Al Habsi’s message to troops

Ali Al Habsi
Ali Al Habsi

ALI Al Habsi has called on Wigan Athletic to dig themselves out of their present slump – starting at Aston Villa.

Latics extended their winless sequence to six matches with a narrow 2-1 defeat at Everton on Boxing Day, Arouna Kone’s late goal not enough to rescue a point for the visitors.

The result leaves Latics in the bottom three ahead of tomorrow’s (Saturday) trip to Villa Park, with 15 points from their 19 matches played.

Latics then welcome in 2013 with the visit of Manchester United, before the FA Cup gets underway the following weekend.

Despite a run of only one win in the last nine matches, Al Habsi is refusing to get too downbeat.

“The games are coming thick and fast, and things are always difficult at this time of year because of the demands on the players,” Al Habsi told the Evening Post.

“After Aston Villa it is Manchester United the following week, so it doesn’t get any easier, but we have to fight and we all know that.

“We are starting to get players back from injury which will help, and I’m convinced we’ll get there.

“It’s another big game at Villa and we have to dig a little deeper to turn things around.

“We all still believe we are a good enough team – things are just not going our way just now.

“We’ll be back.”

Latics are no strangers to having to fight their way out of trouble, having established a reputation as being past masters of timing their safety charge in the second half of the campaign to perfection.

However, the Oman No.1 doesn’t believe things are anywhere near as bad as the league table would suggest.

“We are in the bottom three but we are not in nearly as bad a position as bad as last year,” he insisted.

“We have not been cut adrift, and we know that one win takes us out of the bottom three.

“That is a big incentive for us going into the weekend and we aim to make that count.”

Latics will certainly be hoping their luck changes in time for the trip to the Midlands, having been on the receiving end of some rotten luck of late. In their opening clash of the festive period, Latics lost 1-0 to Arsenal thanks to a hotly-disputed penalty by Mikel Arteta, with the home side having two decent shouts for a spot-kick of their own in the closing stages turned down.

Then, at Everton on Boxing Day, the Toffees’ opening goal by Leon Osman came via a wicked deflection off skipper Gary Caldwell that left Al Habsi with no chance of keeping it out.

At the other end, Latics were denied what would have been an equaliser when Shaun Maloney was fouled in the area by Osman only for referee Lee Mason to wave play on.

“I thought we played well in the first half and were unlucky with the way they scored their first goal,” Al Habsi added.

“That made a big difference to the game – it changed the whole context of the game.

“The ball was coming straight to me and then it took a big deflection off Gary and that sums up the way it’s going at the moment.

“To make matters worse we should have had a penalty, when Shaun was fouled. I don’t know why the referee didn’t give it to us, and we had too much to do when they scored their second goal.”