Wigan Athetic: Five things we learned from Burton (h)
Paul Kendrick reflects on five talking points from Wigan Athletic's 1-1 draw against Burton on Saturday...
1 One step closer! The overriding feeling at full-time would probably have been disappointment, with Latics narrowly failing to force home the late winner that would surely have seen them safe. But take a step back, and it was a very decent day on the whole. Bottom two Bristol Rovers and Swindon fell through the relegation trapdoor, third-bottom Rochdale and fourth-bottom Northampton failed to make up any ground, and sixth-bottom Wimbledon's penalty miss keeps them involved in the dogfight. All that and one less match to negotiate means Leam Richardson will be a pretty pleased man. Tomorrow's clash between Wimbledon and Rochdale will also see points dropped by either or even both, with Latics among the interested spectators to see how that one goes.
2 Cometh the hour, cometh the man! Will Keane's equaliser made it four goals in five matches - which would surely have been five in five had Lee Evans not pinched the second-half penalty against Crewe off him! That purple patch comes after a 14-match run without a goal, which coincided him being struck down with Covid. Prior to his positive test, Keane had bagged six goals in his previous 10 matches. The ex-Manchester United junior last week admitted he'd be very open to staying on beyond the expiration of his contract this summer, and securing League One safety as quickly as possible would allow Latics into looking into this, as well as...
3 ...the numerous other players with uncertain futures! With only five players - Tom Pearce, Luke Robinson, Adam Long, Callum Lang and Thelo Aasgaard - under contract for next term, Latics are clearly behind the 8-ball compared to their rivals. But given the way Latics have 'gelled' in the second half of the season under Leam Richardson, it's tempting to wonder what could be achieved next year if the majority of this group were to stay together - with the addition of some more quality across the park. First job: safety. Second job: squad retention. Third job: recruitment.
4 And then there were two! Latics now have a full week to prepare for next Saturday's trip to Hull and the visit of Swindon the following weekend. Now there's no gimmes whatsoever at this level, but perhaps the Gods of fate are working their magic behind the scenes to help Latics over the line. Early suggestions from social media are that the Hull players have already kicked off the celebrations to mark the promotion they achieved on Saturday, so let's hope they enjoy the feeling as much as the Latics players did in 2015-16 and 2017-18, despite the season not having been completed. And the fact Swindon have already been relegated to League Two will surely be a good thing - especially given their dismal display in the 5-0 defeat at MK Dons (four of which came from Will Grigg) that sealed their fate.
5 Pitch perfect! The off-field carnage caused by administration had an inevitable knock-on effect on the playing surface at the DW, with annual maintenance having to be skipped last summer, as well as members of the groundstaff leaving the club. But the state of the pitch under the sunshine on Saturday was a joy to behold - it wouldn't have looked out of place at the Crucible. Even more impressive given the fact Warriors played their first 'home' game only 48 hours earlier, everyone involved deserves a massive pat on the back for their sterling efforts behind the scenes.
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