Midweek shift to blame for below-par display

Gary Caldwell refused to lay any of the blame for Saturdays draw on stand-in keeper Lee Nicholls
Gary Caldwell refused to lay any of the blame for Saturdays draw on stand-in keeper Lee Nicholls

Gary Caldwell admitted the arduous midweek trip to Millwall had contributed to Wigan Athletic’s below-par display in the 1-1 draw against Peterborough.

Latics dropped two points against struggling Posh - despite taking the lead with 18 minutes remaining thanks to Will Grigg’s 16th goal of the season.

However, Posh - who had been the better side in the first half - deservedly levelled eight minutes later when Marcus Maddison’s long-range free-kick went in off the post.

Despite Latics pushing for the win at the end, to no avail, Caldwell acknowledged they hadn’t deserved to win after their lacklustre opening to the game.

“I thought we finished strongly and we looked fit at the end,” the Latics boss said.

“But at the start we did look a bit flat, and it did take us 20-25 minutes to get going, which is frustrating.

“We did keep going, though, and if any team was going to win it then it would have been us.

“Overall, it was probably a fair result.

“You have to be fair to them, they came and had a go.

“We knew they gamble with the game, leaving players up the pitch, and they always ask you questions on the counter.

“They probably had the best of the first half, but we dominated in the second half and created lots of opportunities.

“We just couldn’t quite kill the game off.”

Despite dropping a couple of points, Latics actually saw the gap between themselves and third spot increase thanks to results elsewhere going their way.

Not that Caldwell was in any mood to celebrate.

“I’m not really bothered what other teams are doing, that doesn’t concern me,” he said.

“This was a game we wanted to win and, in terms of effort and trying to win the game, I can’t ask any more from the players.

“They really gave everything, and just for a bit of quality in the penalty box we would have won the game.”

Wigan’s inability to find top gear could be partly explained by having to make all three substitutions before the start of the second half.

The first of them saw Jussi Jaaskelainen having to be helped off after taking a bang to the head after only 16 minutes.

That meant a first appearance of the campaign off the bench for Lee Nicholls, who was unable to keep out Posh’s late equaliser - a 35-yard free-kick from Maddison.

Caldwell, however, absolved his young goalkeeper of any blame.

“The ball has moved a lot in the air, but I thought Lee was excellent overall,” Caldwell recognised.

“It’s very difficult for a goalkeeper to come in during a game.

“Since he’s come back from his loan, he’s trained with a great attitude and a great focus to be ready for whenever the opportunity came.

“I thought he showed real composure for a young goalkeeper, and real belief in himself that he could do the job.”

Caldwell also hailed the contribution of Grigg, whose goal - his ninth in 10 games - was almost worth another priceless three points.

“Will’s a tremendous player who works extremely hard for the team,” added the gaffer.

“It’s not just the goals he provides for the team - his work-rate and his hold-up play is first class.

“We managed to work a few opportunities for him and he got his goal, and the one at the end where he swivelled in the box was unlucky not to go in as well.

“If we continue to create chances for him, I know he’ll continue to score goals.”