Five things we learned from Portsmouth (h)
Paul Kendrick reflects on five talking points from Wigan Athletic's 1-0 home defeat against Portsmouth on Easter Monday...
1 Same old. For the second time in four days over the long Easter weekend, Latics went toe-to-toe against a play-off-chasing rival, gave as good – if not more – than they got, but couldn’t quite translate their passages of good play into goals, and were punished at the other end. Zero cutting edge, zero goals and zero points. For all the good work in other areas of the park, Latics have to find that spark in the final third of the field – before it’s too late.
2 Defence largely in order. It took a cracking goal from Portsmouth substitute Andy Cannon to break the deadlock on Easter Monday, just as it took a cracking header from Gillingham striker Vadaine Oliver to settle the Maundy Thursday clash at Gillingham. Too many times this season, Latics have shot themselves in the foot by conceding poor goals. But the anomaly at Accrington aside, the defence – marshalled by skipper Jamie Jones – has collectively upped its game, and shipped only three goals in the last six outings. If Latics can similarly up their game in the final third, that will surely bring in precious points.
3 Never rains. Much of that will, of course, depend on Callum Lang, who had to be helped off the field on Monday after being absolutely poleaxed from behind by visiting defender Sean Raggett. The Pompey man may have picked up a fractured cheekbone for his trouble, but it’s Lang’s condition that is of far more interest and concern. Typically, the Latics man wanted to play on despite the head knock, but wisely the decision was taken away from him by the medical staff. If concussion is confirmed, that rules him out of the next two matches at least. Which would be a hammer-blow to Wigan’s hopes of avoiding the drop, as the 22-year-old consistently looks by far the most likely to make something happen.
4 Ref justice. As well as the Lang incident, Latics were also left fuming by a first-half call that went against Jamie Proctor, who appeared to have (fairly) got goalside of the last man, only to be pulled up for a foul. Leam Richardson had also been critical of the officiating at Gillingham in the previous game, with the recent trip to Peterborough also seeing Latics get the rough end of the stick. As the gaffer mused in his post-match press conference on Monday: ‘They say these things even themselves up over the course of a season’. If that is, indeed, the case, Latics have a few favourable calls coming their week in the last seven matches...
5 Nothing changes. Despite Monday’s disappointing result, it remains ‘as you were’ at the bottom of League One, with still only two points standing between second-bottom Latics and safety. None of the six teams in the mire appear in too much of a rush to lift themselves away from trouble, meaning an exciting last seven matches ahead...but no good for the blood pressure of anyone involved with any of the clubs. Three wins would probably do it. And the final-day visit of John Sheridan’s Swindon to the DW is already looking like being of huge significance. The run-in has traditionally become known as ‘Wigan time’ over the years. This one would arguably top anything we’ve seen before.
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