Five things we learned from Shrewsbury (h)

Paul Kendrick reflects on five talking points from Wigan Athletic's 2-0 victory over Shrewsbury in the Papa John's Trophy on Wednesday night...

Thursday, 11th November 2021, 6:00 pm
The Latics side line up before the Shrewsbury win

1 Third time lucky! After two disappointing performances, and results, in the opening Papa John's Trophy group games, Latics found their feet - and how - against Shrewsbury to sneak into the knockout stages. It remains a much-maligned competition - and not without good reason. The recent decision to allow Premier League teams to field Under-21 sides has, for many, ruined what was once a genuine highlight for lower-league sides. But tell the 10 Latics Academy products who featured against Shrewsbury that the competition doesn't matter. You only make your senior debut, and score your maiden goal, once, and those memories will last a lifetime. Speaking of which...

2 The kids are all right!'s ironic that, having fielded far stronger, more senior, line-ups in the opening group-stage defeats, Leam Richardson watched a virtual Under-23 side put in a rip-roaring collective display that put the previous two performances to shame. What the youngsters perhaps lack in experience and know-how, they more than made up for in effort, endeavour and enthusiasm. Guided by senior figures Jamie Jones, Gavin Massey, Gwion Edwards and Tom Pearce - himself only 23 - watching future stars of the club come of age against a strong Shrewsbury side made it a memorable night for those present.

3 Time for a rethink? The introduction of Premier League Under-21 sides gave the credibility of the competition a huge bashing, but at least it's serving its purpose in terms of readying the next generation of top-flight players for first-team football...right? Well, no, not really. In the northern part of the competition, all eight elite clubs - Everton, Leeds, Wolves, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Leicester and Newcastle - bowed out at the first stage, finishing either bottom or second bottom of their groups. Liverpool Under-21s lost all three matches, against Bolton, Port Vale and Rochdale. This time last year, the Reds were beaten 6-1 by a Latics team that was pretty much made up of our own Under-21 players. If the big clubs don't even seem to care about the competition, why not kick them out...and maybe rediscover all of the old...

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4 Magic of the cup! Whatever the merits of the competition, the fact is the final takes place at Wembley Stadium. Most players never get there during their careers, so the carrot of the national stadium is massive at the end of the tunnel. We're in a 32-team competition, and Latics - top of League One - are effectively top seeds. And the longer the side progresses, the more the interest of the fans will surely return.

5 Fingers crossed! The major downside of the night was, of course, the sight of young James Carragher being stretchered off the field midway through the first half after a hefty collision. With Jack Whatmough, Kell Watts and Curtis Tilt currently out of the first-team picture, it's a dangerous time to be a Latics centre-back at the moment. Leam Richardson suggested after the game the injury may not be as bad as was first feared, which would be a huge relief. Carragher's departure saw Luke Robinson switch to right centre-back, alongside Adam Long. And the duo both staked a huge claim for inclusion in next week's FA Cup first-round replay against Solihull.

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