We have to 'stay involved in the race', insists Wigan Athletic boss
Paul Cook reckons Tuesday night’s visit of Middlesbrough represents ‘a smashing chance’ for Wigan Athletic to bounce back.
Latics are looking to get back on the horse as quickly as possible after Saturday’s 2-1 home defeat to Preston.
The setback took away most of the momentum generated by successive wins against Sheffield Wednesday and Leeds.
But Cook wants his players to show what they’re made of - and drag Middlesbrough back into the relegation dogfight.
“It’s a smashing chance for us to bounce back,” the Latics boss said.
“If we win on Tuesday that makes it three wins out of four.
“And for teams like us, that’s a big run.
“As disappointed as we feel after Saturday - and we do - we must pick ourselves up.”
As good as Latics were against Leeds, they were every bit as bad against Preston, underlining the up-and-down nature of the campaign.
“We’ve been very inconsistent all year,” acknowledged Cook.
“So if anyone is expecting us to be anything other than inconsistent, well they’re quite foolish.
“We’ve just got to make sure we find ways to win games.
“It’s the biggest thing at this stage of the season, when the games are chipping down and you get down to single figures.
“It looks like Stoke and Huddersfield are getting away from us, after winning at the weekend.
“But we’ve all seen what a result can do, and the biggest thing for us now is making sure we stay involved in the race.
“If we can get a positive result against Middlesbrough, who have 36 points, it would lift us to 32.
“And all of a sudden Middlesbrough are looking over their shoulder.
“But if Middlesbrough come to our place and get a win, it would probably put us away (from them), they’d go 10 points clear of us.
“All we can do is concentrate on getting our own result, and everything else will take care of itself.
“We know we’re never going to go and win 10 games on the bounce.
“We know we’re not going to go and conquer the world.
“But if we are to stay up, we have to be able to take disappointment, manage that and come back stronger.”
One goal could well be enough to settle this one, with Latics (29) and Boro (32) by far the lowest scorers in the division.
“That’s probably been our biggest downfall this season - every other team is scoring more goals than us,” recognised Cook.
“Looking at the margins in our games, by and large it’s only been one goal.
“And Middlesbrough have suffered a little bit with the same thing, despite all their firepower.
“I think they’re scored 32 league goals, three more than us, so it’s not just us who it’s happening to.
“There’s a multitude of reasons for that - it’s the creativity, it’s the crosses into the box, it’s the personnel, it’s whatever.
“The reality for us is we’ve been in the bottom three for a long time, and it’s because we’re not winning as many games as the teams above us.
“We’ve got to find a way of putting that right between now and the end of the season.”