New defensive duo for Wigan Athletic

Harry Maguire
Harry Maguire

WIGAN Athletic could field an all-new central defensive partnership at Reading tonight as they attempt to give themselves a much-needed relegation lifeline.

Latics travel to Berkshire for their game in hand in desperate need of a first win of 2015, having seen the gap between them and safety extend to nine points over the weekend.

Leon Barnett looks like missing the game after picking up a knock, while Liam Ridgewell’s short-term loan has expired and he has flown back to America to resume his MLS career with the Portland Timbers.

That could mean dramatic debuts for recent recruits Harry Maguire and Jason Pearce, with boss Malky Mackay talking up both during his pre-match press conference yesterday.

“Obviously we’re disappointed about Leon taking the knock, but Harry Maguire’s come in and looks comfortable, while Jason Pearce is bursting at the seams for his chance,” Mackay said.

“That’s two young and very, very solid centre-backs who are desperate to do well for the club, and I’m delighted with that little bit of business.”

Mackay also rejected the notion of it being too much of a gamble to field two new-boys in the same defence.

“They’ve both played a lot of football and, within a few days at training, players get to know each other,” he added.

“Obviously the longer players play with each other the more they gel and click, but they’re experienced players and it’s not something that’s concerning me.”

Club captain Emmerson Boyce is also in contention to make his first league appearance since December 20.

Chris McCann will miss the game after tweaking his hamstring, an injury that could sideline him for up to 10 days.

“The squad is looking pretty light at the moment,” added Mackay. “We’ll have youngsters Louis Robles, Jordan Flores and Joey Johnson coming with us to fill the squad.

“It’ll be good for them to be in the first-team environment because that’s where we see them ending up.”

n Latics have handed a trial to ex-Liverpool and Arsenal winger Jermaine Pennant, who is a free agent.