The 12th Man Column: Another week of lost sleep for Latics fans

Warren Joyce
Warren Joyce

Latics received a major setback to their survival chances when they lost at Queens Park Rangers on Tuesday night.

They remain in 22nd spot and are two points behind 21st-placed Bristol City who have one game in hand.

Calls to sack Warren Joyce by some supporters are very premature and are unlikely to have any benefit at this stage in the season. However, Joyce would be wise to consider changes to his tactics and formation as they go into the last 13 games of the season.

QPR was yet another narrow defeat and a change in approach for the upcoming fixtures is now required if they are going to survive. Latics lacked width at Loftus Road and this has been a constant problem since the departure of Yanic Wildschut to Norwich City.

The manager has brought in numerous midfield players but it appears that apart from Gabriel Obertan, who has been used sparingly, they are bereft of the wingers who can get good delivery into the box. Also the departure of Jordi Gomez to Rayo Vallecano has meant they have been without the type of creativity and guile that can unlock opposition defences.

They showed signs of fatigue in the second half at QPR and the recent unrelenting schedule seems to be taking its toll on the players. Joyce now needs to re-assess his squad and make some strategic changes to the line-up if they are to get the wins required.

Omar Bogle is proving to be a handful for opposition defences, but he often lacks support as Latics rarely get more than one or two players in the opposition box. Despite Will Grigg’s recent lack of form I believe he is still the best partner for Bogle. Joyce’s long ball tactics are not doing Grigg any favours as he would prefer the ball to feet or just beyond the last man, but he is playing behind Bogle in a 4-4-1-1 formation. A goal for Grigg would certainly do wonders for his confidence, but both Grigg and Bogle need support in and around the box, if the goals are going to flow.

Joyce does have attacking options and could bring in Gabriel Obertan, Mikael Mandron or Ryan Colclough and attacking midfielder Alex Gilbey is nearing match fitness. Injuries to Michael Jacobs and Shaun MacDonald have not helped the situation and they are likely to be missing for tomorrow’s vital home game against Nottingham Forest. Latics will need to set up to attack Forest and be on the front foot right from the kick off.

They have a chance to narrow the gap against a team who have slipped down to 18th in the table and are just six points ahead of them. Anything less than a win is unthinkable.

Ian Aspinall

Life’s a Pitch

It’s that time of year again. With the Warriors back in action, weather being torrid, and games at large without any rest-bite. The DW pitch is beginning to take a beating, with multiple players and managers often noting in post-match interviews that it is difficult to play on. Wigan have had the same problems for years, and it has often affected our football. Will Grigg in his Wigan Today interview expressed to the fans that we should not expect pretty football, as it is very difficult to play our regular pretty passes.

However, this may sound daft, but this may not be that bad of an issue. A lot of Championship sides love to get the ball down and pass it about, however with our pitch, you cannot do that, which can automatically give us an advantage if we adapt to the field. With direct long balls from the back, it can be very effective, with Omar Bogle showing in early stages that he can shield the ball and protect it well. Teams who want to play football will struggle, as we’ve actually recently seen against Norwich and Preston.

Pitches for me, play a big part in football. Burton, for an example, win most of the home games(bar us!) due to their adaption of their own pitch, as due to it being very narrow, teams find it difficult to play on. If we are able to get used the DW playing surface, we should gain an advantage as teams won’t like visiting the us.

Wigan lost mid-week to QPR, which was really a game we needed to gain points from, however it is what it is, and Loftus Road is always a bogey venue for us as we never win there. Fans went into meltdown mode after the defeat, but although we are five points adrift, we are far from down and out, especially with teams around us starting to play against each other, and that we’ve got to play teams around us.

We have got to win against Forest, we’ve shown we can in our 2-0 win in the FA Cup, so why can’t we get another positive result? We need to all play our active role as the 12th Man on Saturday, and back the lads for the 90 minutes as they need our support more than ever. Fingers crossed it is a good weekend of football for the Latics.

Jay Whittle

More Wigan Athletic fake news headlines

“Morsy’s magical sweatband stolen and held to ransom for seven copies of 2013 FA Cup Final DVD and a Man United-Wigan half and half scarf.” – The Beano Annual 1976

“Sharpe to name new £7million gourmet pastry restaurant ‘The Galloping Ostrich’ in honour of Yanic Wildschut.” – Oh The Pastybilities Pastry News

“Max Power changes name back to Homer Simpson by deed poll.” – Springfield Times

“DW Stadium to be renamed ‘Mint Ball Park’, Whelan statue to be replaced with one of Uncle Joe.” – Stale Stereotype Morning Post

“Wigan Athletic accepted into Gibraltar domestic league at twelfth attempt.” – Ceefakes teletext service

“Trouser Liberation Front gatecrash ribbon cutting at new Owen Coyle glucose drink shop.” – Iron Drew, big time Internet weblogger

“Wigan’s Euxton training ground bans legwear shorter than 80cm.” – Shortstuff Monthly

“Wigan v Preston FA Cup Final replay scheduled for 25 February.” – Preston Morning Star

“Hacker T Dog announced as expert commentator for Wigan v Nottingham Forest.” – Sign in pet shop window, Scholes

“Wigan Post 12th Man column to be replaced with 35 part guide to making your own cheese.“ – Not the Wigan Post

“Sanmi Odelusi named League Two Player of the Decade, trophy retired in his honour.” – Scrawl on inside of Blackpool Pier toilet cubicle

“Warren Joyce crowned King of All Wigan in lavish ceremony at Higher Ince Leisure Centre.” – All Gone Latics Fanzine

Where’s Wally-style bonus activity: one of the above headlines is actually genuine. Scribble your answer on a napkin and send it to: Your Small Time Internet Weblogger c/o 12th Man Editor. First prize: Warren Joyce replica crown. Second prize: Sam Morsy’s sweatband. Third prize: a copy of this article.

Dan Farrimond

No more excuses

I think we’ve shown that we are good enough to stay in the Championship, but now it’s time to turn those good performances into wins and stop relying on everybody else.

We’re lucky that Bristol City failed to beat Fulham in their game in hand at Ashton Gate on Wednesday night.

The gap to safety could have been five points, yet it’s still only two.

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve said this over the course of the campaign – this weekend is massive.

We host an extremely vulnerable Nottingham Forest side at the DW Stadium, while Bristol travel to league leaders Newcastle United.

Warren Joyce and the players must take inspiration from our 2-0 home win over Forest in the FA Cup first round because we beat them comfortably that day.

Also, that victory in the cup sparked our best run of form this season, as we went on to beat Burton away and Brentford at home in the space of two weeks.

We’ve had enough luck and plenty of favours so far this term and now is the time to take responsibility.

You should never say never, however, I believe it’s very likely that Lee Johnson’s City side could feel the wrath of the Toon come Saturday afternoon.

Rafa Benitez wants to show that his side mean business when it comes to achieving promotion to the Premier League.

That means we HAVE to beat Forest because we have a huge chance to leapfrog our relegation rivals from the West Country.

If all goes to plan, then we could see Wigan one point above the drop zone, although we shouldn’t be happy with just being a solitary point clear.

Instead we should look to kick on and pull further clear of the bottom three because we are certainly good enough to do so.

Kieran Makin

Which direction?

I’m never short for words but trying to insert the right ones is proving increasingly difficult. There’s something about being a Wigan Athletic fan which induces personality disorders.

You’d perhaps have to go all the way back to the Paul Jewell era to find a period whereby we could say with any sort of certainty the direction we were heading. Maybe the second half of last season too, though that seems to have been swiftly re-written by those seeking to scapegoat a certain Scotsman for our current predicament. There’s no point dwelling on the last two games, they’re done: One point from six has been lodged. There will be twists to come but that gap is only getting bigger and we need to find consecutive wins to have any sort of good chance of staying up.

Playing as we did last time we met Forest in the cup this weekend would represent a good start. However, I don’t expect them to be the same sort of pushover they were six weeks ago. Beating Forest and Blackburn will put us in a strong position on two obvious fronts. Losing to them both and things start to look fairly terminal.

I see players that are trying, and losing is hurting them but I don’t see a lot of structure in our play attempting to win games, and that is what we need more so than ever. It is as simple as that.

Maybe not though. If scoring lots of goals and keeping clean sheets was easy, then everyone would be doing it, so I don’t want to be too harsh on Warren Joyce. Yet we are running out of time for him to find that magic formula that will move us up the league.

If anything, what is being served up seems even more disjointed and shambolic, both tactically and formation wise. Forwards are isolated, we are playing without natural wide men and one out of every three passes (on the rare occasion we do have control of the ball) are going astray. This is not a formula for success.

I’m no possession snob (it’s soooo 2013) but if we were playing effective long ball, I don’t think there’d be too many grumbles if we were winning games. But I am struggling to pin down any sort of style, the Warren Joyce “brand” so to speak, and he has been here nearly four months now.

We hear about what a fantastic coach he is but it is simply not translating to the way we play on the pitch. It was always going to be a tough gig but if the whole reason of appointing him was to get us to stay up, then the plan is as far off track as it has been all season.

Even so, if we can just go back to whatever it was that enabled us to beat Forest, Burton and Brentford in January then we will have a great chance of staying up.

The waters are as muddied as ever. We’re doomed! We’re not! We’re doomed! We’re not! [repeat to fade]

Martin Tarbuck

Just not enough

What did I say about a rollercoaster last week?

If we were on an upward incline last week we’re definitely back on that downward trend this week. It doesn’t feel terminal just yet but make no mistake the failure in taking only one point from the last two games makes the fight against relegation a lot more difficult.

Where to begin? The Preston game was very similar to the return match at Deepdale in September where it felt like one goal could win it. As it was an inspired double save from Matt Gilks in the first half kept us in it.

Once again both Omar Bogle and Will Grigg started together but without any real understanding between the two. Both worked their socks off but looked so isolated up front. Indeed Bogle should have had his own penalty later in the first half after giving away the penalty to Preston. It could have been a different story if we had been awarded that.

In the end a point was probably a fair result against a side with play-off aspirations. Failing to win at home again put even more pressure on the side ahead of the QPR trip, making that a must win match in a season of must wins.

Warren Joyce’s side got off to the worst possible start, being a goal down within five minutes and although Bogle was rightly awarded a penalty on Tuesday, in the end it wasn’t enough to get us anything from Loftus Road. Once again our inability to take our chances and capitalise when we’re on top for long periods came back to haunt us.

We leave the capital once again without a win in London

since that glorious day at Wembley – nearly four years ago now.

Tuesday’s defeat isn’t yet the killer blow but we’re getting to the point where we really need to string a run of wins together. There’s also a feeling that we need to start taking the game to sides more.

With no Michael Jacobs in the side , not a natural winger himself, the team feels narrower than ever. Four central midfielders who all do a similar job don’t make much in the way of creativity and without that creativity we’re not going to score the goals we desperately need to survive.

Ryan Colclough came back from a decent loan spell at MK Dons and after impressing last season but hasn’t been seen since the turn of the year. If he isn’t injured I would be concerned as to why he hasn’t had any sort of impact on the squad yet. Especially now the only other winger in the side has gone to Norwich. Maybe after a couple of substitute appearancss Gabriel Obertan will be ready to face Norwich.

We certainly need something to freshen the side up because this season is only going to have one outcome it we carry on in a similar vein.

Warren Joyce has made us difficult to beat, if we can add goals to that over the next few weeks we’ll be fine. But that’s easier said than done isn’t it?

Sean Livesey

Give it a go!

Following our little run of form where we gained 11 points from a possible 21, the defeat at QPR on Tuesday somehow feels like a kick in the proverbials. Maybe it is because it was coupled with just one point from the Preston game, a win in either of those would have seen us out of the bottom three.

There perhaps is the crux of my feeling of disappointment, an opportunity to get out of the bottom three slips by once again, it is quite deflating.

The Preston game, though lacking in any real quality, I felt was great entertainment. End to end stuff and played with players committed to the cause, we just didn’t get the breaks or the decisions from the ref. I felt we had strong cases on two occasions for penalties, both Bogle and Grigg cleaned out in the box.

Another defensive performance on Tuesday at Loftus Road had us leaving with the inevitable, why are we afraid to have a go?

Time is running out at a rapid rate of knots, the final few games of the season are enough to make any Latics fan lose sleep. We need wins and we need them now if we are to have a realistic chance to avoid the drop.

The next five games, Forest, Blackburn, Birmingham, Bristol City and Villa will determine our fate. Come on Warren let’s give it a go and have no regrets come May. Much better to go down fighting than to go down with a whimper, you just never know we might actually grab a few wins.

Up the tics!

Barry Worthington