OWEN Coyle admits Jordi Gomez and Roger Espinoza have given him plenty to ponder after impressive cameos against Middlesbrough.
Latics again left it late to rescue a point against Boro, Gomez popping up to drive home an unstoppable free-kick with five minutes remaining which secured a 2-2 draw.
Espinoza had won the free-kick with a lung-busting run through the heart of the Boro defence that was only halted by a cynical challenge from Jonathan Woodgate at the expense of a free-kick and a yellow card.
And on a day when a few players were below their best, Coyle acknowledged the second-half displays by Gomez and Espinoza had given him a welcome selection headache ahead of Saturday’s visit of high-flying Nottingham Forest.
“Jordi Gomez is a wonderful player as is Roger Espinoza, and I’ve said to the players that it will be a fair fight for places at this club this season,” Coyle recognised.
“There would have been an element of frustration for Roger, Jordi and all of the lads who didn’t start the game, but we are trying to build a squad here.
“If you’re asking me whether Jordi and Roger have put themselves in with an outstanding chance of starting the next game, the answer is ‘Absolutely’.
“That’s what you need – players showing that they want to be and they want to make a difference for Wigan Athletic.”
The competition for places in the engine room is the fiercest in the squad, with the likes of James McCarthy, James McArthur, Ben Watson, Chris McCann, Jean Beausejour and James McClean all fighting for starts, as well as Shaun Maloney, who missed Sunday’s game with a foot injury and Callum McManaman, who was serving the second of a three-game suspension.
“Roger in particular would have felt especially unfortunate not to have started a game so far, but I thought he had an incredible impact on the game with his energy and his quality,” Coyle added.
“I certainly felt we looked a far better side for the period he was on the pitch, and that goes for Jordi as well.
“Wherever I’ve been as a manager, I’ve prided myself on having a group of players who have a real desire to do well for their team and their football club.
“We’ll keep going from strength to strength. We’re four games into a 46-game season, so we’re going to keep growing together and getting better.”