Wigan Athletic: Five things we learned from Luton Town (h)
1 Not so fast! Latics never do things the easy way, and anyone thinking three nine points in a week - including a famous win at high-flying West Brom - meant safety was in the bag were swiftly brought back down to earth. Right from the off, Latics weren't quite at the races, possibly struggling to come to terms with being the hunted as opposed to the hunters. Having dragged themselves out of the bottom three, they now have something to lose whereas, in previous weeks, even Paul Cook admitted they were playing with a freedom that came with having nothing to lose. That said, it was important not to lose to a relegation rival, and that point could be worth its weight in gold come May. And there's surely not a Latics fan anywhere that wouldn't have taken 10 points from the last four matches.
2 Close but no cigar! Even though they were far from at their best, Latics could easily still have come away with all three points. All three substitutions made by the manager were positive, including throwing on a second striker - Joe Garner - for the last 10 minutes. Central midfielders Sam Morsy and Joe Williams continued to push forward in search of a winning goal, and it was the former's strike in stoppage-time that almost opened the door for Michael Jacobs - who was only denied by a stunning reflex save by Simon Sluga. At the other end, there was little of the tension of the first half of the season, when the crowd was almost waiting for the opposition to score at the death...thanks to a very compelling...
3 Case for the defence! The Latics backline made it four clean sheets in a row - for the first time at this level in more than six years - with goalkeeper David Marshall once again a virtual spectator for the 90 minutes. The arrival of Leon Balogun has had a knock-on effect on Cedric Kipre, who is continuing to come on leaps and bounds by picking up invaluable experience from someone with a Premier League and international pedigree. Full-backs Nathan Byrne and Kal Naismith are also both in fine form and, having shipped so many preventable goals in the first half of the campaign, it's great to see Latics looking so solid and assured at the back. A continuation of that in the last nine games, and that's a huge step towards the overall goal of safety.
4 And breathe! Saturday's game signalled the cut-off for 10 bookings, and the threat of a two-match suspension. That means a big sigh of relief for both Nathan Byrne and Sam Morsy, who had been one mistimed tackle away from missing crucial upcoming fixtures. Morsy in particular must feel like a weight has been removed from his shoulders, having picked up his ninth booking of the campaign at Blackburn on December 23. Since then, he's gone 14 matches without having his name taken, and it's not like he's been any less effective - having been voted player of the month for both January and February. Interestingly, Morsy was booked in the FA Cup tie at Leicester in early January which, ordinarily, would have led to a suspension. But a recent change in the rules means cautions are now competition specific, and he was able to continue unaffected. How's that for knowing exactly where the line is? And what price him being booked at Huddersfield next weekend...it'll feel like the end of Dry January for the skipper!
5 Respect. It was great to see Graeme Jones - a Latics legend from both his playing days and from his time in management - receive such a warm welcome before the game from the home supporters. Jones has said many times before that Wigan is 'my club', and that affection was clearly reciprocated by his adoring public. Latics old-boy Calllum McManaman also received a nice ovation as he warmed up in front of the West Stand, and it was something of a relief he remained on the bench for the 90 minutes. No club in the world has a record of being stung more by returning ex-players and, given his match-turning cameo in the corresponding fixture at Kenilworth Road, Latics could have done without that happening again. Jones admitted after the game he thought long and hard about putting McManaman on, but felt it would have been too attacking a switch, too much a risk of losing the point they'd earned. Hopefully it's a point that will allow both Latics and Luton to preserve their Championship status.