Five things we learned from Reading (h)

Joe Garner celebrates opening the scoring against Reading
Joe Garner celebrates opening the scoring against Reading

Paul Kendrick reflects on five talking points from Wigan Athletic's 3-1 home defeat at the hands of Reading...


1. Latics are in serious, serious trouble. Okay, we may not exactly have learned that on Saturday, but it was a point that was hammered home in full, horrific, HD detail. There was precious little between the two sides for 78 minutes, with a scrappy Joe Garner goal giving Latics hope of a much-needed three points. But one of the worst penalty decisions in living memory - the worst since Dan Burn was penalised for a clean tackle *outside* the box three seasons ago - turned the game on its head. Leaving a team with confidence shot, their own fans booing, sinking to the bottom of the form table...and the league ladder a worrying sight.

2. Consistency at last. For 18 months, Paul Cook has been trying to solve the riddle of his side's outstanding home form and wretched away record - and trying to marry the two. We're finally there. Unfortunately, it's not the away record that's picked up, but the home form that's slumped. Three successive defeats at 'Fortress DW' means the manager doesn't even have that safety crutch to lean on any more. His home comforts have disappeared. The technical area looked a lonely, lonely place during the last 10 minutes, with the directors box also being a target for barbed comments as well. We've seen this before at the DW in recent years, of course. And it's never ended well.

3. Selection problems. In fairness to Paul Cook, Reading's matchwinner - hat-trick hero George Puscas - cost a mere £8million from Inter Milan in the summer. Latics never spent that much even in their Premier League hey-day. But Cook had pretty much that amount of money sitting on the bench on Saturday, with his two big-money summer signings - Kieffer Moore and Jamal Lowe - both left out of the starting XI. Moore's omission from two of the last three games has been particularly puzzling, given his heroics with the Welsh national side of late, and his confidence levels surely at an all-time high. Joe Gelhardt has been an even more peripheral figure, with the Young England star thrown on with just five minutes to go - into a toxic atmosphere, with the game long gone. It may be a lot to expect him to fire Latics away from trouble on his own - but what have we got to lose?

4. The fans have spoken. Paul Cook requested in the lead-up to the game that the Latics fans left their negativity at the door, and provided a 12th Man for their side in a crunch clash. And the fans did their bit. All right, it wasn't the loudest it's ever been, but that was perhaps due to the worrying low crowd, freezing cold conditions and the fact the game was almost entirely devoid of excitement and enjoyment. But there were no dissenting voices, no attempt to undermine the case, from the stands. At least not until the introduction of Kal Naismith at the three-quarter mark, which led to disgraceful booing by some 'supporters', and when the Reading goals started flying in, when the booing was perhaps a little more understandable. The mood inside the stadium during the last 10 minutes suggests the manager has perhaps his biggest task yet on his hands to turn things round.

5. Player power. It may not feel like it at the moment, but there were positives to be gleaned from the weekend. Antonee Robinson put in another sterling shift down the left, while Joe Garner - ploughing the lone furrow this time - scored his first goal of the season to cap a fine display. And it was interesting to see Garner's reaction to his 34th-minute goal - running half the length of the field to celebrate in the technical area with Paul Cook and Leam Richardson. Despite recent disappointment, there remains no suggestion whatsoever the management have 'lost the dressing room', as is often cited at times like this. Confidence has taken a battering, and some players have understandably appeared nervous in possession, frightened to make a crucial mistake. But the spirit and togetherness remains...and that's testament to the culture Cook has cultivated during his time. Will it be enough? We shall see.