SHAUN Maloney admits Wigan Athletic can almost taste Premier League safety after their demolition job on Newcastle.
Latics put the Champions League-chasing Toon to the sword on Saturday thanks to four fantastic first-half goals – their fourth huge scalp in a month after previous wins over Liverpool, Manchester United and Arsenal.
Maloney, who grabbed number three himself and was outstanding throughout, insists no-one at the DW will be counting any chickens just yet.
But a repeat performance next Monday night at Blackburn - and hopefully another three points - could secure an eighth season of top-flight football with a game to spare.
“We’ve given ourselves a great chance, and the Blackburn game is going to be huge now,” Maloney said.
“If we perform like we did on Saturday then we’ve got a good chance of beating Blackburn, but if we perform like we did against Fulham last week then we’ll come away from there with nothing.
“We really do need to be at the races to give ourselves any chance of beating Blackburn. We know how big a game Monday is going to be.”
After last weekend’s disappointing defeat at Craven Cottage, it was the perfect way for Latics to respond.
“Yes it was,” Maloney added. “After the Fulham defeat and the way we played, we needed that. And we were outstanding from the first whistle.
“It’s a very good Newcastle side, and they’ve had an outstanding season. But to perform like that in the first half was a big testament to our work rate.”
Despite still having work to do, Latics would certainly have taken going into the final two matches - against the bottom two sides in the table - with 37 points on the board.
“It’s a good position,” Maloney acknowledged. “A couple of months ago a lot of people were writing us off, and we knew we had it all to do - particularly with the fixture list we had.
“It’s easier said than done, though. Come next Monday, there will be a lot of pressure involved and we’re going to have to produce another performance like this one to ensure we stay up.”
Given the way Latics completely completely dismantled the Toon, it’s hard to fathom why the side has struggled for so much of the campaign.
“I don’t know why it’s taken us so long for the penny to drop with what the manager was asking us,” Maloney reflected.
“I’m sure the manager knows but, as players, I don’t know why it’s taken us this long to play the way we are.”