Caldwell: Off the ball we have to be better in this league

Gary Caldwell

Gary Caldwell

Gary Caldwell insists his Latics aren’t playing like a team struggling for points after Saturday’s draw with Fulham.

The Cottagers were on the back foot for most of the contest at the DW Stadium, but despite plenty of chances, Latics couldn’t find the killer blow to register their second win of the season.

Instead, they had to settle for a point, their first in five games, but Caldwell was still happy after the whistle.

“There are lots of positives,” said the boss.

“It could have been more in terms of winning the game but it’s a start we can build on, keep progressing.

“The performance is there, we now have to turn that into wins.”

Despite the scoreline, Saturday’s match had plenty of moot points as both sides failed to make the most of chances which fell to them, but Caldwell was pleased with the performance which saw his side climb a place on the Championship table, though it didn’t lift them out of the bottom three.

“I think we were the team that looked like winning the game - a very good game,” he said.

“It was two teams playing an open, expansive game, causing each other problems in different areas and it was a surprise the game did finish 0-0.

“I thought it was a good opportunity and the game could have been a different scoreline.

“I’m ery pleased with the performance again.”

The clean sheet, Latics’ first in more than a month, was of particular importance to Caldwell, as he watched what has been practised in training fall into place after disappointing 2-1 losses to Sheffield Wednesday and Norwich City.

“Off the ball I thought we were a lot more aggressive which is something we’ve been working on this week,” he explained.

“The final pass or the final shot just wasn’t there today but I’m very happy with the performance overall.”

Despite failing to make a breakthrough which would have seen his side take all three points on offer, Caldwell insisted he was not tempted to adjust his formation to give Will Grigg a partner up front, and explained his reasoning for replacing the Northern Ireland forward with Adam Le Fondre in the second

half.

“I felt we had real ascendancy in the game,” he said.

“I think WIll didn’t quite have the sharpness and I think Adam would be like for like in that regard.

“I think the wingers were causing you all kinds of problems and to change that would have opened us up the middle.”

Ahead of Friday’s trip

to Preston North End, Caldwell has warned his players need to make further improvements to start picking-up points and climbing the Championship

table.

North End suffered a 5-0 hammering to fifth-placed Brentford, but they remain 19th in the table.

“On the ball we have great movement but off the ball we have to be better in this league if we want to be successful,” said Caldwell, who was handed a further injury worry with Alex Gilbey leaving the action in the first half.

And the boss warned he doesn’t expect anyone currently sidelined to be back fit for at least a few weeks, meaning he will also have to make do with the players he has available for the visit of Wolverhampton Wanderers the following Tuesday night.

“As you see you pick up

injuries, the Championship is a marathon, not a sprint, so you need a full squad,” he

said.

“The boys that are injured are working extremely hard to get back fit so it’s going to be a squad effort this season and everyone has to play their part.”