Wigan Athletic boss: '˜Top striker' Garner is no average Joe
Paul Cook believes Joe Garner's brace at Swansea will allow him to kick on and prove what a '˜top striker' he can be for Wigan Athletic.
Garner scored his second and third goals of the season at the Liberty Stadium to give Latics a commanding interval advantage, although Swansea fought back in the second half in a four-goal thriller.
But the Latics boss believes the benefit of Garner rediscovering his goal touch will be more lasting than the precious point on the board.
“Joe Garner needs a run of games in the team,” acknowledged Cook.
“Until you get your run of games, no-one will see your true value.
“Joe Garner’s been a top striker at this level for quite some time.
“These two goals will do him the world of good, 75 minutes under his belt will do him the world of good.”
Garner’s best game for Latics fully vindicated Cook’s decision to select him ahead of Will Grigg and James Vaughan in the lone frontman berth.
Indeed, had Kal Naismith made the most of a gilt-edged opportunity when clean through at 2-0, Latics would surely have returned home with all three points.
Naismith and Gavin Massey provided the width in a 4-1-4-1 formation, with Callum McManaman again left on the bench despite a sparkling cameo at West Brom on Boxing Day.
“Callum McManaman came on the other day and was excellent, but the team was picked with today’s game in mind,” Cook explained.
“If anyone thinks we don’t want to pick Callum McManaman, they’re very foolish.
“Callum McManaman has a very big future at our football club, and is a very good player.
“There’ll be plenty of opportunities for Callum McManaman to show what he can do as well.”
Cook also explained the thinking behind his tactical change in the second half, which saw Latics revert to a back five as Swansea had more and more of the ball and were asking all the questions.
“When you make changes to the team as we did, unfortunately one or two of the lads lacked full match fitness,” the Latics boss admitted.
“We were making changes more to do with certain criteria rather than the criteria we wanted.
“The correct subs would have been positive, attacking players coming on to the pitch, to give us the energy to go forward.
“Unfortunately we had Reece James on a booking, against a lad with raw pace, and we didn’t want him getting sent off.
“If we’d have had a man sent off and lost 3-2, we’d have left with our heads in our hands, we’d have been so disappointed.
“Then there’s Darron Gibson’s lack of games, Joe Garner’s lack of games...so that meant the changes we made were forced on us.
“As disappointed as you are...and we realise there’s millions of managers out there, we’re not stupid, we know that...we’re pleased with our point.
“We found ourselves dropping deeper in the second half and we tried to negate that by moving Dan Burn into the middle of a back three.
“And apart from two set-pieces, from which they scored, I felt we did that.
“The big disappointment is we’ve conceded twice from set-pieces where we’d expect to be strong in that department.”