Paul Cook believes a week he says is ‘the biggest in Wigan Athletic’s season’ can still be a success – with positive results against Blackburn on Tuesday night and Bolton on Saturday.
Latics make the short trip to Ewood Park to take on an out-of-form Blackburn side, hoping to bounce back from an agonising 3-2 defeat at Reading on Saturday.
Despite leading twice, through Nick Powell and Joe Garner, Latics conceded in the 89th and 97th minutes to somehow come away from the Madejski with nothing.
They currently lie three points clear of the drop zone, with 10 games to go.
And Cook is under no illusions as to the size of the stakes.
“Yes, I would say it is (the biggest week of the season),” he acknowledged.
“I feel we have had opportunities to get ourselves out of it, and we haven’t taken advantage of them.
“Unfortunately, for whatever reason, we’re in something we don’t want to be in – but we’re still in a good place.
“The fixtures for us are good, our home form is strong, and the performance at Reading gives us all great heart.
“But the only way to alleviate all the pressure is to win football matches.
“And the games on Tuesday and Saturday are massive for us.”
The Latics boss was hugely critical of referee Andy Davies after the game at Reading, with all three goals coming under the spotlight.
Cook believes Reece James shouldn’t have been penalised for the free-kick that led to Reading’s opening goal, with Jonas Olsson appearing to be fouled for the home side’s winning goal.
But it was Reading’s second goal – when Sam Morsy was about to return the ball to the home goalkeeper after an injury-enforced break in play, only to be dispossessed by an opponent who fed Mo Barrow, who rifled in from 30 yards – that left the sourest taste in the mouth.
“To put it all to bed, there has to be an outcome to make it better,” Cook opined.
“And unfortunately in football, there’s not an outcome that can make that better.
“We’ve been led to believe that all three Reading goals should not have stood.
“Now that’s big to take as a manager...when three big decisions go against you.
“That equaliser on 89 minutes is just not correct. You will never see another goal like that.
“Every single team gives the ball back to the goalie.
“An unsporting team might kick it out for a goal-kick, an even less sporting team might kick it out for a throw-in, deep in the corner.
“But what happened to us on Saturday is not football...at any level.
“Sadly the referee is obviously going to be in a bit of bother for it.
“Like I told him on Saturday: We trust you to referee the game. You control this game.
“You can debate football all you like, tactics, formations, managers’ substitutions, whatever.
“But when a goal is scored against you that should not be allowed – in the last minute – it has such an effect on you.”
Cook says the club has been informed that they had good reason for feeling aggrieved.
“The feedback normally is things like: Has the referee influenced the game? Did the referee cost Wigan Athletic?” Cook revealed.
“All the questions came back in our favour. Every single one.
“To have all three things go against us is hard to take.
“If the referee is stood down – and that’s the feedback we might receive – we don’t want that.
“I just want referees to improve.”