February 1, 2022: Wigan Athletic 1 Oxford United 1
“In the first 15-20 minutes, they shaded it and it was a good goal on their part. After that, I thought we took over the game and the impetus was on us. I thought in the second half, we limited them to certain things around the pitch and the momentum shifted.”
Leam Richardson was certainly right about the momentum shift. Oxford’s superbly worked goal after 23 minutes was the reward for the team that was playing the good football, even if their players can tend to go down easily. It was so different to Wigan’s “hoof and hope” approach. Oxford had controlled the midfield and looked in command.
But the momentum of the game changed when Richardson shuffled his pack around the half hour mark. Max Power was shifted from right back to midfield, with Tom Naylor dropping back in a more defensive role, protecting the centre of defence. The change in shape was to give Latics more midfield control.
Richardson has shown himself to be a wonderful motivator and this team never gives up. They are the fittest team Latics have had for many years and every player will give his all to fight for the cause. However, he can hardly be classed as a flexible, innovative manager. But in this case, he proved us wrong and his reshuffling got so much more out of the players he had on the pitch, the balance of the game switching in Wigan’s favour.
Callum Lang’s expertly taken goal from a superb pass by Max Power in the 35th minute had got Latics level. Although they exerted pressure on Oxford for the remainder of the game the approach remained largely long-ball and creativity at a premium. The stats show that Wigan had 3 shots on target, Oxford one.
Richardson continues to leave out his most skilful and creative player. Thelo Aasgaard can be frustrating at times, particularly when he loses the ball when going for an over-ambitious option. But what a breath of fresh air he could have brought to this game.
With the signing of Jamie McGrath, a natural number 10, Aasgaard’s opportunities appear even more limited for the remainder of the season. Will Keane’s creativity has been missed, not only when he has been out due to injury, but also when being played further forward, more akin to the role of twin striker. The result has been a gap between holding midfield and the attack, with the ball played over the top. At his best, Keane has played a key role in dropping back to receive the ball and help the holding midfielders, in addition to the goals and assists he has supplied going forward.
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:
What’s with this constant hoof and hope sh.te? Only one team in this so far and it isn’t us.
Oxford horrible team who fall over a lot but are good at passing.
NorthernSoul noted the tactical changes:
Changed formation to 4-3-3 Max in the centre. Lang right. Darikwa right back. Power pass immediately goal. Edging closer to 3-4-3.
FrancosLoveChild opined on the visitors’ goal:
Great goal, that’s how football teams should play, deserved for Oxford, hopefully our hoof and hope will somehow get us a result.
He later added:
Think it’s clear we really lack any threat at goal in open play over the course of the game. Thought Naylor was poor and kept giving it away. For all of Lang’s ability his brain is frustrating, so many needless fouls in good positions
I’m really surprised to read that you thought Naylor was poor. First half he wasn’t great but he was the glue holding our shape together second half imho. He was always in the right place at the right time to make the interception and gave a lot of protection in between defence and midfield.
Could have been 3 tonight tonight but not too disappointed with 1 point after the first 25 mins or so.
Hoof ball is when you are continually blasting balls 70 yards for the strikers head despite the fact it’s not working and doing little else. As we did in the first 30 mins.
No one would call the last 60 mins of that game football instead of hoof ball – not because it was the same approach but worked better but because it was a different approach. As you pointed out we mixed it up nicely playing plenty of football that wasn’t attempted in the opening stages.
Kendal Blue summarised:
From 30 minutes on that was a top class performance. Max further forward is a level above. Lang was excellent but his silly little spat ended his threat far too early. I’m not fully convinced that we don’t have better options than Naylor, but that role just in front of the 2 centre backs seemed to suit him perfectly.
They were a really difficult team – they could play and they could sh.thouse. They were like our little brother. In the end a good point but could have had 3 if players could get their foot over a ball on the volley. Even John Pender taught me the importance of getting over the ball!
Edit – Tilt showed why signing him permanently was so important. He knows when he can bring it out and when he should clear his lines better than anyone else we have back there.
Play like we did before the equaliser and we’ll be lucky to make the play offs.
If we continue playing how we did after the equaliser then I’m confident we’ll win enough games to get promoted. It was so much better to watch once we changed system, we were pressing high up the pitch which stopped them playing. We also passed it better ourselves, won every second ball and had more time on the ball when we won it back. There’s still some room for improvement and I struggle to see how Massey keeps getting in the side. Sykes looked terrific for them, he’d have been a great signing.
1st part of the 1st half was Cheltenham all over again (only with more clinical finishing), ***Note to Leam*** hoofball in windy conditions is rubbish to watch & doesn’t work.
After that, we went back to what we know best, and to be truthful, we was unlucky not to win.
Point gained, but we cannot let this become a habit. Sheffield Wednesday next Tuesday Night will be the real acid test of where we’re up to.
It’s definitely 2 points dropped but I’ll happily sacrifice those 2 points if that’s what it takes to see us finally learn that passing football is the way to go for the rest of the season. If the penny finally drops and we start to do that all the time we’ll make those 2 points up over the season by playing better more often.
I really don’t want to give the impression I am against Leam because I’m not. I have nothing but admiration for what he has done in being loyal to the club in the last 18 months, but he doesn’t get everything right as some folk think. People are saying his tactics have worked all season, well yes they did until we lost Charlie, but can anyone say we have played well since Plymouth away the week we lost him.
Leam has continued to play that long ball, but it has failed to work and the fact we have been winning is down to the resilience and brilliance in some cases of the players, and he needs to get his tactics right from the start. We dropped 2 points last night that could be crucial at the day of reckoning and had we started with the formation the way we finished we may well have won.
You are my sunshine summed up:
Oxford mostly controlled that 1st 30 mins. But as soon as Power went in CM, Lang RW, Darikwa RB, McClean LB the team looked so much better balanced. We then started to get a firm grip on the game as a result and mostly dominated thereafter.
We pressed them higher when Max went in the middle and Shinnie moved a bit further up also. This meant they stopped controlling the middle areas of the pitch, as they had less time and space to play and we were able to get on the ball more ourselves. Lang also looked much more dangerous off the right, with Darikwa more comfortable behind him on his natural side which meant we then had a left footer at LB. All of that unsettled Oxford and we looked much more comfortable ourselves ,so we pushed them back for that last hour.
I must say they have some good footballers, but they are also a team of f…ies who like to go down easily to try and buy free kicks and do a lot of moaning at the ref.
After having by far the better of the last hour,I’m frustrated we didn’t get the win,even though I would’ve took a point at 30 mins.So plenty to be positive about from tonight, against a decent side once Leam changed it.
I’d make lots of changes at Stoke on Saturday to keep the lads that played tonight fresh for Sheff Wed. Even with all those changes, we will still have good options within the squad to be very competitive.