Latics guest column - Jake Buxton

Jake Buxton

Jake Buxton

It certainly wasn’t a pretty game at Wolves in midweek.

It was a typical Tuesday night, Championship battle – the middle game from a three-game week – very scrappy, and we had to dig deep.

I thought we played we played the percentages well on the night.

We didn’t mess about with it. We wanted to play in the opposition’s half, which we’d worked on.

We thought that would be the best opportunity, for us to try and sustain pressure, and maybe try and nick one at the end from a set-piece or a chance around the box.

With it being a three-game week, the manager and the staff had actually asked me to stay back for the late corner, and try and rest my legs for Saturday.

He maybe doubted me a little bit, which maybe frustrated me a little bit!

So I went up there, managed to get my head on the ball – which is natural for me, putting my head in where others wouldn’t – it was a great delivery from Max (Power) and it went in.

I’d be lying if I was think too much about placement as the ball came towards me.

All you’re thinking is about making a connection towards the big net.

But it coincides with the mentality we’ve had of late – if you win all your headers at the back, they won’t score; if you win all your headers up front, you might score.

I feel I’ve been good in the air defensively this year, but maybe not as much as I’d wanted to be in terms of scoring goals.

Draws ain’t good enough for us in the position we’re in.

Before Tuesday night, I thought we were probably kidding ourselves slowly, by saying we were managing to stay in every game, even though we were losing by the odd one.

You might as well go for it between now and the end of the season, and see where it gets you.

We’ve got 15 games left – let’s stick two up top, have a right go.

If we take the shackles off, you never know where it might take us.

Prior to Wolves, we’d come from behind in the last couple of games (against Norwich and Fulham), and scored more than one goal in both games, which we’d not done for a long time. On the flip side, we probably conceded more goals in those two games than we had in while, and maybe felt a bit more vulnerable at the back.

It’s finding that balance between shutting up shop and being nice and compact, and trying to score goals at the other end.

I thought we got that balance right at Wolves.

It’s been a little bit cat and mouse in the last few weeks.

You can sometimes get caught between playing two up front and being very open in midfield, and playing just one up front and having the ball coming back at us every five seconds.

We had the opportunity on Tuesday night to go at them, stick two up front, and have a right go.

It would be easy to say it had 0-0 written all over it.

But as long as you’re in the game, you’re fighting, you’re scrapping, every second ball and every header, you’ve got a chance.

If we continue to put balls into the box of that quality, I’d like to think we’ll have somebody to get on the end of it.

We’ve all spoken about the fixtures coming up, and we know what’s expected of us as players.

As a footballer, you all want to play good football, get on the ball and play like the lads did last season on their way to promotion.

But in the position we find ourselves in, we’ve got to be a little bit careful, and not kill ourselves.

If we’re going to get beat, it’s got to be to a good team playing well, not us beating ourselves.

That’s what we’ve done – we’ve got a little bit nastier, a little bit dirtier, got into the faces of the opposition, and that’s the way it’s going to be between now and the end of the season.

We’ve played a lot of good football this season, looking pretty and looking like a good football team, dominating possession – and mostly losing.

That’s happened far too often this season.

We’ve changed the approach since the turn of the year – coinciding with Sam Morsy coming back – and our results picked up.

I thought we maybe came away from that a little bit – in the Manchester United game, and Sheffield Wednesday, going into Norwich.

We started giving the opposition a little bit too much respect, but we showed in the second half against Norwich what we can do when we have a go.

Everything we got on Tuesday night we earned.

There were a lot of cuts and bruises in the dressing room after, but there’s not much better feeling knowing you’ve been in a scrap away from home and you’ve come away with the win.

We just need to keep fighting, and make sure we’re not down and out at any stage.

We’re trying to find a way each game to win, and we need to stay focused on what’s ahead of us.

There’ll be plenty more ups and downs between now and the end of the season, but we’ve got to make sure we stay within touching distance of the teams in and around us.

It’ll be a massive game on Saturday against Preston – we know that.

The fans want to see that – they want to see us fight, seeing us standing toe to toe, and having a right go.

In the position we’re in, I don’t think we can be passing teams off the park.

We have to fight for everything we get and we’ll continue to do that.