The 12th Man: Latics fans look ahead to the visit of Port Vale after a disappointing draw at struggling Crewe

Wigan Athletic players celebrate scoring at Crewe
Wigan Athletic players celebrate scoring at Crewe

IS everyone happy then?

Well as we moved up from fifth to fourth last week then you’d assume so.

However, the fact we only drew with “lowly” Crewe, and Burton won one of their games in hand midweek, seems to have tempered the mood somewhat.

Failing to take three points at Crewe wasn’t ideal but it is done now.

Whereas they may be lacking quality, Crewe looked a team far from down and out.

To expect a 5-0 rout like Coventry inflicted upon them was extremely complacent, and often a drubbing like that can be just the jolt a struggling team needs to get its act together.

As they will be playing both Walsall and Burton at home in the next few weeks, we can only hope they can apply the same battling spirit and nick points off them.

I have a feeling the unstoppable phenomenon that is Burton may well end up running away with the division, maybe even securing David Sharpe’s much-coveted 100 points.

For a small club to emerge from the non-leagues and build something so robust and effective, with barely any star players, is indeed refreshing in today’s money-mad game – as much as it is frustrating for Latics fans.

Yet, we were happy enough when we were the “pub team” making our way from Northern Premier League to English Premier League, so to discredit their achievements feels very churlish now.

We may have the biggest budget but that doesn’t always equate to romping any league.

And it’s probably just as well as we wouldn’t have had half the success we enjoyed as underdogs for many a year if that were the case.

Maybe we shouldn’t have splashed out on Yanic Wildschut and simply offered Burton a million quid for their entire team if football is that simple?

I must admit the play-offs are a far-from-enticing prospect with our record of one win in 14. But bridging the gap to the top two won’t be easy.

We certainly won’t be having an easy game this weekend against Port Vale, who were impressive at their place early season, and now seem to be climbing the table again.

When you are near the top of the table, only a win is acceptable. And the discord when teams around us win is always mystifying, because that’s what teams at the top do – win football matches!

So we need to look upwards, and a win will guarantee we stay above Coventry, who have the opportunity to put a dodgy-looking spell behind them with the visit of Scunthorpe.

However, as Walsall don’t play until Tuesday, we can also pull within a point of them.

There is plenty about Wigan Athletic that continues to be frustrating right now. But nobody can deny there is plenty of excitement about as well.

MARTIN TARBUCK

WIN your home games and get a point away will see you up.

That used to be the saying, and it still rings true today.

It would see two points per game over the course of a season and almost guarantee promotion.

In that context, the draw at Crewe on Saturday wasn’t that bad a result although, to be frank, playing a side that sit bottom of the table – with just two home wins all season, eight defeats and conceding five goals on two occasions – you would expect to be there for the taking for a side chasing automatic promotion.

Football, though – as once was the catchphrase of Jimmy Greaves – is a funny old game, and results can quite often throw up surprises.

Having been at Gresty Road on Saturday, I for one left the game very surprised that we didn’t take all the points.

Glorious opportunities were spurned, and we really do need to have a clinical edge in front of goal if we are, as we all hope, to push on from now until May.

There’s talk of fresh faces coming in to spruce up the squad before the transfer window shuts on Monday – final pieces of the jigsaw being sought, namely a midfield player and an extra striker would be most welcome for competition and quality cover.

With Will Grigg’s season being stop-and-start due to niggles and international duty, we have lacked a quality replacement that can be relied upon.

Hopefully this will be addressed before the end of the window.

Port Vale are at the DW on tomorrow and, going back to my opening comments, this is a game that we should be winning to enable us to fulfil our objective.

Three points at home are vital. The Valiants have lost nine games on the road in League One this season, and we should be making that 10.

Hopefully this week the result will go according to the form book.

Up the Tics!

BARRY WORTHINGTON

FRUSTRATION and two points dropped was the feeling I had as I headed away from Crewe on Saturday evening.

Of course, we didn’t lose the game and the unbeaten run goes on.

But I couldn’t help but feel that was a chance that ran away from us.

In the midst of all the frustration following the draw at Crewe, we managed to move up a place in the League One table following Coventry’s heavy defeat at Southend United.

But we had a chance to close the gap between us and the top two to just three, and we couldn’t capitalise.

We should have won the game – we certainly had enough opportunities to have done so.

And if Yanic Wildschut had been able to convert one of his two big chances – one of which was harder to miss than score – we’d be sat here talking about another big away win.

We also have to sit and wait on the news on Michael Jacobs’ injury.

It would be a massive blow to us if he is out for a prolonged period, as he has been in superb form for us in recent weeks.

We simply have to draw a line under that and move on, with Port Vale facing us this Saturday.

If we are to be serious about making it into the automatic promotion spots, then games like these are ones you cannot afford to lose.

Burton Albion won in midweek, and pushed themselves eight points clear of us in fourth place.

Although that is a big gap, there’s still enough games for us to chase that down before the end of the season, in my opinion.

Fans at our own club are starting to wonder if Gary Caldwell’s insistence on playing with the ball on the deck at all times is a detriment to our chances of promotion.

But I would disagree with that.

I enjoy watching us play football and I like that Caldwell is trying to build a philosophy at the club that will benefit us in the long term.

Yes, we have to look at the short term just as much. But just two defeats in 22 league games tells you that we’re going about things quite nicely in the present day too.

If you watch us each week, the players are forming relationships with Jacobs and Will Grigg providing an example, and we’re scoring goals for fun.

If we are to shore up at the back with Jason Pearce and Craig Morgan getting a prolonged run together at the heart of the defence, I’m sure we can make an assault on the top two.

SAM WHYTE

THE doomsayers were out in force after Latics’ 1-1 draw at bottom club Crewe.

The pessimists seem to think we’ve already blown our chances of promotion. However, I think they’re still very much in the race to go up automatically.

Latics are playing well and produced another good performance at Crewe.

They were on top for most of the game and, with a bit of luck, would have secured all three points.

If, as the cliché suggests, the English league calendar is more akin to a marathon than a sprint, Latics’ season started slowly but is now gathering momentum towards the finish line.

Latics are unbeaten in seven games (the second best record in the Football League behind Nottingham Forest) and are up to fourth place in the table.

They are only five points behind second-placed Gillingham with 54 points to play for.

Last season MK Dons were promoted in second place with 91 points, and Latics are still capable of reaching that total.

The first team has been strengthened during the January transfer window with the permanent signing of Yanic Wildschut and the addition of Reece Wabara and there are likely to be more signings before the deadline.

Latics will have a stronger squad after the transfer window than they did at the start and, with a few tweaks in the performances, an automatic promotion place is still a realistic target.

IAN ASPINALL

WE are so close, yet so far.

The draw at rock-bottom Crewe was equally as frustrating as blowing a 3-0 lead at home to Sheffield United.

We could be sat here now just a point off the second automatic promotion spot. But instead it’s five points.

And no matter how hard we try or how well we perform, we are – just like Max Power said – our own worst enemy.

Complacency seems to be the issue.

At Crewe we had a 1-0 lead, and for 40 minutes we controlled the game. However, we couldn’t see it through to half-time.

The players were focussed for 40 minutes, before a crazy five minutes saw the opposition equalise and almost take the lead straight after.

It’s our game management that’s let us down this season.

I keep convincing myself that it’s only a temporary problem, because we’re a relatively new squad of players. But how long is it before they are no longer a new squad?

Poor game management can lead to complacency, and complacency can lead to conceding goals.

Football is a punishing sport and, let’s face it, clean sheets haven’t exactly been our forte. You only have to look at league leaders Burton to see that managing games can bring you great success.

On paper, our squad is bigger and better than the one Nigel Clough has at his disposal – it’s just the Brewers are a better team, a better unit.

That’s not to say I don’t think we can be a great team, the more time this current crop has playing together, the better we will become.

Admittedly, it’s easier said than done because that amount of time can’t be judged – it could be weeks, months or maybe even a full campaign.

We’ve showed glimpses of what we’re capable of when the whole squad clicks, and we’re not a million miles away.

Keep the faith as always.

KIERAN MAKIN