Warren Joyce has rejected the idea Wigan Athletic will have it any easier against out-of-form Ipswich this weekend than any of their previous six tough tests.
It’s been a real baptimism of fire for Joyce since taking over as Latics boss last month.
The opening half a dozen fixtures – Reading (h), Barnsley (a), Huddersfield (a), Derby (ho), Aston Villa (a) and Newcastle (h) – were as tough as they come, and returned only four points.
But after Saturday’s clash with fellow strugglers Ipswich is a trip to Rotherham on Boxing Day, with many fans hopiog Latics can pick up four if not six points to significantly improve their league position.
While confident an upturn in fortunes is imminent, Joyce insists no-one will be taking either opponent lightly.
“The most important thing is the players keep doing the same things,” Joyce acknowledged.
“If they think all of a sudden they don’t have to work as hard because they’re ‘only’ playing Ipswich, who are a well-established Championship side, or think Rotherham is going to be an easy game...it’s not the case.
“Every team has a way of hurting you, and you have to work your socks off to stop the opposition – regardless of who they are – from hurting you.
“And you’ve got to be better, be more composed, make better decisions on the ball, be more creative, be more clinical and be more aggressive at the end of the park.
“It’s the same for me no matter who we play, where we play, home or away - and you’re asking the players to be the same.
“If we work any less hard because it’s ‘only’ Ipswich or ‘only’ Rotherham, we’ll come unstuck.”
While many felt the midweek clash with Newcastle was a ‘free hit’ given the Geordies’ obvious Premier League credentials, the feeling is that the next two games will have more of a bearing on the end-of-season picture.
Again, Joyce disagrees
“To be fair, I don’t look at it like that,” he countered. “I go out there trying to win every single game.
“That’s in my nature – I don’t take defeat too well.
“I set my stall out to win every game, to do the same things you do every week, whoever the opposition.
“I don’t think there should be any fear when we’re playing the likes of Newcastle, and I don’t think there should be any arrogance playing the likes of Ipswich at home because some people think it’s an easy game.
“Ipswich are no mugs. They’ve been consistently in and around the play-offs during the last few years.
“If there is expectancy, it’s because of how hard we’ve worked over the last few weeks – and we need to keep our foot on the pedal.
“You can’t take your foot off the gas. We have to be full throttle.”
Latics go into the game six places behind the 17th-placed Tractor Boys, but in the knowledge a home win could cut the gap to just four points.
Back at the DW will be Latics legend Andy Liddell, who is Town’s fitness coach.