‘Embrace the cups’, says Jaaskelainen

Jussi Jaaskelainen
Jussi Jaaskelainen

WIGAN Athletic’s collective attention has this week switched from their main priority of promotion to back-to-back cup games.

But goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen insists there’ll be no let-off in terms of intensity or desire.

Latics signed off their league form in positive fashion, with a 1-0 victory over Swindon last weekend that cemented their place in the play-off picture.

Next up is tomorrow’s FA Cup first-round trip to Bury, before Blackpool visit the DW next Tuesday for the JPT northern area quarter-final.

The tendency in the modern game for some is to take cup games as a distraction to the bread-and-butter of the league.

But Jaaskelainen is not a subscriber to that philosophy.

“Everyone knows about the FA Cup and how important it is,” he told the Evening Post.

“There’s also the JPT on Tuesday, and we’re only three games from Wembley which is a massive carrot for us as well.

“Having played in the Premier League, you know the place to be is Wembley.

“Everyone wants to get there, no matter what the competition, and it’s something nice for us to aim for.”

Apart from the possibility of taking two steps closer to Wembley, there’s also the small matter of a 10-match unbeaten run to defend. And Latics will go into the double-header full of confidence after Francisco Junior’s last-gasp winner against Swindon last time out.

“You always enjoy the 1-0 wins because it proves you’re a solid team,” acknowledged Jaaskelainen.

“You’ve seen this season that we’re very capable of scoring goals.

“It’s all about trying to keep some clean sheets – especially away from home – to ensure we’re getting the wins we deserve.

“Sometimes in a game you’ve got little or nothing to do, but you’ve just got to keep your concentration.

“And it’s not just down to the back three or the back five – it’s the whole team who defend as a unit and attack as a unit, and everyone takes the credit.

“We just need to keep going now and, looking at the season as a whole, we need to be picking up two points per game to achieve our goals. To do that, we need to keep working hard, not get carried away, and just keep improving as much as we can.

“Winning is a great habit to be in. You want to keep your performance levels up for as long as you can.

“Sometimes you might come up against a team that gets lucky, but if you keep doing the basics this, week in week out, that’s all you can do.”

Latics have already come up against the Shakers twice this term – a narrow Capital One Cup defeat back in August and a thrilling 2-2 draw in the league last month.

On both occasions Bury caused problems with their robust style of play, and Jaaskelainen knows it’ll be the same again this weekend.

“We know Bury are very dangerous from set-pieces, with good deliveries from corners and free-kicks, and we have to avoid conceding them,” he added

“In the league, we conceded from a corner and then a throw-in. Apart from that, we were on top for the whole game and we very nearly threw it all away.

“Against Blackpool on Saturday, Bury scored three of their four goals from set-pieces, and we know what’s coming.

“It will be a big test for us, but if we can defend their set-pieces well we’ll have a big chance of going through to the next round.”