12th Man: Latics fans have their say

Max Power
Max Power

LATICS fans give their verdict on the draw against Southend, and a chance to take another step closer to Wembley in the JPT with this weekend’s visit of Barnsley.

Do we have a problem here or not?

The last three games have been a little less than convincing: a win, a draw and a defeat and not much in either.

We could have won them all, we could have lost them all, yet the entertainment factor so evident earlier in the season seems to be on the wane.

Like many fans I trotted out the “happy to consolidate” line in August, and I’m not going to about turn and get upset now because we’re not in the top two.

But I did expect some upward trajectory in terms of consistency and conviction in our play and, after hitting full throttle a few games back, we seem to have eased off somewhat now.

It’s certainly not disastrous.

In fact, everything about this season has been a breath of fresh air after the horrors of last year.

But we do appear to have lost a bit of momentum recently, and we should be looking at the next three games against Barnsley (twice) and Blackpool as an opportunity to pick that back up again.

One of the concerns is that we do have the best squad in the division on paper, and perhaps they are not being utilised to their best.

It’s become practically impossible to guess what our starting XI will be on any given date, and that does not seem the bedrock of a promotion-winning team.

Of course, some changes are forced due to injuries or pesky international breaks.

But others appear to be tactical and, if we’re honest, a little bit strange sometimes.

However, the continual moaning about Gary Caldwell’s style ends here.

Let us not forget that he brought 20 new players in over the summer, and the fact we have such a good squad and are debating who should play or not (and where they should play!) is down to his judgement in the transfer market.

My take is that I look forward to seeing the team’s announced because, by and large, I like our players again.

And no matter which 11 are picked, most of them seem to play like they care about the club with none of the post-Prem malaise hanging around.

Let us also not forget that Caldwell is a rookie manager and will make mistakes.

It is in the football fan’s psyche that some are only happy when they can criticise, and will tie themselves in knots over it.

Criticising the manager for rotating the squad one minute, and criticising the manager for not changing the team the next.

The concerns about the defence have died down as we have only conceded one goal in the last four games.

What we need now is a few little tweaks up the field to get a settled front line, with a hopefully fit-again Michael Jacobs and Yanic Wildschut, and the goals will start to flow.

Top six at Christmas was considered an over-achievement in the summer.

If we can win three out of our next five, we won’t be far off the top two.

Now, what a Christmas present that would be!

MARTIN TARBUCK

I really can’t wait for Saturday afternoon.

We are on the Wembley trail, Barnsley at the DW Stadium, £5 a ticket, and more than a decent chance of progressing through to the JPT area final.

That’s right, the area final is waiting for us if we can get past Barnsley on Saturday.

Without counting our chickens and all that, there is a reason why we are red-hot favourites – not only to progress through this tie but to actually win the competition.

Rated as 2/1 with some bookies, we are the best team by a fair distance left in the northern section of the competition.

However, we know through personal experiences the so-called ‘best team’ and ‘red-hot favourites’ don’t always have things their own way in cup ties.

It is so important on Saturday that we put out a strong side, and that side plays to its full potential.

We are too close now to mess this up.

Barnsley may be bottom of the table, but they have scored more league goals than top-of-the-pile Burton Albion, so they have a goalscoring threat we need to be aware of.

That said, we should be just too strong for them.

The £5 per ticket and just £1 for the kids will hopefully generate a healthy attendance.

The club has done great to keep the prices at a minimum, especially when you consider what some of our League One rivals are charging – even in the JPT.

Let’s get behind the lads, give them some rousing support and get ourselves into the area final.

I am really looking forward to this game and I have definitely got Wembley fever, again!

Up the tics!

BARRY WORTHINGTON

I couldn’t make the game at Southend at the weekend but, from what I’ve read and heard, apparently we were good value for a point.

Roots Hall is a place that many teams will struggle to get a result from.

But it was a result that meant the gap at the top was widening with the likes of Coventry and Burton taking advantage over the last week or so. Nevertheless, a point and a clean sheet on the road can never be a bad thing in my eyes, given our inconsistent start away from home.

Of course it’s still early days in the promotion race and, as we’ve seen this week, the tide can change very quickly and things fall in your favour.

Putting my selfish Wigan Athletic hat on, I can’t help but feel that Dean Smith leaving Walsall and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s rumoured departure from Burton Albion – men who have both done great jobs at their respective club – can only be a good thing for us.

There is added pressure with these sides now, with different styles/tactics surely going to be implemented under a new manager, and it’ll be interesting to see if they carry on their early-season form.

But for us, it’s great news, as we’re slowly starting to settle now. The ‘off-days’ like we had at Bury away in the FA Cup, and Coventry and Gillingham earlier in the season, are slowly becoming few and far between.

Hearing from those at the game on Saturday, there were some strange tactical decisions, with Reece James for example playing in midfield from the start.

I understand each game will offer different challenges, but at times I’m wondering if Gary Caldwell is over-complicating things at times?

Granted, Yanic Wildschut, Craig Morgan and Michael Jacobs were not in the starting 11, so changes were inevitable.

But I felt like it was like the ‘square pegs in round holes’ analogy. From what I’ve seen this season, there isn’t a team we’ve played that I believe is better than us. So if we stick to our natural game, play people in the right positions, there won’t be many sides that will come near us in my opinion.

And I hope that starts against Barnsley, and I’m hoping we’re taking it very seriously.

Winning in any competition breeds confidence, and we need one after a scratchy few games. I wouldn’t say no to another Wembley trip, either, as it’s been a while since we’ve been there – almost two years!

SAM WHYTE

A disappointing week for the Latics was rounded off by a well-earned point at Southend.

Although it wasn’t a classic by any stretch, we did have chances to win it.

I suppose it shows the progress of this side that we’re disappointed with a return of four points from three games in a week. Although we didn’t manage to get that elusive goal against Southend, we showed our improved defensive resilience with another clean sheet away from home.

Saturday is the perfect opportunity to get back to winning ways and get that bit closer to Wembley.

Although on paper everything points to a home win, we shouldn’t underestimate Barnsley. A break from fighting at the bottom of the table can do wonders for a side, and we need to make sure we go about the tie in the same manner we did Blackpool and Crewe before that.

I would expect starts for the likes of Jordy Hiwula, Sean Murray, Andy Kellett and Haris Vuckic, who can count themselves unlucky to miss out in recent weeks after their performances against Blackpool.

Saturday has the potential to be massive for the club, and it’s good to see the game moved to a Saturday to get the best possible crowd.

Both clubs should be applauded for that, along with another excellent pricing initiative from Latics.

Let’s hope the lads make it worthwhile.

SEAN LIVESEY

Latics face Barnsley in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy Northern semi-final on Saturday, and it is important they grasp the opportunity to progress towards another Wembley final.

They have appeared at the national stadium on four occasions since April 2013, and it would be another great boost for the club and the town to make it there again.

Very few football clubs get the opportunity to play at Wembley so often, and Latics are now within touching distance of creating football history.

They are only three games away from another big day and, if they can overcome League One strugglers Barnsley, they will face either Fleetwood or Morecambe in the two-legged northern final.

Latics have a great chance of going on to win the trophy for a record-breaking third time, but they must avoid any complacency if they are to progress.

The expectations are that Wigan will go through, but they must not take anything for granted, as Barnsley will be desperate to cause an upset and turn their season around.

Barnsley manager Lee Johnson has had a torrid time since taking over at Oakwell.

The club sit bottom of the table and they have won only once in 11 league games.

However, they have beaten Scunthorpe, Bradford and York in the JPT, and they did manage a draw in their last game against Sheffield United and defeated league leaders Burton Albion and fourth-placed Gillingham earlier in the season.

Wigan’s recent performances have been unconvincing with a narrow home win against Shrewsbury, a home defeat against Burton and a draw away at Southend.

Wigan have lacked a cutting edge in those three games, with only loan striker Alex Revell finding the net against Shrewsbury.

Will Grigg has struggled with his form of late, and Craig Davies does not look fully fit.

It is possible Jordy Hiwula may get a recall to the starting line-up after netting two goals in the last round against Blackpool.

Latics will be hoping Yanic Wildschut (pictured inset) is available after being rested for the Southend fixture.

The dynamic Dutchman has been hampered by a hamstring injury but, if fit, he is likely to be Wigan’s biggest goal threat.

But whatever the players selected, it is important Gary Caldwell and his players guard against any complacency and ensure they move closer to another Wembley final.

IAN ASPINALL

It wasn’t our best week in League One, but it’s not the end of the world either.

A 1-0 loss to an in-form, momentum-riding Burton side followed by a 0-0 draw away at Southend wasn’t quite the Wigan team who defeated Colchester 5-0.

But we got through a tough couple of fixtures still in the promotion race.

This Saturday, we have the chance to get away from the pressures of league action and have the rather nice distraction of a JPT northern area semi-final.

We face Barnsley at home, which provides us with a massive chance of getting to the area final.

The Tykes have struggled badly this season and currently sit rock bottom of our division.

Barnsley’s form, combined with the fact that we’ve only lost two homes game in all competitions so far this season, means we can really take the game to the visitors and express ourselves.

Even though there is the potential for yet another trip to Wembley, I don’t believe there is any pressure on us to get there. The Barnsley game is a chance for us to enjoy ourselves.

If we do I have no doubt we will progress.

I also have a funny feeling that taking a step closer to Wembley will make us forget the defeat to Burton, which is just what we need.

KIERAN MAKIN