Five things we learned from Oxford (h)

Paul Kendrick reflects on five talking points from Wigan Athletic's 2-1 home defeat against Oxford on Saturday afternoon ...

Sunday, 22nd November 2020, 2:33 pm
Updated Sunday, 22nd November 2020, 5:54 pm
Jamie Jones was powerless to prevent Oxford winning at the DW despite a fine display

1 Expecting trouble. You don't need to be Oxford's most famous son - Inspector Morse - to know Latics are in trouble at the minute. One look at the xG (expected goals) stats sees them bottom of the table for goals scored and top of the table for goals conceded. The recipe for disaster at any level. And it was more of the same on Saturday as Latics looked toothless in the final third, and yet again shipped a couple of goals right out of the 'too easy' bracket. Indeed...

2 Keeping the side in it. ...had it not been for Jamie Jones, the game would have been out of sight by the halfway mark. The Latics goalkeeper has made more saves than any other custodian in League One this term, which underlines the team's struggles at the back. After an early blip, when he was deceived by a wicked delivery from out wide, Jones pulled off several fine stops that kept Latics honest in a game in which they were a distant second best. The scoreline flattered the hosts hugely.

3 Green shoots of recovery. It would also be remiss not to mention the shift put in up top of Kyle Joseph. The Scotland Under-19 forward could easily have three goals to his name after coming agonisingly close to finding the net in each of the last three matches. On two occasions he saw shots come back off a post, while against Oxford he steered a snapshot inches wide of the mark. But it's his tireless running that gives the side a presence in the attacking third, and hopefully once he gets off the mark it will lead to a run of goals his overall displays undoubtedly warrant.

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4 Changing of the gaard. Another huge positive was the late cameo off the bench of Thelo Aasgaard, whose first senior goal gave Latics hope they didn't deserve going into stoppage-time. The 18-year-old Norwegian junior international is the latest off a production line that is keeping the club going at the moment. Quite where Gregor Rioch and his coaches are finding these lads from is anyone's guess, but the scouting and development system is one huge reason to stay optimistic for the future - if Latics can only survive long enough to get there. Speaking of which...

5 Born for the role. With former Latics and Bolton chief Bruce Rioch for a father, it's been no surprise to see Gregor Rioch carving out such a reputation for himself in senior management - making him an obvious choice for the DW technical area, now John Sheridan has moved on to pastures new. And although the result was no better than previous weeks, the message from the sidelines - and in the post-match media - was worlds apart. No more managerial musings of 'comical defending', 'more mistakes' and 'not learning'. This time, it was focusing on the positives, and building up - rather than knocking down - young lads who are clearly doing their best in extremely difficult circumstances. Sheridan wasn't to blame for the problems this season, but he also clearly wasn't in any way part of the solution. The team needs an arm-round-the-shoulder approach now, not repeated use of the stick. And in Rioch, they have the ideal man to steer the ship - and its largely young passengers, who have all benefited from his coaching and guidance in the Academy - towards calmer waters.

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