The 12th Man: Latics fans reflect on a Wolves win and prepare for derby day against PNE

Stephen Warnock

Stephen Warnock

Well, Tuesday night was a turn-up for the books?

Or a turn-up for the BUX if you prefer (you can use that next time he scores, Mr Kendrick)!

I have perhaps been guilty of lacking a bit of faith in performances away from home.

It’s been evident all season we struggle to go to big grounds, especially on wintry midweek nights, and carry out our plan of either dominating the play (Caldwell) or contain and counter (Joyce).

I’ve just felt we will always come a cropper sooner or later, but what I didn’t take into account is there are a lot of bad teams about, and Wolves – despite their millions spent – weren’t very good.

I have until now tended to think the same about QPR but then they, too, are a very bad side, their league position and recent form shows that.

So the focus now, without going all Brexit on you, must be to “get out and stay out” of the relegation zone, and turn the DW into a fortress.

Given the unexpected win at Wolves, I have previously stated that staying within three points from safety at the end of February wouldn’t be a bad place to be, but a glimmer of daylight has shifted my expectations.

There are a few away games which look pretty daunting between now and the end of the season but, perusing the home games, I see no reason why we can’t try and win every one of them.

Aston Villa, for example, have spent big, but it seems that everyone else in this division is giving them a walloping so why can’t we?

Before that it’s Preston and, judging by their fans’ reactions, they appear to be giddy about their first trip to Wigan in 12 years, bringing nearly half their home gate to their more successful (post-1890’s) and illustrious local rivals.

To be fair, it’s easy to forget that, way back in September, Preston were in 23rd place in the division, with fans calling for Simon Grayson’s head.

They held their nerve while there were sackings galore all around them, and that faith in their manager and stability has been rewarded with a steady rise up the table.

Despite PNE fans treating Saturday like a cup final, we must have that same big game mentality as we look to climb out of the drop zone.

I’d love to do a spot of rabble-rousing at this stage, and implore the fans to turn out in their droves and make plenty of noise.

But, for one, I’m not sure I wield that much influence these days – Wiganers will either turn out or they won’t for this game.

Plus, secondly, we’ll sound just like them – and we don’t need flags or balloons to create an atmosphere.

Give us the passion on the field, and we’ll respond off it.

We’ve got to want this together.

Sure, Preston are flying but this is a great excuse to bring them back down to earth – and do ourselves a big favour in the process.

MARTIN TARBUCK

Four points from four games – Sheffield Wednesday, Norwich, Fulham and Wolves – wasn’t a bad haul when you break it down.

The next four games – Preston, QPR, Forest and Blackburn – should leave us with a clear picture of our chances to get ourselves out of the mire.

Those four games brought two narrow defeats, a creditable draw and last-gasp victory.

We may still be in the bottom three, but there is hope.

Burton, Bristol City and QPR are all firmly fixed on the radar, and we have achievable targets to get ourselves out of trouble.

It’s a far cry from the start of January when, following the defeat to Huddersfield, it felt like there was no way out.

But Warren Joyce has turned our fortunes around, and we have a belief and spirit that can see us turn the spring into the season of hope that it always appears to be for us.

The backline has been excellent of late, and it is right that Joyce is heaping praise on Connolly, Buxton, Burn and Warnock.

Burn in particular has been on top of his game, while Warnock always lays his body on the line for the cause.

We move onto a derby game on Saturday.

Preston will have a large following and there should be a good atmosphere at the DW.

We owe them after the game at Deepdale in September, when a flukey deflection gave them all the points, despite the Latics dominating the vast majority of the game.

The games are coming thick and fast, with QPR away next Tuesday, and who knows...come 10pm that evening we could be as high as 18th in the table.

But that is really getting ahead of ourselves.

In the words of the pro’s...let’s take it one game at a time.

Up the Tics!

BARRY WORTHINGTON

From hope to despair and back to hope again.

That sums up the current roller-coaster that is Wigan Athletic in 2017.

Last week’s hard-earned point against Norwich looked like it was going to be the platform for another upward journey on the roller-coaster.

Leading at Fulham for most of the second half, Latics fans could be forgiven for thinking that the visitors were about to get the first win at Craven Cottage for 11 years.

As it was, the roller-coaster was entering in to another dip.

To concede so late must have been an absolute sickener for the players, let alone those at Craven Cottage.

I’m sure others shared my concern that the last-minute defeat would have a detrimental effect on Tuesday’s performance against Wolves.

Those concerns were unfounded as Latics did their own smash-and-grab job in the West Midlands, in the process earning their first double of the season.

There’s no underestimating how important a win this could be – it was one of those classic backs-against-the-wall performances.

Not pretty, by any stretch of the imagination, but so important.

Next up it’s the local derby against Preston, or not if you listen to the PNE fans across social media.

Apparently we’re not their rivals, and it’s not a derby.

File that alongside Bolton fans who think the same.

If a fixture with as much recent history as ours, and with so little distance between the two sides, isn’t a derby, I don’t know what is.

Derby or not, the atmosphere should be fantastic, and Latics need to make that work in their favour.

North End are in great form, but there’s nothing to stop us upsetting the form book.

A win could be a real shot in the arm to our survival bid.

Gabriel Obertan made his first appearance on Tuesday and, although I doubt he’ll start on Saturday, his pace could be crucial in the next few weeks.

We’ve got a great chance over the next few games.

Let’s hope the lads take it.

SEAN LIVESEY

Latics are now entering a critical phase in the season, and have 15 games to secure their Championship status.

But what are the prospects for the other teams around them?

Up to 12 teams could realistically be involved in the relegation shake-up.

Even 13th-placed Ipswich and 14th-placed Birmingham, both currently on 40 points, are not yet safe.

In 15th and 16th are Brentford and Aston Villa, who have both surprisingly dropped down the table.

The Bees looked like play-off contenders earlier in the season but have struggled recently. However both teams should have enough quality to stay up.

17 th-placed Nottingham Forest have been inconsistent performers, and are still in some turmoil both on and off the pitch.

Gary Brazil and Jack Lester have taken temporary charge of first-team affairs until the end of the season, and they should just about survive.

18th-placed Wolves have perhaps been distracted by their FA Cup run and have now lost their last three league games – and could easily be dragged into the relegation zone if results do not improve.

Ian Holloway returned to currently 19th-placed QPR as manager in November, but results have not improved enough to pull them away from the bottom end of the table, and it looks like a nervy end to the season for them.

20th-placed Bristol City have been on a dreadful run and have only won two of their last 17 matches.

They lost top scorer Tammy Abraham to a thigh injury in midweek at Leeds, and I expect them to be right on the cusp of relegation.

21st-placed Burton Albion received a boost when manager Nigel Clough turned down Forest, but I don’t think their squad will be strong enough.

22nd-placed Latics are now in a good run of form, having won three and drawn one of their last six games.

They have a tough local derby against Preston on Saturday, and then have some winnable fixtures against the teams around them.

If they can get a good return from these games, I expect them to stay up.

23rd-placed Blackburn have staggered from one crisis to another over recent years, and all the indications are they will drop down to League One.

24th-placed Rotherham already look doomed with only 17 points from their 32 games.

With so many teams involved in the relegation battle it’s difficult to predict the final outcome, but I’m going to stick my neck out and say that Latics will now finish above Rotherham, Blackburn, Burton and Bristol City.

IAN ASPINALL

Just when you think all hope is lost along come Wigan Athletic to save the day.

After the agonising yet somewhat inevitable 3-2 defeat at Fulham, the relegation fears were well and truly back.

But we should know by now to never say never when it comes to Wigan, and that mantra was proved as Warren Joyce rallied his troops to give it another crack at Wolves on Tuesday night.

It looked as if the game would tamely fizzle into a 0-0 draw until an unlikely hero, centre-back Jake Buxton, popped up to head the winner.

From losing in the last minute away from home to winning in the last-minute away from home in the space of three days – only Latics!

In all seriousness, everything looks rosy in the garden once again, with the gap to safety now just two points.

We can’t rest on our laurels though, because it’s a tough derby game against Preston at the DW on Saturday.

They have some real danger men in the likes of Aiden McGeady, Callum Robinson and Jordan Hugill.

However, I believe Joyce will have the players up for it.

The spirit and fight is there and everyone is pulling in the same direction (if that wasn’t evident already).

A victory in a local derby could give the players another injection of belief after a real confidence boosting backs-to-the-walls win in midweek.

It will also have plenty of teams looking over their shoulders, especially with a trip to lowly QPR and a home game against Nottingham Forest on the horizon.

I think the message this week is that we should never give up on our beloved team.

After all, they gave us the greatest present anyone could ask for on Valentine’s Day – a win on the road.

KIERAN MAKIN

The Comeback is ON.

It was a cold Tuesday night, and Molineux witnessed one of the worse games in Championship history, with neither side deserving anything else but a 0-0.

However, Jake Buxton had something to say, and sent the Wigan fans absolutely crazy with a late winner.

The midfield battled very well, and the defence were outstanding, dealing very well with Wolves’ aerial pressure.

Bogle and Grigg worked hard to put pressure on the Wolves defence.

It was a fantastic 1-0 win and, with teams losing around us in the league, it was even more important we won.

If Latics beat Preston, and Burton and Blackburn draw, we are out of the bottom three .

Recently, I’ve seen fans on social media act negativity towards our survival hopes.

However, it is in our own hands, and do people forget our Premiership days, and how we used to only turn up in around March/April and still heroically stay up.

I’ve got full faith in the team to survive the drop and, with new players to come in, we are in a very good position to do so.

JAY WHITTLE

Jake Buxton’s winner at Wolves on Tuesday could prove to be a massive three points in our season.

The match wasn’t a great spectacle, with chances few and far between.

It seems we were due a bit of luck, as in the previous game we were desperately unlucky to come away with nothing against Fulham.

Even though we’re in the relegation zone, this time round we’ve got a group of players and manager who will fight tooth and nail to make sure we aren’t playing League One football next season.

In my opinion the next six games will define our season, and they’re all games which are ‘winnable’.

I still feel confident we can pull of the Great Escape – there’s still 15 games to play so there’s going to be plenty of twist and turns.

The form book goes out of the window on derby day.

We can’t take Preston likely – they currently lie 10th in the league and are still fighting for a play-off place.

Hopefully we can right the wrongs of the 1-0 defeat we suffered at Deepdale earlier on in the season.

Only two points separate us and Burton, who have have a tricky home game against Norwich.

Hopefully Yanic Wildschut can finally find his feet and do his old club a favour.

JOE O’NEIL

Travails of an overseas Wigan Athletic fan (overseas, in this instance, meaning ‘the other side of the River Douglas’).

You think you have it bad waiting in traffic outside Robin Park for 25 minutes?

Pah, sheer luxury!

Spare a thought for those Latics fans living in the four corners of the globe: Kiritimati, Kerguelen, Kangiqsualujjuaq and Westhoughton.

I mean, look at all the nonsense those poor souls have to contend with:

Not being able to understand Max Power’s Liverpudlian accent on the Latics subscription media player, exacerbated by the lack of ‘A Woollyback’s Guide To Double Scouse’ at your local market.

Predominance of Latics fake news in your local sports periodical.

Example headlines: “Warren Joyce endorses line of men’s leg hair waxing products,” “Queen names bank holiday in honour of David Perkins’ 40-yard winner against Preston”, and “Marc-Antoine Fortune becomes first official member of newly-formed Grant Holt fan club“.

Having to follow video streams of questionable legality in 144p (for real men)*.

At such low resolution, you would believe Joyce is a pixellated Minecraft man who wears trousers that change colour below the knee.

*Please note 12th Man does not endorse 144p, or those who claim it is for ‘real men’.

Lack of Latics merchandise beyond Beech Hill.

Instead of purchasing a Latics beanie, you have to find an Everton one and paste a bubble jet printed tree and crown logo over the top.*

*Please note 12 th Man does not endorse bubble jet printers – get dot matrix ones instead.

Living in the knowledge you won’t spend at least 25 minutes staring at that chocolate statue of Dave Whelan before Latics’ next home game.

A sobering thought indeed.

Yet more fake Latics news headlines emblazoned across the pages of your favourite teletext service, such as: “Wildschut given freedom of Standish Lower Ground“ and ”Sharpe nabs Phil Collins on loan”.

DAN FARRIMOND