Latics go down with spirit, but do they need more shooting practice?

Pre-match shooting practice in progress for Latics at the Madejski Stadium.

It was their best performance for weeks. Latics had looked the better team for the majority of the game against a side destined for the playoffs. For once Wigan Athletic had pushed players forward, making a genuine effort to get a goal after falling behind after another  “sloppy” goal  had gifted Reading the lead after just five minutes. But it was just not to be. Despite the spirited rally from the away side no goals would come.

The Madejski Stadium is a fine venue situated on the outskirts of the town, surrounded by futuristic industrial and high tech estates and park areas. The view from the away supporters was as good as any that one would normally get, made even better by the wide choice of seating available. It was no surprise that Latics fans had not arrived in numbers. We all knew that a win for either Birmingham or Blackburn would seal relegation even in the unlikely event that Latics were to beat Reading.

The pre-match entertainment at our end was to become a harbinger of doom. A portable goal had been put up to our right of the actual goalposts. Wigan Athletic’s attacking players were to come along, one at a time, to see if they could beat the keeper. Sadly the keeper was hardly troubled, so many shots being wayward or miscued. Only Max Power seemed to be able to hit the ball properly, but since he has not hit the back of the net all season in league football, it hardly filled us with hope. If the quality of finishing in the warm-up were to be translated into the match itself we would be lucky to see any goals from our side. Sadly that proved to be the case.

Graham Barrow had once again fielded a lineup with four central midfielders. Gabriel Obertan and Sam Morsy were not even on the bench, but Nick Powell started at centre forward.

Yann Kermorgant had outjumped a Latics defender to head home after just 5 minutes, then 12 minutes later Shaun MacDonald was badly injured following a tackle by George Evans, who might have been lucky to escape with a yellow card. The game was held up for some ten minutes before MacDonald was stretchered off with a double leg fracture. Barrow brought on another central midfielder, Max Power, as substitute.

Given the circumstances Latics could easily have crumbled, but much to their credit they took the game to the home side, with Powell looking lively. The best move of the match came in the 35th minute. It involved Ryan Tunnicliffe running down the left wing with genuine pace before curling the ball to Powell using the outside of his right foot. Powell did well to get in a diving header that Ali Al-Habsi saved. It was a pleasure to see such dynamism after a season of pedestrian football.

Reece Burke was the next to leave the field injured just before half time, with Callum Connolly the replacement.

The second half began with Barrow already having used two substitutes and with Powell a near certainty to come off at some point. The caretaker manager’s hands were tied to a large degree. Nevertheless Latics continued to press, showing a fluidity that we have not seen for some time. For once the centre forward had some support as players pushed forward. Dan Burn made numerous forays into the Reading half, looking full of enthusiasm and drive. There was much more of that evident in David Perkins too, albeit near the end of a difficult season for him.

Powell was to go close several times as he caused the home defence problems, but neither he nor his teammates could put the ball in the back of the Reading net. He was replaced by Omar Bogle on 79 minutes, but to no avail.

The stats show Latics having 20 goal attempts, with 3 on target. Reading had 10 attempts, with 2 on target. For once there had been enough running off the ball, creating opportunities on goal. Sadly, just as in the pre-match shooting practice, the precision finish was lacking.

After the game Graham Barrow commented that: “The lads have been great for me but clearly it hasn’t been enough to keep us up. There are things we’ll have to look at internally, which haven’t been right, and that’s fact. We are where we are, the table tells no lies.”

Jonathan Jackson not surprisingly told us after the match that there will be “some” changes in the squad, but also added that “we want to keep the core there”. When asked about the appointment of a new manager he told us “we know the type of manager we are looking for”.

We can only speculate whether Graham Barrow might be the type of manager that Jackson and David Sharpe seek. He certainly deserves credit for a fine display yesterday at Reading, despite the adverse result.

Despite Jackson’s possible understatement of “some changes” we can expect another major clear out of players over the coming weeks. The aim will be to build a new squad not only capable of getting the club out of League 1, but one which has enough depth to cope in the Championship.

The question to be asked is how much funding will the Whelan family be willing to put in to make it possible?

 

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Latics fans react to QPR defeat on social media

The 2-1 defeat at QPR was indeed a bitter pill for Wigan Athletic fans to swallow. The loss puts them even deeper into the relegation mire. Latics were in a similar position just two years ago under Malky Mackay, when they were unable to raise their level sufficiently to avoid the drop. Can Warren Joyce stop history repeating?

In fact the stats show a startling similarity. After 33 games Latics have just 26 points, just one more than they had in 2014-15 at the same stage. Moreover the stats for the last 6 matches – W1 D1 L4 – are identical.

Once again Joyce fielded a cautious lineup, with central midfielders Max Power and Ryan Tunnicliffe in wide midfield. But this this time he was lacking Shaun MacDonald, who plays a key role in front of the back four. Jamie Hanson took his place.

After the match Joyce commented: “Every game is a cup final and that’s the way we have got to approach it; we have put little runs together with wins and draws but not built on it and enjoyed a good run for a more sustained period. It’s a long journey back now, and we have to make sure we look after the players tomorrow because it’s been a busy period of games and then we’ll prepare for the next cup final against Forest on Saturday. It’s disappointing, we dust ourselves down and go again, there were a lot of good aspects of the performance and that’s what’s so frustrating.”

Of the 14 players signed in January, three made the starting lineup. Wide players Andy Kellett,  Gabriel Obertan and James Weir were on the bench, although Obertan came on for Will Grigg after 72 minutes. Striker Mikael Mandron, plucked from non-league Eastleigh Town, came on for his debut after 80 minutes. However, having three strikers on the field does not necessarily provide more goal threat with a dearth of creativity from the midfield.

Blackburn Rovers have parted ways with Owen Coyle in an attempt to stave off relegation. They are one point behind Wigan with two games in hand. In hindsight one of the mistakes David Sharpe made in his early days as chairman was to prolong the reign of the hapless Mackay until it was virtually too late to avoid a place in the bottom three. However, given that Joyce has a three and a half year contract, which would be costly to pay off, it is unlikely that he will be dismissed.

We took a look at the social media following yesterday’s match and came up with a wide range of views. Our thanks go to the Cockney Latic Forum, 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:

qprvital

Vancouverlatic on Latics Speyk commented:

We’ve been in worse positions than this under the con man Martinez and scraped through. No reason we can’t do it again. The vitriolic rubbish on here about Joyce is mind boggling, We were always going to struggle this Season with no money, why the surprise ? We’re not relegated yet, not even close, so start being a fan, stop moaning and start supporting.

Phil Crompton @ptc23 tweeted:

Loan players and narrow defeats. So like last relegation season. Almost inclined to give up all hope now. Very early but…#wafc

Loudmouth Blue on Latics Speyk commented:

Can the person monitoring the fans websites on behalf of the club take a flaming look at that and please pass it on to Sharp / Whelan / Jackson, and please, please tell us how you came to the decision to employ Joyce, how did he come onto your Radar and what redeeming qualities do you see in him.

What the above doesn’t show is the scabby wins where we were outplayed, or the negative non possession crap we endure most games.

qprplayerpositioosm DonnysPage on the Cockney Latic Forum said:

The signings we made in January certainly look like signings for league one. Quite a few young promising players and unfit loan players who won’t be here anyway. Sam Morsy and Power will be sold and Grigg will be back to twenty goals a season.

 Jeffs right on Latics Speyk envisages a return to League 1:

Hopefully we can bounce back and win league one next season and Whelan/ Sharpe and co learn from the mistakes from 14/15 and 16/17 we may make a go of the Championship in 18/19.
Austerity austerity austerity and go sideways and backwards. I wouldn’t bank on it though and if it comes down to investing again we may find ourselves down for a number of years.  Get shut of Wildshut and replace him with nothing. Suicide!!!! Especially when we were so shit anyway.

Filmoss on the Cockney Latic Forum is not hopeful:

I might be more positive if the manager is! Too cautious and I honestly can’t really see any run of results coming our way anytime soon! The stat of just 1 home win in nigh on 5 months doesn’t bode too well either! The signings reek of League One preparation as well !

livesesy TH10 on Latics Speyk mentioned a lack of quality and ambition:

Just not good enough, we have one player who carries an attacking threat. The rest work hard but lack quality and ambition. I don’t think playing with 4 central midfielders is helping, we have absolutely no width at all. Grigg is completely ineffective and I’m not sure he even knows what position he’s actually playing in.

It’s up there with the least entertaining Latics team I’ve ever seen, not enjoyable to watch at all. I think it’ll be a miracle if we stay up.

Grim Reaper on Latics Speyk added:

This Clown needs to stop packing the midfield with full of defensive minded central midfielders, tonight yet again there was no width or attack minded players in there. The only times we see a positive attack minded team is when we are behind and chasing games.

Jimmyc  on the Cockney Latic Forum advocated a need for stability:

I’m not so sure changing the manager will turn things around Mr B. The buck stops with the manager of course but for me we are a very naive club.You need stability, and that is something we haven’t had for 3 or 4 years now. Look at the last two transfer windows both seem to have unsettled us. We had a mini good run early Jan winning 3 on the spin, and beginning to look like a good team. then came transfer deadline day, and we’ve been poor since, and now look like a relegation side! Stick with him, and hope the club be more prudent in future transfer windows.

Adgjlzcbm on Latics Speyk gave his impressions of the game:

Was at the game. Our players clearly showed they do not know each other at the end. Tunniclife had some bad turns but he was generally good. Power & Conolly were both skinned by Lualua who was MOM. Lots of head tennis from us. Burn our MOM again. Grigg seemed to be tasked to win balls for Bogle. MacDonald thoroughly missed. Morsy most creative midfielder early on but looked tired at the end. Their keeper made more saves than Gilks. Our manager should have done more homework on our opposition.

NuneatonLatic on the Cockney Latic Forum looked at mistakes made this season:

The way I see it is the whole season has been a catalogue of needless errors. Too many changes made close season and Caldwell rightly paid the price. Joyce has a job to steady it and indeed has done to the fact that nobody gives us a beating. We always lose by the odd goal and that is the managers fault. His sole emphasis seems to be on flooding midfield to stifle the opposition. He is totally unable to get the balance between midfield and attack. If we had scored just 6 more goals losses would have been draws and draws victories. Grigg is coming in for some terrible criticism but the lad has seen countless changes behind him and its understandable why he is struggling. The way Joyce sets up I doubt that it matters how many strikers we use until he finds the right mix. Frustrating thing is we are not far off at all we just need to be more adventurous.

Stewart Hart @No1fan tweeted:

Whatever happens @David Sharpe91 has to ensure we don’t have another summer of change. Have to give Joyce a chance with his own squad.

The Egg on the Cockney Latic Forum added:

Obviously I think most of us on here would support the club regardless of the division we are in and in most cases have done just that. What is infuriating me at the moment is that we seem to be accepting that relegation is going to happen.

Of course in January we had to look at both the possibility of surviving and also going down which is why Yanic had to go for the price he did as we wouldn’t get anywhere near that if we went down and HAD to sell, but the signings we made all seemed to me to be in preperation for League One. Young lads with an exciting future. I’m sorry but that isn’t going to get us out the mire. We needed to sign someone who has battled before and knows what it takes to survive a relegation battle. I think we needed that in the Manager’s chair as well.

The substitutions on Saturday were the final straw for me, obviously I hope we get out this mess but I just cannot see it and it looks like another re-building phase only this time we won’t have parachute payments to rely on.

King_dezeeuw06 on Latics Speyk gave his overview:

What u want me to say about Joyce? Be super negative and procliam we are going down even though we have a quarter of the season left? Say we have a team full of creativity and goals that is just being mismanaged when we dont? Pretend we haven’t deserved more points than we have got lately? Pretend he wasnt kicked in the balls by our best player f—ing off on deadline day and having a lack of budget to recruit quality? Shout we should sack a manager who clearly isn’t going anywhere and replace him with Rowett, Pearson, Redknapp or any other unrealistic and unaffordable option? Pretend the players missing clear cut chances to win games isn’t our biggesr failing right now?

If this was early season or we hadn’t already changed manager or we had the budget to get someone much better in id probably be more critical. But we were up s— creek with no money to attract top bosses or players before Joyce arrived and we are still in that position. The reason we hired him out of left field and took a gamble was due to lack of affordable decent alternatives – Steve Evans was then and prob still id one of the better realistic managers we could get if we wanted a new boss and that appointment would’ve gone down worse than Joyce’s.

Has Joyce got it all right or do i agree with everything he does? Nope. Its a results business and although our form is better since the turn of the year we aren’t getting the results we hoped overall. I’ve already said it like everyone else has i think Joyce needs to be braver with his selectlins, tactics and subs – we are too negative and he deserves critasism for being too cautious. Id have loved us to be aggressive and ambitious in our last few games and hope we are moving forward. But despite us dropping points we aren’t adrift and we arent doomed yet, its a horrible result tonight, we are all hurting but we are still only 2 points behind 4th bottom so im not going to write us off yet.

Teams (including us) in years gone by have survived facing much worse odds than we face now. People had us dead and buried a few times this season after bad results and we clawed our way back into the pack so why cant we do it again? I’m not kidding myself I’m as worried as anyone else that we won’t do it, but the day Joyce walked in we all knew it was going to be tough and i bet we’d all have said keep us up, even if its by the skin of our teeth and we’ll be happy this year. That is still possible even if it’s looking like it will be at best a close call but he hasn’t failed yet.

We know Joyce is here until summer at the very least, an alternative boss isn’t going to happen, new players arent able to come – what we have now may not be enough but it’s all we’re getting. So as frustrated as we all are we’ve got 2 choices now moan, give up and call for a sacking that isn’t coming or try and keep positive, support and hope for the best.

 Tremendous on Latics Speyk thought that:

 I’d like someone to justify how they think there has been some sort of improvement since the managerial change. There seems to be several who thinks that there has been.

On top of these stats quoted here, is anyone aware that the ‘much improved’ defensive organisation has changed the defensive record from conceding 16 in 14 games to conceding 24 in 18. We have only kept 5 clean sheets in those 18 games having kept 4 in the first 14 (with a rubbish goalkeeper in those first 14, apparently).  It kind of looks worse now to me. At the other end of the pitch, the major problem would appear to be worse now as well.  We failed to score in 6 of the first 14 games and have failed to score 9 times from the last 18 games, 6 (SIX) of those at home! So it seems we are scoring less frequently and conceding more often. Why did all 5 of Griggs league goals come in the first 14 games, and he has failed to score since?

On top of all this we have become hardly worth watching, this brand of football, promised to be the Wigan way by the Chairman at the time of the managerial change. I have never seen football like this in all my time watching Wigan.

Please someone explain why they think it has improved.

He also added:

Whichever way you dress it up it does appear that the appointment of Joyce is proving to be a failure thus far! He has had enough games to turn it around yet we are still in the bottom 3 and a few points adrift at that! Too late to sack him and so he will more than likely stay and hopefully navigate us out of League One! He’ll have to be a bit more positive with his tactics mind!
qprlast

 

 

 

 

 

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A Fulham fan’s view of Ryan Tunnicliffe

 

Last week Ryan Tunnicliffe was signed on loan from Fulham until the end of the season, when his contract expires. He made an appearance off the bench after 76 minutes in the win against Brentford on Saturday. The 24 year old had a previous loan spell at Wigan under Uwe Rosler which was terminated prematurely.

On signing Tunnicliffe, Warren Joyce said: “Ryan has got a terrific attitude first and foremost. He has been educated through the United Academy and he is a player I always thought would do well.  He has built up considerable experience now in this division and we are confident he can be a really positive influence to the group in the immediate future.”

Tunnicliffe reciprocated by saying that he was delighted to work under Joyce again.

The question is: can the manager get the best out of a player who promised so much under his charge at Manchester United, but whose career seems to have lost its way since then?

Ryan Tunnicliffe was born in Heywood, part of the metropolitan borough of Rochdale. He made rapid progress through the Manchester United Academy, signing professional forms as a 17 year old in December 2009. He went on to win the Jimmy Murphy Young Player of the Year Award in the side that won the FA Youth Cup in 2011, ahead of Paul Pogba, Jesse Lingard and Ravel Morrison.

Tunnicliffe spent the first half of the 2011-12 season at Peterborough, where he made 27 apperances. On his return to Old Trafford he was a regular in Joyce’s reserve side that won two trophies. Tunnicliffe made his senior debut in a League Cup game against Newcastle in  September 2012. He went on a month’s loan to Barnsley in February 2012, followed by a six month loan at Ipswich in the first half of the 2013-14 season.

Ex-Manchester United coach Rene Meulensteen signed Tunnicliffe for Fulham in January 2014. He was a regular in the lineup until Felix Magath replaced the Dutchman. After falling out of favour he was sent on loan to Latics in February 2014. In summer 2014 he was sent on a season long loan at Blackburn, but Fulham recalled him in January 2015. He had made 10  starts for Rovers, with 7 appearances as a substitute.

In order to learn more about Tunnicliffe’s time at Fulham we reached out to Peter Grinham on Facebook. Peter previously wrote a fan view for us on Dan Burn.

Here’s over to Peter:

Rene Meulenstein brought him to Fulham after working with him at Man U where, I believe, he was their U21 skipper. He was well thought of at Man U at that time but his career at Fulham has faltered, not initially helped by then manager Felix Magath who was a destructive influence to ALL.

Ryan has never really got going at our club and doesn’t really fit the current Fulham playing style which is pass and go, dribbling past players if need be. He has a lot of energy and is a fully committed player with a decent engine. He has played everywhere across the middle of the park for us but I am really not sure of his best position. He likes a tackle and has a really committed attitude to his game.

When playing as an over age player for the U23s this season, he has simply got on with it, fighting for a 1st team place – where others out of the team appeared to sulk. Sometimes he can go AWOL during a game; I’m not sure if it is a concentration problem or just catching his breath after some powerful committed runs.