Early team news: Wigan Athletic v Oxford United

Wigan Athletic will welcome back the cavalry for this afternoon's visit of Oxford United, with no fewer than SIX first-teamers returning to the fold.

Saturday, 21st November 2020, 1:23 pm
Updated Sunday, 22nd November 2020, 2:35 pm
Joe Garner is back in the fold

Curtis Tilt, skipper Joe Garner, Gavin Massey, Jamie Jones and Dan Gardner return after injury, while Matty Palmer is available again after being cup-tied.

With Lee Evans and Kal Naismith also close to a return, there's very definitely light at the end of a long tunnel for the management.

“It gives us strength and experience in the group," acknowledged Gregor Rioch, who has taken charge along with Leam Richardson following the departure of John Sheridan.

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“It’s also been a very good week after an extra few days break from our last game (against Tranmere), and it was a good opportunity to have a reset.

“We came in on Monday morning, and the players and staff had a good discussion together about what we wanted going forwards as a group.

“We have felt the energy all week and I think each day has been great.

"The players have been buoyant and happy and looking forward to playing football after the break.

“We have had a heavy period of games and I think, with some of the results that come with it, it makes things a little tougher.

"But having the break has given some a bit of family time and a chance to reflect on where we are and get on with working towards three points on Saturday.”

With Will Keane and Darnell Johnson remaining on the sidelines, it will again allow some of the club's Academy graduates the chance to show what they can do.

And having played a major role in their development, Rioch will be a proud figure in the technical area watching them find their way in the senior game.

“It has been unbelievable for myself as the academy manager and for all of the coaches who work relentlessly through the evenings, both part time and full time," he acknowledged.

"It’s been a great period to see the young players turning into young men.

“They have been sent in the deep end at times but that is where we are; they always crave opportunity and they’ve had that and they’re grabbing that.

“With good guidance from some of our senior professionals, they are grasping and understanding the difference between academy football and the 23s and the first team.”

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