LATICS fans give their verdict on the draw against high-flying Bury, and a return to the DW Stadium for Saturday’s visit of Colchester United:
Another enthralling away day at Bury last weekend, and another away day where we found ourselves two goals down and staged a cavalry charge come back in the dying embers of the match.
It’s breathless stuff, but unfortunately only for the final third of the game when we up the tempo.
I understand the tactical reasons for the way we set up at the start of games, and why we don’t go gung ho from kick-off.
But the way we can take a game by the scruff of the neck when needed shows the character and quality in the squad. A pleasing note to come from the game was to hear Bury boss David Flitcroft bemoaning referee Graham Salisbury for the sending-off of his left-back Chris Hussey – though I don’t feel he had any arguments there.
Still it makes a change the opposition feeling aggrieved by refereeing decisions.
Grant Holt made his long-awaited come back, and his first action when he came on?
He fouled the Bury centre back! Just what we’ve been missing while Craig Davies has been out.
Rather than our attack getting bullied by the Bury defence, it was our turn to do the bullying, and this resulted in Nathan Cameron heading into his own goal under pressure from Holt – excellent stuff!
Colchester, our opponents on Saturday, defensively don’t look up to much.
The emphasis will be on us to get amongst them in numbers and put that shaky defence to the test. Hopefully we can get a few goals and three points.
One thing is for sure, though.
I am looking forward to going down to the game and feeling quite excited and expecting to be entertained, something I wasn’t able to say last term.
This season I feel we have got our club back from the shambles of the last one. There is a genuine feel-good factor around the place, and it’s testament to how many travelling fans we take to away games.
The matches are honest and usually close, with a few goals thrown in, and always nail-biting affairs going right to the wire – brilliant stuff.
Pleased with the direction after 12 games? Absolutely.
With the squad we’ve got, I can see this excitement lasting until the end of May.
We’re only part way through the season, but there’s already a trend of Wigan Athletic having to come back from 2-0 down with 15-20 minutes to go to salvage anything from the game.
This was the case at Bury again as, despite having most of the ball, we found ourselves behind once more through sloppy defending.
I believe a change of formation in our away games is needed, because when we set up to attack, teams haven’t been able to handle us.
There’s a myth that if we are to operate a little more direct, it means we have to abolish our ‘passing philosophy’ – as if we’re going to launch long balls onto a big centre forward’s head all game!
But there’s a way of moving the ball on the floor quicker than what we are at the minute, and we can be successful at it.
I find it strange to be complaining slightly as I’ve been relatively happy with how our season is panning out. A quick end note must go to Grant Holt, who I was really happy to see back in first-team action.
Latics’ early season has been blighted by injuries, suspensions and international call-ups but, as more players return to the squad, the prospects look bright.
In particular, Latics now have plenty of goalscorers available for selection, although Craig Davies and Shaq Coulthirst remain on the injured list.
Long-term absentee Grant Holt has returned from injury, Haris Vuckic played 30 minutes for the Development Squad this week, and forwards Jordi Hiwula and Sanmi Odelusi are in contention for a starting place.
But the three players who I would suggest are most likely to make the biggest impact on League One defences are Yanic Wildschut, Will Grigg and Michael Jacobs.
These three attacking players have the ability to ignite Latics promotion push.
The three forwards have shown plenty of promise already but, when they have the chance to play together regularly, they could be the players to turn Latics recent sequence of draws into victories.
Wildschut has impressed already with his direct play, a wonder-strike at Crewe in the JPT and a good performance at Bury.
He is still lacking match fitness, but he has undoubted ability and when fully fit he will be a thorn in the side of League One defences.
Grigg has been unavailable due to injuries and international call-ups, but he will surely benefit from having a player like Wildschut around him – a player who runs at defenders and can deliver quality service into the 18-yard box.
Grigg has only started six games, but he has still managed to score three goals for his new team.
We have still to see the best of him but, with a run in the team and the right service, the goals will surely flow.
Jacobs has been Latics most consistent player so far. He is a clever winger who can create opportunities for his teammates, and is dangerous from set-pieces.
Gary Caldwell has encouraged him to be more direct and score more goals, and I would expect him to beat the eight goals he managed in Wolves’ promotion season in League One.
Latics currently sit just outside the play-off zone three points behind Sheffield United in sixth place, and only eight points off top spot.
They certainly need to tighten up in defence, but they also look to have the players capable of scoring the goals to get them promoted at the end of the season.
After experiencing the Bury comeback, it would be easy for me to write another piece on how this Wigan Athletic team is full of character
We’re unbeaten in five games and haven’t lost at home yet in the league.
Make no mistake, that kind of form is the foundations of a promotion-winning season – if you can keep it up.
But four of those five unbeaten have been draws, mainly because of our tendency to leak goals – especially away from home.
They could have quite easily been victories, but it’s a well-known fact we’re prone to conceding soft goals.
The Bury game was a perfect example.
We dominated possession and played some attractive football, but couldn’t take our chances for one reason or another.
Luckily, we have quality going forward through the creative Michael Jacobs and the powerful Yanic Wildschut – both of whom are far too good for League One in my opinion.
No excuses now, though.
With the attacking capabilities we’ve got in the squad,
and the way we can control games, we are capable of at least a top-six finish.
It’s now time to take our defensive frailties seriously – even if our mistakes are providing us fans with some high entertainment value.