GARY Caldwell was delighted with the way Wigan Athletic dealt with the ‘mental scars’ of two dropped points against Sheffield United by returning to winning ways against Chesterfield.
Latics were convincing 3-1 victors over the Spireites to move level with fourth-placed Coventry in the League One table, four points off automatic promotion with 19 matches still to play.
Just like four days’ previously against the Blades, Caldwell’s charges deservedly opened up a 3-0 lead after playing some quite superb football.
This time, thankfully, they possessed the necessary game management to keep their opponents at arm’s length, limiting them to a solitary late consolation in a far more professional performance.
“The mental scars were still there for all to see from Tuesday,” acknowledged the Latics boss.
“We had to be honest in our assessment of that performance, we were, and the players took the criticism on the chin.
“While football is a very physical game, a lot of it is mental.
“I said to Joe (Parkinson, first-team coach) it was a certainty we’d go 3-0 again today, and the emotions and mental pictures from Tuesday would come flooding back.
“The players had to deal with that, and I thought they dealt with that well.
“I’ve been there myself, and it’s not easy. The only disappointment was the goal we did concede.
“A clean sheet would have been good, but the three points were the main thing.”
Right from the off Latics were on their game, visibly stung by Caldwell’s criticism of the ‘unacceptable’ way they’d finished their previous encounter.
“I thought it was similar to the first 66 minutes on Tuesday night,” Caldwell admitted.
“We showed real hunger from the first minute, and I think that was the reaction to the last 24 minutes against Sheffield United.
“Everyone was hurting after that game - none more so than the players.
“Sometimes people probably think it doesn’t hurt players as much as it should.
“But you could see how much Tuesday night had hurt and disappointed our players, and they responded in the right way with a real positive performance.
“Tuesday night taught us you can never be complacent in this game.
“And there’ll be no complacency from us when we get back in on Monday morning.
“We’ll be working very hard ahead of the Crewe game next weekend.”
Latics extended their unbeaten run to six matches, and have now lost only twice - by the only goal against Blackpool and Burton - in their last 20 league games.
“It’s good form, but we need to keep it going,” insisted Caldwell.
“It’s a long season, as I keep saying, and we need to keep focusing on the job in hand.
“If we can keep playing like that, and working hard, then I’m sure it’ll be a successful season.”
Caldwell also hailed the contribution to Wigan’s recent upturn in fortunes to goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen, who made a couple of important stops in the early stages before the home side gained a stranglehold on the game.
“Jussi has been fantastic since he’s come in,” Caldwell gushed.
“He’s a top professional, who’s played at the highest level for a long, long time.
“I’ve no worries about him - I just let him do his job, because he knows better than me how to prepare to be a top goalkeeper.
“We’ve very glad we’ve got him at the club, and he sets standards every day in training.
“He’s 40 years of age but he looks after his body, he’s very professional, he’s very meticulous in his preparation.
“That’s a great example to set for all of our younger players.”