Christian Walton: Wigan Athletic have to take a lot of confidence from Cup
After Latics' 2-1 win over Crawley on November 4, thanks to Ivan Toney and Lee Evans goals, most of us weren't thinking this year's FA Cup would be anything special.
It’s not that supporters didn’t have faith in this squad – it’s just that gaining promotion to the Championship is the main aim from this season and it always was. A Cup run might be a distraction.
There was the 1-1 draw in front of the television cameras against Fylde followed by a less than ruthless 3-2 win in December, during which many were taking to social media to consign the club to an early exit before Will Grigg’s 84th-minute winner.
But that was before the round three draw.
That was before Paul Cook’s men competed with, and embarrassed, three teams two divisions above them. No one was safe. Not even City.
Even last Sunday’s defeat against Southampton wasn’t without a first half which saw Latics all over their opposition. Wigan did everything but find the goal.
And the hero of that match Christian Walton admits this year’s Cup run won’t be forgotten as they now just have promotion to focus on.
A jaw-dropping penalty save to keep his side in it last weekend when they were 1-0 down made us all look up from behind out hands and maybe think this was their day once again.
“It’s been a fantastic cup run, and unfortunately it’s now finished,” Walton reflected.
“But the boys can take massive credit, and it’s been a great experience for us all.
“We’ve played four Premier League teams and we’ve more than matched them every step of the way.”
Walton, on a season-long loan from Brighton and Hove Albion, was the clear man-of-the-match in front of the BBC cameras as Latics strained for a fifth appearance at Wembley in six years that was just out of reach.
But his assessment of his own performance was humble.
“That’s my job, ultimately, and I want to be doing that week in, week out against that quality of opposition,” he said.
“It’s great to test myself against a Premier League side and to be able to make a few good saves was nice.
“I thought we played on the front foot from the first whistle, and we had them struggling for long periods.
“If we’d have managed to nick a goal in the first half when we were on top, who knows what might have happened in the second half.”
And even though last week’s game meant another League One game had to be crammed into an already tight end-of-season schedule, Walton believes the manner of their defeat will actually put them in good stead.
“We can take so much heart from the way we’ve played,” he said.
“We can’t take away any disappointment, we have to take the confidence of having played so well against another Premier League side. And the league is ultimately the most important thing for us, and getting promoted to the Championship.”
The highlights reel at the end of season dinner may well be dominated by a certain goal from Grigg against a side which will be then be the new Premier League champions, but this cup story was about a whole squad with plenty of belief.