GARY Caldwell has called on Wigan Athletic to fill their festive boots over the next week – and ensure they can attack 2016 with ‘momentum to get to where we want to be’.
This afternoon’s visit of Sheffield United – which marks the halfway mark of the campaign – is followed by trips to struggling Fleetwood on Monday and lower mid-table Scunthorpe next weekend.
All three would come into the ‘winnable’ category, and Caldwell says a bumper return of points would allow Latics to hit the New Year running.
“The Christmas periods are always important, everyone will tell you that,” the Latics boss admitted.
“The games come in such quick succession, meaning you can move up the league very quickly by getting a few positive results.
“We’re in a position where we’re ready to strike, but we also know the gap is still a little more than we’d like it to be at this point.
“We’re aiming to close that, and to be able to go in to the New Year with momentum to get to where we want to be at the end of the season.”
This afternoon’s opponents started the campaign as promotion favourites along with Latics, but have taken even more time to find their feet than Caldwell’s men.
“They’ve got a strong squad with a great manager, they’re a big club and they have big aspirations, like us,” acknowledged Caldwell.
“But just like us, they’ve found exactly how difficult this league is.
“This will be a big game that both sides want to win to keep pushing to get closer to the top of the league.”
Caldwell will need no briefing as to the Blades’ biggest threat, with striker Billy Sharp having been strongly linked with a move to the DW last summer before joining his boyhood heroes from Leeds.
Sharp’s netted twice in the last two matches, but Caldwell insists he’s more than happy with the strike-power he has at his disposal.
“As I’ve already said a few times, there’s no better striker in this division than we already have in our squad,” reiterated Caldwell.
“Billy’s a quality player, and someone who will score goals at this level as he’s showing this season.
“But I’m more than happy with the striking options we have in our squad.”
Latics are hoping to improve one surprising record, which has seen them defeat only one top-10 side – Peterborough United – in the first half of the season.
“I didn’t know that,” Caldwell added. “But we remain a team that tries to win every single game we play.
“I think we’ve been unlucky in some of the games against teams higher up the table, where we’ve drawn games we really should have won.
“This game is an opportunity to put that right.
“We wanted to take a good performance into Sheffield United game, and we got that at Barnsley last weekend.
“We need to keep pushing on, keep working hard, keep trying to improve as a team.
“While we do a lot of things really well, there are also areas we need to improve.
“I’m fortunate I’ve got a group of players who are willing to work hard to do that.
“I’m sure we’ll continue to improve, because I know we can play even better than we did at Barnsley.”