QPR v Latics match preview: Joyce braced for ‘another physical battle’

Warren Joyce

Warren Joyce

It feels like there’s hardly time to assess Latics’ last performance before the next test in the unforgiving Championship schedule is upon them.

Saturday’s 0-0 draw with rivals Preston was not without its faults – Joyce himself will admit as much – but where flashes of quality were missing to get Latics over the line, there can be little argument about the general upturn in the mood at the DW Stadium.

They are a tough physical side and they have to be up for the fight again

Warren Joyce

Fourteen points from Wigan’s last eight league games is hardly relegation form, and the feeling of optimism Joyce can lead his club out of the relegation zone and stay in the division is shared among large sections of the support as well as within the squad.

But after a thumping 4-1 at Birmingham last weekend, Joyce is aware tonight’s trip to Loftus Road to face QPR has come at a difficult time.

“They are a tough physical side and they have to be up for the fight again,” Joyce told the Post.

“They’ve had a good result Saturday.

“They’ve signed two forwards before the window closed, and they’ve scored goals at the weekend.”

Six games in front of Wigan in the next four weeks demonstrates the relentless nature of this time of year, and acts as a reminder of how such a tightly-packed table can change shape quickly.

“They’ve come thick and fast,” he said on the games.

“There’s been no respite the last few weeks. They players have had to dust themselves down, get ready and go again.

“But we’ve shown a level of consistency. I’m not a massive one for stats, but the amount of possession we’ve had, we’ve been consistent in everything we do.”

But the most important stat on Saturday was the one left untroubled – the scoreboard – and while Joyce feels some of the results this season have been ‘cruel’, he acknowledges there are aspects of his side’s performances which need polishing to fix the problem.

“We had a lot more shots than Preston on Saturday, a lot more crosses went in the box but there was just that final little bit of quality missing,” he explained. “The final pass, the final shot.

“I think over a long period really the way we’ve played has been good.

“We’ve not picked up as many points as we’ve deserved certainly. During that period there’s been some cruel situations where we’ve lost when we’ve certainly deserved to draw and some times where we possibly should have won games and ended up losing them, so that’s been the real frustrating part for me in my time with Wigan.

“But there’s not been that many poor performances. There’s a consistency now about the group. I think the players are playing in a couple of different styles, adapting quite well. We certainly don’t look like a poor side and certainly the atmosphere around the training ground is not like a side that’s doom and gloom and near the bottom of the league.”

Joyce also has new injury concerns as Shaun MacDonald and Max Power could join Michael Jacobs, who missed Saturday’s draw with Preston with a hamstring injury, on the sidelines.

MacDonald was cleaned out by North End’s Aiden McGeady half an hour into Saturday’s match, and came off in the 85th minute with what the manager described as ‘a niggle’.

“Jacobs is still out and MacDonald came off Saturday with a niggle and Max Power likewise,” he said.

“He was dosed up on antibiotics coming up to the game so you didn’t think he would get through as much of the game as he did.

“That’s a credit to him – to push himself. We’ll have to look at Mecca and see how he is on the day.”

For QPR, tonight’s game gives them a chance to pick up a second win on the bounce for the first time since January, and though unlikely, Ravel Morrison, who trained with Latics earlier in the season could be lining up against Joyce’s men.

“He played 10 minutes against Blackburn and I don’t think he’s even been a sub since so I wouldn’t know,” said Joyce when asked about preparing to face the ex-Manchester United junior. “We’ll just wait and see when the team sheet goes in tomorrow.”

Elsewhere tonight, relegation rivals Burton face a trip to Derby County while Huddersfield host Reading and Brentford travel to Sheffield Wednesday.