Home comforts important for Ali

ALI Al Habsi believes home form will dictate whether Wigan Athletic remain a Premier League side.

Latics have nine games to save themselves from the dreaded drop, and entertain fellow strugglers Birmingham on Saturday in a real six-pointer.

The Wigan players have been away in La Manga for a mixture of warm-weather training and team bonding thanks to a blank weekend.

This weekend’s opponents, in contrast, were knocked out of the FA Cup in agonising circumstances, losing out to Bolton by the odd goal in five to a 90th-minute winner from Chung-Yong Lee.

Al Habsi (pictured) has called on Latics to take full advantage – and inflict more misery on Blues when the two teams collide at the DW.

“We have some really big games coming up, games which will really shape our season,” Al Habsi told the Evening Post.

“I’m talking about the home games against Birmingham, Tottenham, Everton and West Ham.

“Those four games will be huge – and we all need to pull together and continue to give 100 per cent.

“Everything is still in our hands and we need the supporters to stay with us and keep encouraging us.”

Al Habsi experienced the full support of the Wigan fans during his last run-out, the 1-0 defeat at Manchester City on March 5.

The Oman stopper made a rare blunder to gift all three points to City, but heard his name chanted by the Wigan fans in recognition of his magnificent consistency since joining last summer.

“It’s great to feel support like that behind you,” he acknowledged.

“The fans have been great with me since I’ve been here, and I owe them a thousand ‘thank yous’ for the way they supported me after the goal against City.”

The defeat at Eastlands was the second back-to-back loss against the Manchester clubs, after United’s 4-0 win the previous weekend in Wigan’s last home game.

But Al Habsi says all that is history now – all eyes are on the nine games that remain.

“What is important now is to forget about the results we have had, and to only think of ourselves,” he added.

“We’ve got experience of being in this position in the past, and we need to use that now to start moving away from the relegation zone.”