LATICS fans give their verdict on back-to-back draws against Millwall and Oldham...and hope for a return to winning ways this weekend against Walsall:
There was a lot to be pleased about after Tuesday night’s match with Millwall although, admittedly, it wasn’t a great performance.
Some would even argue it was a bad performance, which is understandable.
But if we take a step back and look subjectively, there were a lot of positives.
Millwall came in to the game on the back of four games unbeaten away from home, with three of those being wins – away form in stark contrast to our own away from the DW Stadium.
We were still missing a number of key players from our starting line-up including Jason Pearce, Craig Morgan, Will Grigg, Craig Davies, Haris Vukic and Francisco Junior.
We dominated the first half and it wasn’t a surprise when we went ahead through Michael Jacobs eight minutes after the restart.
But, as too often this season, we couldn’t capitalise on our lead.
We looked nervy at the back when Millwall pushed forward and it was only a matter of time until they equalised.
A bigger disappointment was to see Millwall go ahead in a game which we had dominated.
Their physical tactics had us struggling, and we quickly need to learn to close teams out and to be more clinical in the games we dominate.
I go back to my original point that, with all of those players missing and a patched-up defence, a draw against a team with one of the best away records in the Football League shouldn’t be looked on as all doom and gloom.
Despite the continued absence of Pearce, there was brighter news as Grigg made a goal scoring return to earn us a point.
It also has to be pointed out the return of Junior made a massive difference to our attack in the second half.
It isn’t perfect at the moment – not by a long stretch – but it also isn’t as terrible as some would believe.
Unbeaten at home and only two points off a play-off place at this stage, with all of the changes we made in the summer, is a promising position to be in.
The key now is to build on that – starting with second-placed Walsall on Saturday.
We know it won’t be easy but, if we can do that, we’ll be flying again.
Latics fans really do enjoy a good day out.
And the support in the away end at Oldham last Saturday was second to none, with close on 2,000 Wiganers in great voice, boisterous mood and intent on having fun for the whole day.
The rapturous renditions of the classics ‘I Just Can’t Get Enough...Wigan Latics’, ‘Blue and White Army’ and the timeless ‘Everywhere We Go, The Wigan Boys Making All The Noise’ were a joy to hear and sung continually throughout the full 90 minutes of the game, creating a fantastic atmosphere which the players responded to with dominance in play for the first two thirds of the game.
Unfortunately, and mainly due to going down to 10 men plus Jason Pearce sustaining an injury, the Latics succumbed to concede a sloppy goal and ended up taking just a share of the spoils from a game they should have had wrapped up before half time.
The away following so far this season has been first class, and the Oldham game typified and replicated the superb support on the road, surely providing the symbolic 12th man for the team to rely on in tough times.
How do we get this same intensity of support at the DW for home games has been a question raised many times. Lashings of free beer could be one solution!
It was great to see Cisco Junior and Will Grigg back in action on Tuesday night.
They have both been missed over the past few weeks and both made an impact against Millwall.
Junior was introduced at half time and he brought, zip and drive to what had been a static midfield.
He only looked forward and gave the team a whole new dimension, his tenacity helped to create the opening goal and his energy for the rest of the game had the Millwall defenders on their toes.
Grigg was thrown on with time running out and, with the Latics a goal down, a superb swivel in the last minute of the game saw him hammer home the equaliser.
We saw in that moment just what we brought him to the club for – a crowded penalty box but he reacted and fired home an important goal.
Hopefully, his injured elbow won’t keep him out of the team any longer.
A tough game on Saturday against Walsall who are riding high.
But with the fans behind them and hopefully Junior and Grigg in the starting XI there’s no reason why we can’t cause the division’s form team more problems than they cause us.
League One has been a breath of fresh air after last season’s shambles – exciting games, action and goals.
“I Just Can’t Get Enough...Wigan Latics”.
Let’s keep it going.
They were both games we’d have probably gone on to lose last season, but it was difficult not to be disappointed with two draws from our games with Oldham and Millwall in the last few days.
Given the circumstances on Saturday involving Jordan Flores’ red card, a point was one I was happy to take given we were hanging on at the end of the game.
But Tuesday’s game with Millwall was as flat a performance as I’ve seen in a good while.
Had it not been for the introduction of Francisco Junior, the game may never have got going.
We were comfortable at 1-0, and could and probably should have extended our lead to get another three points. However, defending akin to last season resulted in us needing a last-minute equaliser to draw the game.
Again, and I’ve said it before in these pieces, you can already see that the fight and the attitude is there.
It’s finding a system that lets teams worry about us rather than the other way around. Tuesday was a prime example.
We were playing five at the back, as well as Sean Murray and David Perkins who are holding midfielders.
Away from home, I can kind of see the logic behind it.
But at home it seemed far too negative for me, especially with a team as good as ours is.
I’ve yet to see a team that are streets ahead of us in League One, so we should be imposing ourselves on them rather than it being the opposite.
This may change when players return from injury – as I believe half of our first-choice starting XI are currently sat on the treatment table – so I’m not getting too carried away in being critical.
It was also great to see Will Grigg back too, and it’s imperative that – whenever the lad is fit – he is the first name on our team sheet.
He guarantees goals. He was only on the field a few minutes on Tuesday before popping up in the right place at the right time to score the equaliser.
There were some astonishing outbursts of dissatisfaction with Gary Caldwell’s management on Tuesday as Latics were held 2-2 by Millwall.
Some people in the West Stand showed their frustration during the game with vitriolic attacks on the manager.
These verbal attacks really do beggar belief.
They are unreasonable and take no account of the constraints that Caldwell is currently working under.
Fans pay their money and have the right to express their opinions, but some just don’t see the bigger picture.
Caldwell has had a major rebuilding job at the club following a series of disastrous managerial appointments, and he has had to bring in 20 new players in the summer.
He has only been in post for six months but he has already had a lot to contend with.
This is his first job as a manager and he has had to learn the ropes while under tremendous pressure to succeed. David Sharpe’s unfortunate ‘100 points’ statement certainly didn’t help his cause.
Caldwell has had to revamp the club, change the style of play and get back to the type of football that was so successful under Roberto Martinez.
The early part of this season has been characterised by a long list of injured players.
Morgan, Pearce, Grigg, Davies, Junior, Vuckic, McNaughton, Cowie, Holt and Coulthirst have all been out for lengthy periods.
Latics are a work in progress and fans need to be patient.
The team will inevitably face difficulties when they have so many experienced players on the treatment table.
However, the youngsters who have come in have generally done a good job and maintained a position in mid-table.
Despite negative criticism by some fans, Latics are still unbeaten at home and within touching distance of the play-offs. If they can get the experienced players back and fit, the prospects of moving up the table look promising.
The fans that vent their anger at Caldwell really ought to take a step back, consider the progress being made and support their team rather than constantly berating them.
Tuesday’s 2-2 draw against Millwall wasn’t that bad a result.
We were both relegated from the Championship last season and are both fancied to go straight back up, so on paper a draw is a fair result.
The most frustrating thing about the game was dominating the ball for the best part of an hour, but only converting our dominance into one goal before being pegged back.
Gary Caldwell needs to scrap three at the back for me, home and away.
Millwall played one up front so there was no need for an extra centre-half, we could have had a partner up front for Jordy Hiwula instead.
If we could convert our possession statistics into goals we would be much higher up the table. We’ve just been struggling to find that killer instinct without the likes of Craig Davies and Will Grigg.
The back three limits our play – it’s a sort of burden that makes us feel as though we have to use the extra centre-back when on the ball. It also wastes the talents of Chris McCann, who is much better as an attacking midfielder.
However, once we have a fully fit squad and the gaffer sees we play far better with a back four, I’m sure we’ll be in or around the promotion picture at the end of the season.
The major positive is that we’re still unbeaten at home, and we aren’t pushovers at the DW like we were last season – which can only be good news.