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The 12th Man: Wigan Athletic fans have their say

Nick Powell in action for Latics at Portsmouth
Nick Powell in action for Latics at Portsmouth

Our panel of Latics experts run the rule over an up-and-down Easter - and look ahead to this weekend’s crucial clash against struggling MK Dons.

One of the things about being a Latics fan is having to deal with other Latics fans.

Sometimes, with social media and the like, it really feels like everyone knows everyone else.

While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it does have its downsides.

After the Portsmouth game – a game in which we played reasonably well but just couldn’t get the job done – the reaction was startling.

Suddenly, half the team were useless, the manager has no ‘Plan B’, and there were even accusations of the players being happy in League One!

Latics fans are a curious mix of practical and hysterical, with seemingly no middle ground.

Myself? Well I don’t care much about losing to Portsmouth.

It was always the one game we have left that was going to cause us most problems, so why fret?

Both Blackburn and Shrewsbury will lose a game before the end of the season, plus we still have games in hand, so it’s still ours to lose.

Despite this, there was a mini-meltdown on social media because we lost to a team who have been in good form –winning four on the trot – and who are fighting for a play-off place.

The fact we could conceivably end up with the champions on 104 points, second place on 103 points and third on 99 points shows what a good year it’s been at the top of League One.

To get almost 100 points and not go up automatically would be unthinkable in almost any season in any league, but here we are.

Shrewsbury could well end up in that position, and we all know what happens in the play-offs.

League position ends up counting for nothing, and it’s all about momentum.

At the other end, it looks like being a sad time for North West football come the beginning of May.

Bury are all but down, and Rochdale and Oldham may well join them in League Two.

We know some of their fans are massive whoppers.

But I take pride in being born and raised in the best cultural and sporting region on earth, and all our local rivals form part of that.

Of course, I’d be happy if Bolton got relegated every time.

But they are the exception – not the rule.

So, with eight games left, let’s get behind the lads and bring it home as a collective.

Up the Tics!

PAUL MIDDLETON

Dropping to third place in the table – and suffering a damaging defeat on the south coast – wasn’t exactly the way Latics expected to round off the Easter Weekend.

Especially when Paul Cook’s side had returned to the top of the table in blistering fashion on Friday afternoon.

If the loss to Portsmouth showcased the worst of Latics this season, Oldham was a completely different story. Three goals from a clinical Latics side was a world away from what we saw on Monday night.

Portsmouth bullied us on Monday, the referee didn’t help with some questionable decisions.

But he isn’t the only reason Latics travelled back to the north west without any points. All season long we have struggled against the sides who are physical in nature, those who try to rough us up.

And sadly on Monday we fell in to Portsmouth’s hands.

But in this ridiculous fight to the finish for promotion, there will still be more ups and downs. Shrewsbury had their slip-up on Friday with defeat to relegation-threatened Rochdale.

And Blackburn, although it looks unlikely at the moment, will slip up again.

That’s the nature of this league, and that’s why we have to ensure we don’t suffer defeat again this season.

This is where the games in hand play an important role.

Without those games in hand, Monday’s loss could have been far more damaging.

As it is, we still have promotion within our grasp, and in our own hands.

Maybe a loss like Monday is what’s needed to focus the minds ahead of the run-in?

Next up is the franchise side from Milton Keynes.

Similarly to Oldham, they’re fighting at the wrong end of the table, but have class among their ranks.

We need to be on the front foot, and show the Portsmouth defeat was simply a blip. If we can get six points from the next two games against Milton Keynes and Rochdale, we’ll still be on track.

There’s a long way to go yet, let’s not panic.

SEAN LIVESEY

Latics slipped to third place in the League One table after a very disappointing 2-1 defeat at Portsmouth on Easter Monday.

Despite the poor conditions and some debatable refereeing decisions, which went against us, it was still a below-par performance from some of the players.

Tackles were mistimed, passes went astray and chances weren’t converted.

It wasn’t as though Portsmouth outplayed us.

But several Latics players seemed out of sorts and failed to reach the usual standards they have achieved this season.

They may just have had an off-day, it may have been fatigue, it may have been the conditions.

But let’s hope it’s not a loss of form as they go into the final eight games of the season, with promotion at stake.

It is always easy in retrospect to suggest changes.

But if Ryan Colclough and Will Grigg had been introduced sooner, Latics might have been able to come away from Fratton Park with at least a draw.

I would expect them both to start against their former club MK Dons tomorrow.

At least Paul Cook has plenty of strength in depth, and quality players who can come in to the team and make a difference.

The quality of the manager and the team were recognised this week with Cook winning the March ‘Manager of the Month’ award and Chey Dunkley winning the ‘Player of the Month’ gong.

Also, four players – Nathan Byrne, Dan Burn, Sam Morsy and Nick Powell – were named in the League One team of the season.

Goalkeeper Christian Walton would probably have also featured but he was ineligible for selection as he is on-loan from Premier League Brighton.

With eight games remaining, Latics have a balanced four at home and four away.

Unfortunately, most of the teams they will be facing have something to play for – either involved in the race for promotion or fighting against relegation – so it won’t be an easy run-in.

Latics’ next two opponents MK Dons (h) and Rochdale (a) are both involved in relegation battles, and will be desperate for the points to stay in the division.

The Dons have recently had a mini-revival under former England Under-16 manager Dan Micciche, with three wins, one draw and two defeats in their last six games.

Former Latics midfielder Alex Gilbey will be missing from the team after undergoing knee surgery in February and will miss the rest of the season.

Another former player, reserve keeper Lee Nicholls, is likely to feature, however, as the Dons try to move out of the bottom four.

Rochdale are also experiencing something of a late revival, winning two, drawing three and losing one of their last six fixtures. They have also recently defeated our promotion rivals, Shrewsbury, so it could prove to be a tricky fixture at Spotland.

Despite the setback against Portsmouth, I’m backing Latics to quickly return to winning form.

They still have the advantage of two games in hand on Shrewsbury and one on Blackburn – and a superior goal difference – which should help them to get over the line for automatic promotion.

IAN ASPINALL