GARY Caldwell admits the back-to-back home games against Shrewsbury and Burton represent a massive opportunity for Wigan Athletic to make a real statement of intent in League One.
Latics, unbeaten at the DW Stadium all season, are hoping to add six points to their tally over the next four days, which would cement their position as promotion challengers, ahead of next weekend’s long trip to Southend.
When squads are tested over the coming weeks, I’m hoping ours will stand up to the testGary Caldwell
“It’s a big week,” acknowledged the Latics chief.
“Any time you play three games in a week it’s an important period, because of the amount of league points up for grabs in such a short space of time.
“That starts with Shrewsbury on Saturday, and we have to make sure we get the first one out of the way and three points in the bag before we can look ahead.
“At the moment it’s all about Saturday.
“As a manager and a staff we have to have an eye on the games in the future.
“But as far as the players are concerned, it’s only about Saturday, and putting pressure on the teams above us.
“We’ve looked at the busy Christmas period coming up, and I’d like to think our squad will come to the fore.
“I’d hope we’d be able to deal with that better than most in this league, and I’m hoping that is the catalyst for the rest of the season.
“When squads are tested over the coming weeks, I’m hoping ours will stand up to the test.”
Caldwell is looking for Latics to make their customary flying start to home games and put the Shrews under pressure from the off.
That’s usually paved the way for a comfortable day at the office, although they had to wait until stoppage-time in the recent win over Swindon to make their dominance pay.
“It’s important we start well, as is always the case,” admitted the Scot.
“I say that most weeks - we have to set our stall out from the off and set the tempo.
“The Swindon game was a learning curve for us in that respect.
“Although we started well, you don’t always get the early goal.
“After the initial 15 minutes of good play, there seemed to be a feeling of disappointment within the group that knocked us for a spell.
“Hopefully we’ve learned from that and it will stand us in good stead.
“We want to start well, we want to get that early goal.
“But if it doesn’t come, we need to keep doing what we’re doing and have belief that our patience will pay off in the end.
“Ideally we don’t want to leave it as late as we did in the Swindon game!
“But as long as it comes we’ll be fine.
“We’ve found already this season, especially with Crewe and Swindon, that teams will come here and try and make it as difficult as possible for us.
“Shrewsbury will come with a game-plan, they’ll be honest, they’ll want to cause an upset.
“And we have to be prepared for a very competitive game.”
Caldwell and his squad have been battling the elements this week preparing for today’s game, and the gaffer admits the miserable weather is an added distraction at the moment.
“The players are used to it now, the winter months and the colder weather coming,” he added.
“The pitches are getting a little heavier, and that can sometimes have an effect.
“Near the end of the Rochdale game, one or two of the players were looking tired and I was wondering why.
“Thinking about it, I do think the pitch had something to do with that.
“It’s something the players have to deal with, and something we have to deal with as a staff.”