Plotting the road that leads Wigan Athletic to promotion
It's hard to believe this football season only has just over a month to go.
A revitalised team led by Paul Cook followed by an FA Cup run almost worthy of a film script are only two of the scenes in this blockbuster.
The FA Cup had the romance, but this bit is the finale before the credits roll. The important bit with car chases and weapons being fired – all we’re missing are the aviators. Starting with tomorrow’s trip to Bury, Cook has to manage his squad through 11 games in just 43 days to ensure his side get back to the Championship at the first time of asking. He won’t get another full week to prepare for a match until the final week of the season – meaning his resources will be stretched as much as the annual leave slips of the fans.
But Latics’ destiny is in their own hands. Third in League One but with games in hand. Strap yourselves in – here is the run in...
Bottom of the table Bury, on paper, shouldn’t be a problem for Latics as they look to make up ground on the automatic promotion places. A 4-1 Wigan win at home back in August is just one of the 21 defeats the Gigg Lane outfit have endured this term.
Oldham are another side trying to avoid the drop into League Two.
They will still have plenty to fight for by the time they visit the DW on
Good Friday, and have a 2-0 defeat from August to avenge.
Easter Monday couldn’t be much more of a potential stumbling block.
The mammoth trip will be Paul Cook’s first visit to Fratton Park since he left Pompey for Latics last summer, and Wigan’s opponents could still be looking for a way to sneak into the play-offs.
MK Dons (Home)
MK Dons are another team in trouble, and so far have only won nine this season.
Nick Powell put them to the sword on the opening day of the season in a 1-0 win for Latics, and this will be another chance for them to add three points to their promotion push.
Paul Cook then has just three days to prepare for this re-arranged fixture. The trip to Spotland, which has been postponed twice already, sees both teams with a lot to play for.
Fourth-placed Rotherham should still be in the play-off mix come April, but they presented few problems for Latics in November with Wigan winning 3-1.
This Tuesday night fixture originally fell victim to Wigan’s FA Cup run, which is partly responsible for the current backlog in Paul Cook’s diary. Oxford could well be safe by the time this fixture comes around - but if they get dragged into a survival battle they will have more to play for than just to avenge the 7-0 thumping Latics handed them before Christmas.
Fleetwood have endured a disappointing season after reaching the play-offs last term. If Latics are on their game they shouldn’t have any problems at Highbury.
Bristol R (Away)
Another rearranged game due to the weather.
Latics were due to visit the Memorial Stadium in February, but a
frozen pitch added to a building end-of-season crescendo.
Latics beat the Rovers 3-0 in September, and with them being mid-table,
might have run out of things to play for by the end of next month.
AFC Wimbledon (Home)
A final game of the season at the DW and possibly a title to play for should be enough reason to see Latics punish relegation-threatened Wimbledon.
Looking to this clash at the Keepmoat Stadium makes you realise it felt like the season started last week. Hopefully the fans making the decent trek for this one will already be in party mood - and hopefully there will be no prospect of having to win promotion through the play-offs hanging over the trip. Doncaster were beaten 3-0 by Wigan in November, and if they haven’t already by this point, Latics shouldn’t have any issues getting what they need from this game.