Jussi proving he’s far from Finnished!

Jussi Jaaskelainen
Jussi Jaaskelainen

JUSSI Jaaskelainen is 90 minutes away from a hat-trick of clean sheets.

But after back-to-back shut-outs against Port Vale and Sheffield United, the veteran Wigan Athletic goalkeeper couldn’t care less about personal accomplishments ahead of Saturday’s visit of Oldham.

All he cares about is the three points on offer that would take Latics closer to their target of winning promotion back to the Championship.

“I don’t really look at the stats,” he told the Evening Post.

“Obviously it’s good to see we’re keeping clean sheets, and not conceding so many goals.

“They are big building blocks to winning games and climbing up the league.

“If we can keep it tight at the back, we know we are a team that creates a lot of chances at the other end.

“We’re on a great run at the moment but, given the start we had, the only hope we had of winning promotion was to put together a run like this.

“The unbeaten run might be nine games, but we can’t afford to be thinking of that as we prepare for the Oldham game.

“All you think about is the next game, preparing the right way, and make sure we pick up another three points.”

Latics’ spike in form after a patchy start can almost be traced from Jaaskelainen displacing Rich O’Donnell as No.1 at the beginning of October. But the 40-year-old modestly plays down his role in shoring up a backline that is now the second meanest in League One behind Burton.

“Considering it’s a relatively new defence, it’s been pleasing the way we’ve been as a unit,” he acknowledged.

“The biggest factor in that has been cutting out the individual mistakes that were killing us at the start of the season. That’s something we need to keep doing, because it’s helping us to achieve more positive results.

“Obviously you can’t do anything if someone scores a brilliant goal, you have to take your hat off.

“As long as we’re not giving goals away, from own mistakes, because that is avoidable.

“Defending always starts from the front as well.

“The defenders and the goalkeeper get most of the credit for that, but it is a team game and it starts with the strikers.

“They must know when to pressure and when to drop off, and give the team the base to be a solid unit.”

A big crowd is expected at the DW for Saturday’s ‘Battle of the Latics’.

Local pride is also at stake, but Jaaskelainen says that is not adding to the pressure in the build-up.

“You try and prepare every week the best you can, whether it’s a local derby or not,” he revealed. “As long as we can prepare in the right way, we are giving ourselves the bets possible chance of getting a result.

“Every game’s a big game, not just the derbies, and we have to make sure we pick up where we left off last weekend at Sheffield United.

“We’ve been looking forward all week to this game, we’ve trained well and hopefully we can get another positive result.”

Latics took advantage of slips by Gillingham and Walsall to move up to third place in League One last weekend, just a point off the automatic promotion places.

Anything less than a win for Walsall – next weekend’s opponents – would open the door for Latics to move into the top two for the first time this season. But the ex-Finland international is too long in the tooth to be taking anything for granted or allowing his mind to wander elsewhere.

“We can’t be looking at any other results,” he added. “All we can do is keep going, and do our best to pick up the results that will take us up the table. It doesn’t matter what any other team is doing if we’re not doing our own job.”