Warren Joyce has spoken of his concern that the biggest obstacle to Wigan Athletic’s survival bid could be their own playing surface at the DW Stadium.
Tuesday night’s clash against Norwich was the fifth home game Latics have played in the space of 36 days during 2017.
Opposition players and managers have already been quick to voice their disapproval – which started at the beginning of December with Newcastle boss Rafa Benitez.
It’s a situation that will not be improved when Wigan Warriors kick-off the defence of their Super League crown this weekend.
“To be fair, the surface is quite poor here at the minute,” acknowledged Joyce.
“I don’t think it helps playing quick, slick balls through the midfield, and rolling it around. Even Barcelona would struggle at the minute on that surface.
“It is a concern, because we do a lot of work in training on passing the ball and moving it quickly. I’m not making excuses, because it was the same for both sides on Tuesday night.
“But Norwich came with a plan to turn us around, being direct and running and chasing, and winning second balls.
“They’re not trying to play through the lines like we were, and it does make it more difficult when you’re trying to get on the ball, turn, switch, and playing through with one-twos in tight areas.”
It’s certainly not a new problem at the DW, with the playing surface having to be relaid several times in recent years during the football season, in addition to the annual maintenance work during June and July.
The most recent relaying of the pitch came this time last year, as the race for promotion from League One was hotting up, and it remains to be seen whether a repeat procedure is necessary with the stakes just as high if not more so.
When asked whether it was a concern he’d raised at board level, Joyce added: “It is something we’ve talked about in this last two or three weeks.
“We’ve showed against good sides – we showed at Old Trafford only last week – that we can play that way.
“At the end of he day you’ve got to find a formula for winning football matches, and you have to adapt tactically to what the opposition throw at you. This is just another kind of problem.
“If you’re dealing with a tactical problem, you try and solve it. But if you’re looking at (the bad pitch), and wondering about what suits you better, doing things in a different way, you’ve got to adapt again.”
The surface will now have an 11-day break before Latics are next at home, against Preston North End on February 18.
A day later, Warriors – who haven’t played at the DW since September – play their first home game of the year against NRL champions Cronulla Sharks.
Latics then have a further seven Championship home games – during which time the Warriors will play a further eight matches at the DW.