12th Man: Latics fans have their say

Wigan Athletic players celebrate Michael Jacobs' goal at Burton in midweek
Wigan Athletic players celebrate Michael Jacobs' goal at Burton in midweek

I think it may have been Sir Alex Ferguson who first coined this awful term, but it is very much ‘squeaky bum time’.

We’re not so much galloping gleefully over the line as crawling on our hands and knees, and we can only be grateful this slippage isn’t being compounded given the equal proportions of jitters in the Burton and Walsall areas.

I’ve got to say, having seen them live twice now, that Burton are no flash in the pan.

Yet there is no secret ingredient to their success.

They are just super-organised and work terrifically hard.

If we can do the same then, in this division at least, nobody should come near us.

It is perhaps symbolic of my own footballing indifference these days that I couldn’t name too many of Burton’s team.

But they all looked like highly-talented players on Tuesday night and, while they didn’t have too many clear-cut chances, they certainly dominated the game for a good hour or so while we struggled.

Just as with the home game, Burton harried and pressed as if their lives depended on it.

They got first to the ball far more often than ourselves, and didn’t tire of doing so.

Why should this be? Surely we should be getting first to the ball, because we have (on paper!) a stronger squad with better players?

If both teams are trying to get first to the ball, then who loses out?

The team who aren’t as fit at the other one, you’d assume, yet fitness needs to be matched by attitude.

Can we put it all down to the Perkins effect?

He’s only one player, but he is a player who sets the tempo and whose attitude rubs off on others

The other factor is how quickly you move the ball, and I thought that - pathetic gamesmanship aside - Burton did that very well too on their narrow pitch.

It will be interesting to see whether there is a limit to their effectiveness if they do go up.

And if we also go up, how our conflicting styles fare in the Championship.

For a team to come up from non-league, and romp through League Two and be at the top of League One for a long while, doesn’t happen by accident.

I’d like to think a lot of it is down to picking the right manager and having that continuity, and Burton have had some crackers over the past few years - from Peschisolido to Clough to Rowett to Hasselbaink to Clough again.

Whereas we, unfortunately, have thrown a Coyle or Mackay in there in the last few years, whose personality - let alone style of play - just seemed totally at odds with the club.

As for ourselves, the slightly patronising - but factually correct - way to put it is to say that if we are unable to beat Southend at home and Blackpool, then we probably don’t deserve to get promoted.

The more tactile way to say it is that these players have worked so hard all year to put us in this position, that it would be sheer madness to blow it now, so hopefully they will have the impetus to finish the job off.

MARTIN TARBUCK

The season is drawing to a close, just the three games remaining and, despite the fact we have both Burton and Walsall breathing down our necks, I feel quite relaxed.

We have just come off the back of two enjoyable away days.

And we may have only picked up one point from a possible six, but the trips themselves were huge fun.

Great little grounds at Doncaster and Burton, hospitable hosts in both cases, and we are still top of the pile with everything in our own hands.

Whatever happens over the course of the next three weeks, this has been a truly memorable campaign though, to be honest, with the Latics realistically needing just one win, or three points from the nine on offer, we are going up.

Burton and Walsall are both away from home on Saturday and have tough-looking games at Colchester and Bradford respectively.

We play Southend, who are a half-decent side but - with Phil Brown making noises about joining Bolton, and their play-off hopes dashed - they are truly in no-man’s land and their season is petering out.

A win for the Latics, with defeats for both our rivals, and that would be that.

Our goal difference being vastly superior is worth an extra point.

And not only will we be promoted, but champions to boot.

It would be great for this to happen in front of our own fans at the DW Stadium, following the calamitous season last time out - especially on the home front.

The game against Southend is also, of course, the battle of the piers.

They have the longest pier in the world, while we must have the shortest.

But, as I have been told all of my life, size doesn’t matter - it is about the quality, and how you use it.

In that department, well, we have no peers.

Up the tics!

BARRY WORTHINGTON

We’ve stuttered in the last two games, but somehow we’re still in a position where nobody has really capitalised on our mistakes.

A sloppy and poor defeat at Doncaster wasn’t a performance I was expecting, given our recent form, and the fact we took the lead through Will Grigg as well.

We simply never got going at the Keepmoat, and thoroughly deserved to lose the game.

And the argument could also be made that we underperformed at the Pirelli on Tuesday night as well.

It was nowhere near the standard of performance that we’ve been used to in recent times, and a few head-scratching decisions from Gary Caldwell such as playing Yanic Wildschut through the middle when he has been superb playing on the wing all season long.

It was, however, great to see Michael Jacobs back in the side and performing so well.

Because of the performances of the likes of Grigg, Max Power and Wildschut in the last few months, it is quickly forgotten how good Jacobs was before his injury at Crewe.

And his added quality only makes us stronger as we head into three big games.

Despite just the one point from two games at Doncaster and Burton, we have moved closer to sealing promotion, which could be all but secured on Saturday.

Barring a huge goal difference swing in the final weeks of the season, a win for us at home to Southend and a defeat for either Burton or Walsall will all but secure a return to the Championship, and would round off a great season.

People on social media have been asking: “Can we stay in this division?” because of the entertainment and performances this season.

But I was quick to say: “No”. We shouldn’t want to stay in League One.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s probably been my most enjoyable season following Wigan.

But I feel the novelty would wear off very quickly if we were not able to get back up into the second tier.

You only need to ask Sheffield United supporters as to their thoughts on this division, and therefore promotion (and hopefully the title to go with it!) would top a near-perfect season for us.

SAM WHYTE

Oh my, the promotion battle is getting rather tense, isn’t it?

Against Southend on Saturday, the entire DW Stadium will be racked with anxiety as that 90th minute mark approaches, and a place in the Football League

Championship potentially at stake for Wigan Athletic.

But you’ll be cooler than Doncaster Rovers during a typical Yorkshire April snowstorm, because you’ll be armed with this handy guide to settling your nerves in the promotion run-in.

Amaze/amuse/confuse your fellow spectators!

Sit backwards in your seat, facing away from the on-field action.

Always remember to get permission from the person directly behind you, as they may be uncomfortable with you staring at their stomach for 90 minutes.

Showing your working out, divide the number of functioning pixels on the DW scoreboard by the number of dead pixels.

But be sure not to miss a significant goal while you’re fumbling for a bingo pen and bus receipt.

Give amusing names to the various pigeons flying across the DW rafters.

Examples: Hugo, Max, Antonio, Jussi, Arjan… but not Homer or Carria.

Unwittingly put on your underpants back-to-front.

Hey, it does work!

When I did that this time last year, Latics won for the first time in six months. Remember that Brighton game?

Watch looped video highlights of the 2013 FA Cup Final on your phone, remembering to jump and cheer whenever Ben Watson scores a last-minute winner. (Don’t worry, it’ll never happen – the notion of Wigan Athletic ever winning the FA Cup is thoroughly absurd.)

Join in with the obligatory ‘oooh’ that follows a near miss.

Then, taking advantage of the stream’s 30-second delay, run down to the concourse and re-watch the incident on television.

Cry ‘oooh’ again, then rush back to your seat and start the next task.

Using your trusty biro, add the names of international footballers to Latics’ squad list at the back of the matchday programme.

Then, confuse your fellow spectators by shouting ‘come on, Ronaldo’ and ‘get moving, Rooney’ whenever Wigan regain possession.

Bring this newspaper and correct all spelling and grammatical errors in this particular article.

Email your findings to gullible@iamasilly.corn with the subject ‘not a real competition’.

…And by the time you’ve finished all that, it ought to be full-time and Latics will have confirmed (virtual) automatic promotion to the Championship!

But only if you’ve done everything right, of course.

DAN FARRIMOND

One point out of a possible six was a shock to the system for a Wigan Athletic side who had won their previous five games, and had looked as though they were steam-rolling their way back to the Championship in recent weeks.

The defeat to Doncaster was disappointing, especially as a win would have all-but confirmed promotion ahead of Tuesday’s match with Burton.

Tuesday saw a reaction from Latics, admittedly only for 35 minutes or so, but after that we struggled against a physical Burton side determined to spoil the game and bring the game to their level.

Other results on Tuesday night went our way, and the positive outcome of the last week is that it’s still in our own hands, and we’re still in the driving seat for promotion.

We now need to get back to winning ways, and Southend at home could be the perfect chance to do that.

Southend looked a good bet to reach the play-offs a couple of months ago, but they’ve tailed off dramatically in recent weeks and, with Phil Brown seemingly ready to leave for Bolton, their season is simply winding down.

We need to get a win on Saturday and, with results elsewhere, that could potentially see us-all but promoted.

David Perkins will be available again, and he’ll be a big plus point as I think we really missed his energy in midfield on Tuesday.

That shows why he should be a shoo-in for player of the season, in my opinion.

I’d also expect Yanic Wildschut to return to the starting line-up after being named on the bench on Tuesday.

It may look as though we’re stumbling over the finish line, but it’s not unusual for clubs to have a late wobble at this time of the season.

We’ve three games left and, if we can get anything close to nine points, we will be promoted.

The lads need to keep their eye on the prize and make sure they can get over the line.

SEAN LIVESEY

It wasn’t the most convincing performance against Burton on Tuesday night, but a resolute Latics still moved a point closer to the League One title.

They maintained a three-point gap over second-placed Burton, and a six-point gap over third placed Walsall.

Latics have an impressive goal difference of +33, which is 15 more than the Saddlers and 17 more than the Brewers, and it could prove to be like an additional point in the title race.

Last Saturday’s defeat at Doncaster was Latics’ first in 21 games, but the other promotion candidates have all been dropping points on a regular basis.

Burton have not won in their last six matches and Walsall have only won three of their last six games.

Both still have some tough fixtures to come, with Walsall still to face play-off contenders Bradford City and Burton must overcome sixth-placed Gillingham.

Next up for Latics are Southend United and it is a fixture they will need to win to maintain the gap at the top.

The Shrimpers are in a poor run of form and have only won once in their last six games.

After briefly toying with the play-off places, they have now slipped to 13th in the table.

Gary Caldwell will be determined for his team to guard against complacency, but Latics will also need to improve on their last two performances.

Defensively they have been vulnerable to set-pieces.

Against Doncaster they conceded two headers from corners, and at Burton another header from a free-kick.

Going forward they have plenty of options, but they must ensure Will Grigg is gven the service that will fire him to the League One Golden Boot.

A return to the starting line-up for flying winger Yanic Wildschut is therefore surely a must.

Latics will be boosted by the return of key midfielder David Perkins after his one-match suspension.

Perkins’ presence will give the team a big lift and he will be determined to make up for his sending off in the rare defeat at Doncaster.

The 33-year-old never stops running and he has been central to the team’s successes.

He has been the most consistent performer this season, and he is the glue that holds the team together.

His terrier-like qualities should help the team to get over the finish line.

IAN ASPINALL