ALI Al Habsi feels Wigan Athletic are entitled to pat themselves on the back after coming through a gruelling festive period.
Latics’ extended their unbeaten domestic run under Uwe Rosler at the weekend with a 3-3 draw with the MK Dons in the FA Cup – their fifth game in 15 days.
They now have the luxury of no midweek game for the first time since mid-November, and the rare opportunity to recuperate weary bodies and get a good week’s preparation for Saturday’s visit of Bournemouth.
“Having a few days ‘off’ will be great because it hasn’t been easy for us recently,” Al Habsi told the Evening Post.
“The games have been coming thick and fast, and we have picked up a few injuries because of the workload.
“To have a full week together on the training ground to recover and prepare will be fantastic, and hopefully we can make it pay.”
Al Habsi has played in each of those last five matches after a seven-month lay-off following shoulder surgery, in the absence of the injured Scott Carson.
The Oman No.1 has quickly settled back into the fold, with three clean sheets and an important penalty save against the Dons that helped keep the holders in the FA Cup. “I’m happy with the way things are going,” acknowledged Al Habsi. “It was never going to be easy to come back but it’s going well so far.
“I enjoyed the penalty save on Saturday. I enjoy the psychological side of the situation.
“I have to say thanks to the staff who do the research, who give me an idea where the ball might go. But sometimes it boils down to reading the penalty taker on the day.
“I felt good before he took it, I went the right way and it was a good height for me.”
Latics face a tricky third-round replay at Milton Keynes next week if they are to stay on the Wembley trail.
But Al Habsi is just happy to still be in the competition, and points to last season’s run – when they needed a replay to overcome League One Bournemouth at the first hurdle – for proof that Latics never do things the easy way.
“It is similar to the start we had in the FA Cup last year,” added Al Habsi.
“We had chances to make the game safe but that’s what the FA Cup is all about – it is never easy no matter who you play against.
“They have come here to prove they are as good as us and should be playing at a higher level, and that makes it difficult for us. We’ll have to show our character to go there and get a result, and I’m confident we can do that.”