second half dominance. Richardson’s first substitution was Magennis for Wyke after 68 minutes and there was no change in shape. That came when there were just 10 minutes remaining.