PART 1: Wigan Athletic: The 12th Man - ‘I can't wait to get to summer, clear the decks, see what - if anything - Mr Danson has planned...’

It was a miserable night for Latics at Doncaster in midweek as they went out of the Bristol Street Motors Trophy on penaltiesIt was a miserable night for Latics at Doncaster in midweek as they went out of the Bristol Street Motors Trophy on penalties
It was a miserable night for Latics at Doncaster in midweek as they went out of the Bristol Street Motors Trophy on penalties
Our panel of Latics experts reflect on a disappointing week which included a fighting point at Northampton and the end of the Wembley dream in the Bristol Street Motors Trophy...

Caddy from the 5:

As the saying goes it was 'After The Lord Mayor's Show' for the Tics this week. And the buzz around the Manchester United game was well and truly put out with a borefest at Northampton - a side supposedly challenging for a play-off spot. Well they were terrible and we weren't much better, the offside stat was the only thing doing much in a game that will live very short in fans' minds. And so it was up to the Pizza Cup to lift our spirits on Tuesday, and keep the dream of putting another four past Horwich, but this time at Wembley. Well if you thought Northampton was bad, this game said 'hold my beer'! An absolutely dire performance, with the only upside being more minutes for Matt Smith and the return of Jason Kerr. Charlie Wyke scoring and barely acknowledging it tells me all I need to know about where his head is - and it isn't at Wigan. Close the door on your way out, lad. There's not much of a feel-good factor at the club at the moment, performances are simply not good enough, the football is stagnant, and we need something to get that spark back. Maybe new faces, albeit still loans and freebies, would help. Will we go down? Absolutely not, I've said it before, we're more than a match for anyone in this very poor division this year. But honestly I can't wait to get to summer, clear the decks, see what - if anything - Mr Danson has planned for us, and hopefully let Shaun Maloney finally take the shackles off. With a new owner coming in and a massive rebuild needed on all fronts, it's no wonder progress off the pitch is slow. But getting a board in place is surely a priority now, because we do look like a rudderless ship at the moment. We hear nothing from Danson (no problem with that) but nothing from whoever is in charge of the day-to-day stuff, bar snippets. Of course we're not asking for a look at the books, but something on what kind of plan we've got going forward would settle any nervous bones amongst the fans, surely? This weekend sees a team whose owner lived the dream, paid the price for it, and sold up when the good times stopped, setting them back a Reading side in the same boat! It's almost a carbon copy of what we went through what they're facing now, well, bar the same points deductions for the same offences...yeah cheers EFL, you clowns. And there's rumours of another protest on Saturday, fill your boots lads, you'll get no argument here. The sooner the EFL and dodgy owners are held to account, the better. A bit of good news to finish, and the Joseph's Goal walk has been announced for the Blackpool game in March. If you're thinking about it, get it done, you won't regret it...even if you have to listen to someone tell you every substitute we used in the 1988-89 season...only japing! It's a highlight of the Tics calendar, and well recommended. Right, I'm off preparing for a birthday weekend, so there may be more 'Bow than usual, mainly to get me through the 90 minutes I think...!

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Matt Auffrey:

Disappointment has struck again. For the second time this season, we’ve exited a cup competition by losing to a side from a lower division in a penalty shoot-out. Both performances (Wrexham and Doncaster) were equally underwhelming. We scored a very impressive team goal early in the game then took our foot off the pedal. If Doncaster were any better of a side, they would’ve equalised much earlier in the game. But after a prolonged build-up, their growing momentum delivered a well-deserved goal in the 70th minute. Our late attempts at a winner proved to be too little, too late. Passive and negative football prevented us from killing the game off when Doncaster were there for the taking. Even after making seven changes to the starting line-up on Tuesday evening, we put out a side that was strong enough to take control of the match and win comfortably. We let ourselves down with too poor of an effort over too long of a stretch. The ensuing loss has certainly given our fanbase a fair bit to ponder in the lead up to the Reading game this weekend. We have won just one match from our last nine fixtures across all competitions. The team is not in a state of disarray yet, but a few more poor results could disrupt the team dynamic to an unhealthy degree. The January transfer window has not produced any permanent outgoings up to this point, but there have certainly been rumblings on social media about players who could possibly leave. Some players may depart before the end of the month for purely financial reasons, while others may leave due to footballing reasons and not fitting into Shaun Maloney’s future plans. With our Wembley dreams for this season all but shattered, we need to enter February with a group of players who are completely locked into the ongoing battle for league survival. Maloney should have a good idea of which lads are fully committed to the cause for the remainder of our league campaign. Our next opponents, Reading, have seen the desperate situation with their owner Dai Yongge only spiral downward since we faced off four weeks ago. I encourage every reader to take a few minutes of their free time to look into the dire happenings involving their club if they haven't done so yet. Players, staff, and fans are all affected and their misfortune is all too familiar. Their fans took to the pitch to voice their frustration during last weekend’s Port Vale fixture, and the match was subsequently abandoned. There’s no telling where their players will be mentally when they visit the DW on Saturday. We know very well what it is like to show up week after week in the midst of constant turmoil. We could easily face a very inspired team that is difficult to beat (as they were in the reverse fixture), or we could face a side struggling to keep their focus on the pitch with so much going on behind the scenes. I expect for us to put out our strongest team possible, and hopefully put forth an effort that is quite the opposite of what we saw midweek. Saturday marks the start of a very important run that could vault us firmly into mid-table or drag us deeper into the relegation dogfight. We’ve immediately bounced back from other poor performances so far this season, and the Reading match is another opportunity to show we’re dead set on making the most of these final 20 league fixtures. Let’s give the lads the benefit of the doubt they’ll raise their levels at the DW and support them with gusto. There is still much work to do before we reach this season's finish line.

George Chilvers:

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Time to pack away the silver foil cup and the rosettes and scarf. Another trip to Wembley disappears. A shame really, because it seemed this year may be the best chance in the Not-Pizza Cup. I really did think we had a chance of getting there, and I'm afraid Tuesday night's capitulation hurt. Sometimes it's not the result, but the manner of the defeat that counts and, while the first half against Doncaster was excellent, the capitulation in the second half was woeful. It's not just me or the Illuminati of social media saying that, it's Shaun and the players who shake their heads at what went wrong. Now in no way am I leaping aboard the hysterical bandwagon that follows every loss, any more than I try to keep my feet anchored on the ground when we win, but there does seem to be a mentality, a complacency, that needs to be excised from the team. That we have ability in the squad both at individual and team level is clear from the purple patches when they come, but then we fall asleep at the wheel, or any other metaphor you can think of, let the opposing team back in, and suddenly we are struggling. I don't know if it's something an easy tweak would cure, or if there is something in the psyche of the squad, but we need to address it before we slide down the table into more dangerous territories. And of course, as for penalties we need speak no more. It's the one area of play where we can compare ourselves to England. Northampton on Saturday provided a similar scenario with a different order of events on the timeline, but still the same story. Played well, but let them score, then huff and puff for a late equaliser. We seem unable to put opponents to the sword in our purple patches. And so, on to Reading whose plight is one we can all sympathise with. How the authorities can turn off-field problems and issues to on-field penalties is beyond me. Look at Everton's position. No matter what Sean Dyche does, he is hampered by off-field shenanigans, which are likely to throw the end of season Premier League positions into chaos. The whole system needs an overhaul. Off the field is the news Ticketmaster are to be the new ticket providers. They have a reliable record...well, compared to our now former providers, but there is still a lack of clarity about fees, which need to be answered by the club. We have another example of a lack of clear board structure and accountability, the lack of a visible CEO who can step in and allay fears. I know I keep banging on about it, but something, anything, in place would dampen some of the wilder conspiracy theories that abound.

Charlie Keegan:

Que sera, sera - but, we are not going to Wembley...this season. After 20 minutes against Doncaster Rovers, I felt like we were cruising to a quarter-final tie at Bradford City in the EFL Trophy. Then something happened. We lost control. We lost our spirit. We lost our fight. Then we went on to lose the game on penalties. Frustrating, to say the least. There have been talks online about whether Shaun Maloney is the man for the job, and how our lack of structure at the top is having a big effect here. But, I don’t think that performance is about either of those two things. That was about the player mentality. That was about the desire to take the game by the scruff of the neck and show why they thought they deserved to win the game. Quite ironic really because, in the end, we certainly did not deserve to win that game. That’s football though, I guess! You win some, and you lose some. Our full attention needs to focus on the bigger target at play this season, survival in League One. Can we achieve it? Most certainly. But, this is going to take a collective push, where each and every player stands up to the task and puts in a performance to make the fans happy - at home and on the road. Maloney has done a simply incredible job since signing his name on the dotted line 12 months ago. In fact, January 28 will mark just ONE whole year since he was named as our new manager after the car crash that was...well, you know. Whatever was specified on Maloney’s job role is certainly not the only role he has had to fill in the last 51 weeks. And I think he deserves much more credit than he is getting of late. As I have touched upon here, I feel most of our poor performances have been about player mentality rather than game tactics. But I can see the flipside, where I wince at some of the game management ideas we are seeing. That said, he isn’t yet a fully established manager, and his career in this role is very much in its infancy. We will see a development in his approach, game management, and in-game ideas, but he also hasn’t had the ability to spend any money on this squad yet so, like all good things, this will all take time. It will only be fair to judge Maloney on what he can do by around this time next year. I have no real fears about dropping into League Two and, after a full transfer window with a good chunk of time to go again next season, we will begin to see where we are really at in terms of competing and looking like we are truly on the right path. Reading (h) next, and it will be an interesting day for sure. It’s a disgrace they are going through the same sort of issues Latics barely escaped just months ago, and I wish nothing but the best for them as we simply cannot lose another club due to terrible owners. Whatever happens on the day, I hope everybody remains safe. Up the Tics.