Joyce talks turnarounds, Fulham and injuries

Warren Joyce is not interested in the club's past results
Warren Joyce is not interested in the club's past results

It’s been a while since Latics fans have had an away day to cheer at Craven Cottage.

The early morning cans on the train and re-learning the hang of swiping tube tickets in just the right way at the barriers make for a great ‘Northerners On Tour’ day out.

But it’s fair to argue that a sleepy journey back to North Western with three points to smile about is overdue.

Not since Henri Camara’s winner in October 2006 has that been the case – not that Warren Joyce appreciated the reminder.

“Thanks for that,” he laughed when given the history lesson.

“But every game has got its own set of problems.

“You just look to win it and I don’t think statistics have anything to do with that.

“They have a way and method of playing that we’ve got to be able to adapt to and stop and they’ve all got their weaknesses that we look to exploit, so every game’s the same for me really.”

Latics arrive in the capital for this afternoon’s game with renewed confidence, especially given the performance of new signing Omar Bogle against Norwich last Tuesday.

Okay, so Latics lost their grip on a 2-1 lead to drop two points in their survival fight, but given the Canaries’ position – they could probably touch the play-offs with their fingertips – most Wigan fans would have taken a point before kick-off.

And discounting the Sheffield Wednesday defeat just over a week ago, Latics’ league form looks promising. Their structure looks more solid, there’s just the nagging worry that time is not quite on their side in the race to climb free of the trap door before it swings shut.

But Joyce says there are ‘plenty of games’ to ensure a survival bid is successful, and he’d be right given his side’s current form.

With two wins and a draw from the last four, keep that up and 17 games should be plenty to make ground on the sides above them in the safety zone – a gap currently standing at five points.

And Joyce isn’t worried about 10th-placed Fulham, though he acknowledges the test from Slaviša Jokanović’s side, reeling from last week’s 1-0 loss to Birmingham, will be stern.

“They’ve got a lot of talent,” he explained.

“They’re a good side with a good stadium and a lot of fans.

“It’s another good test for us and one we’re relishing.”

Joyce also thinks Fulham will have a point to prove as the season nears the final laps, despite their drastic improvement on last season’s finish of 20th in the Championship.

“I think at the start of the season certainly they are another one that expected to be in the top six in the league and pushing for promotion with the outlay they’ve made,” he said.

“They probably disappointed themselves – to be 10th with the talent they’ve got.

“It’s another good test and they have a method of playing where they like to keep the ball and move the ball around and they’ve got a lot of skilful players.”

And with four games before February is out, the Championship schedule is unforgiving, presenting Joyce with as much of a task as his opponents.

“There’s not a great deal physically you can do,” he admitted when asked how the Saturday/Tuesday relay was affecting his workload.

“We’re into a routine now where a lot of players are playing quite a few of the games and to integrate new ones is difficult working with the group that are playing.

“We’ve got almost back to back groups at the minute because we’ve players that need to get fitter and get up to speed.

“There are players working and players that need to recuperate and get ready.

“The fitness is maybe there now, you’re just maintaining and getting them right for the next game.”

Joyce also revealed that Craig Morgan is ruled-out with a toe injury, but has no fresh injury concerns following the 2-2 stalemate at home to Norwich mid-week.

And looking at his options for today’s clash, he explained his call to substitute ex-Manchester United midfielder James Weir at the DW on Tuesday.

“I just thought the game was a bit quick for him,” he said.

“He’s come from not a lot of football and I thought we had a game plan where we could hurt them and it ended up not being the case.

“The areas we wanted to hurt them we didn’t really hurt them in the first half.”

But there was no such concern for Bogle, who struck twice inside 10 minutes to blaze onto the scene.

“It was a good start for him,” Joyce smiled. “He gave himself something to live up to, it was as good a start as he could have hoped for really.”

And those fans making the 400-mile round-trip will hope they get the chance to sing his name through the chilly air this afternoon.

Fulham have lost just once in their last seven home games, with five wins and a draw making up that run, making the task of gaining that elusive win look more difficult. But Joyce admits that will only happen if his side take their chances.

He said: “You have to score goals to win games. I think we’ve created plenty of opportunities but not taken the chances.”