'Millwall test as difficult as it gets,' says Wigan Athletic manager Paul Cook
After what has seemed like an age, league football is back and fans are already booking half days off work for tonight's trip to Millwall.
The international break probably felt longer due to how Latics went into it - on the back of a stinging defeat at Preston, but the way they bounced back against West Brom last weekend pleased manager Paul Cook probably as much as supporters.
The performance against West Brom proved again that Wigan Athletic have no problems mixing it with the big clubs in the Championship.
Now the players’ task is to replicate that performance on the road, where Latics have come unstuck so far this term, winning once in seven games, but Cook says he has no hesitation in believing they can continue what they started last Saturday.
“I was delighted with the performance,” he said. “Results will always come on the back of good performances but to play such a strong side at home who are free-scoring. To limit them in a game where, when you look back, there were not many chances, the players deserve all the credit.
“It was a good training week, it’s always nice to have that much time to prepare, you feel like you can prepare properly.
“All in all it was a really good weekend and as the famous saying goes, we go again.
“I think in my time at the club now the lads have produced enough wins in big games for me to believe that no matter what. That belief will be there no matter who we play.”
At home, Latics have few problems picking-up results, demonstrated by their current position of eighth in the Championship, and they were also fearless at the DW last term in beating three Premier League sides in their incredible FA Cup run.
“I think when you look back on the 16-18 months to date, we’ve won some big games at home. West Ham, Bournemouth,
Man City, these are big teams that have come to the DW,” he said.
“The games don’t hold any fear – it’s playing as well as the lads can and belief in what we’re doing which is most important.
“If we believe in what we’re doing and we can replicate performances then results will probably be the same.
“But it’s not as easy as people think it is to replicate performances. You have to have an intensity, a work rate, a desire. There are so many boxes to tick along the way.
“Preston the week before, how many boxes did we tick? Not enough. When you don’t tick the boxes, you certainly won’t win football games so, like most teams, the challenge is consistency.
“It’s what we seek from players and squads and teams, and it can be the hardest part of the game.”
Cook has warned, though, that Millwall’s league position - 22nd in the Championship - should not be taken into account when looking to tonight’s game.
He points to how they have performed at home so far, including their win over Aston Villa, and says manager Neil Harris can steer them clear of trouble.
“Neil’s very experienced. He’s a top manager and will be telling his lads to replicate what you do and everything will be okay,” he said.
“Neil and his staff know exactly what they’re doing, the team have a style of play which suits Millwall, and they will be fine.
“Tomorrow night is as difficult a test as we could have, and we’re well prepared for that.”