Paul Kendrick looks at the talking points from Latics’ defeat at Ewood Park.
Wigan Athletic are in deep relegation trouble. All right, most of us probably knew it anyway, but defeat against one of their relegation rivals has made the task of survival even more difficult. Just 11 games now remain, and Latics could need as many as six wins to get to the safety figure. Given the side has only managed to win seven games from their first 35 league games, it looks a tall order. With a horror run-in that sees them finish their programme with games against Brighton, Cardiff, Reading and Leeds, Latics need wins...fast.
Despite their precarious predicament, the defence continues to do its job. They restricted a Blackburn side full of renewed hope after a recent upturn in fortunes to very little, before a moment of absolute Premier League quality from Marvin Emnes just before the hour mark tipped the scales the home side’s way. Right-back Callum Connolly paid a high price for venturing forward and being caught out of position, but defensive colleagues Jake Buxton, Stephen Warnock and particularly Dan Burn didn’t deserve to be on the losing side.
However, Latics still look chronically short of goals at the other end. The result leaves Latics with only 30 goals from their 35 league games played - Will Grigg scored 29 on his own last term. That, of course, was in a side full of confidence, who were dominating games every week, and creating chances for fun. Fast-forward 12 months and the strikers are feeding off scraps, looking more isolated than Tom Hanks in the film ‘Castaway’. No-one can question the commitment of Grigg and Omar Bogle, but Latics must find a way of converting their possession into goalscoring chances...or face the consequences.
Either Graham Barrow or Andy Welsh needs to work hard on their handwriting to avoid a repeat of the farcical scenes midway through the second half when Latics were trying to get Will Grigg on to the field. First Omar Bogle saw his number 14 held up by the fourth official - which led to loud boos from the away end at a perceived lack of attacking intent. That was swiftly changed to Ryan Tunnicliffe’s number 19, although he too was waved back on when he trotted over to the touchline. A couple of minutes later, Callum Connolly’s number 12 was eventually held up, and Latics eventually made their third change, with Barrow left to point the finger at the fourth official for the ‘misreading one of the numbers’.
Ironically, Saturday’s defeat could provide a source of optimism for the 11 games to come that will decide Wigan’s destiny. Blackburn themselves looked down and out just a fortnight ago, bereft of confidence and hope. But a return of seven points from the last three games has seen them climb out of the bottom three and pile the pressure on their relegation rivals. Rovers have scored just three goals in those three games, conceding one. They’ve managed to eke out big results in tight games, with fine margins going their way. Yes, it looks bleak for Latics at the moment, but there’s still time, and there’s still hope. But as a wise man once said, it’s the hope that kills you...