Returning Wigan Athletic ace tipped to make 'huge impact'

Shaun Maloney has tipped Matt Smith to make 'a huge impact' during the second half of Wigan Athletic's campaign following his return to injury at Northampton.
Matt Smith made a successful return from injury at Northampton on SaturdayMatt Smith made a successful return from injury at Northampton on Saturday
Matt Smith made a successful return from injury at Northampton on Saturday

The 23-year-old midfielder - who arrived last summer from Arsenal - made a successful comeback after almost four months out with a hernia problem.

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And Maloney admits his playmaker has been greatly missed during his absence.

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"Matt's going to have a huge impact for us...and it's also had a huge impact over the last three or four months with the way we've played," acknowledged Maloney.

"I think you could immediately see the relationship he can open up with the midfielder inside him. But Matt Smith is big, the way he can receive the ball, and immediately play forward.

"He makes Scott Smith even better, he makes Baba Adeeko even better, he makes Steven Sessegnon even better, he makes Liam Shaw even better

"He can compliment any of them in there, and I'm really happy to have him back.

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"All the midfielders bring attributes of their own to the table. But Matt's qualities - with how we are trying to play - really does suit, just in terms of understanding when to slow the game down and when to quicken it, like he did for the goal.

"It sounds easy, but it's not, and I thought he was brilliant considering how long he'd been out.

"He's worked very, very hard, and I have to give the medical team big credit because it's been very, very busy in that treatment room for a while."

Smith started the campaign in the centre of midfield alongside Thelo Aasgaard, who has also recently returned from injury.

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The sight of the pair of them on the pitch together at Sixfields is one that excited the manager.

"Thelo is a brilliant football player and, again, the challenge for him is to do it every week," Maloney added.

"I need to see the Thelo that played against Manchester United and Northampton. "When Thelo is at his best, I think he's such a talented football player.

"He needs to add goals to his games, not just shots from outside the box, which we know he's got. But I'm really pleased with him, another one who's come back from injury, who we've had to rush back."