Wigan Athletic: Five things we learned from Oxford United (h)

Paul Kendrick reflects on five talking points from Wigan Athletic's 1-1 draw against Oxford United at the DW Stadium on Tuesday night...
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1 Twenty's plenty! First thing's first, Tuesday night's draw made it 20 games unbeaten for Latics in all competitions. Stretching back to the home defeat to Lincoln at the end of October, everyone - Leam Richardson, his staff and his players - deserves a massive collective pat on the back. To lift Latics to the strong position they are on the league ladder, while remaining in both the FA Cup and Papa John's Trophy - and only being allowed to play when some opponents fancy it - is a fantastic achievement, whichever way you look at it. That said...

2 On the draw! That's now back-to-back draws for Latics, who were unable to break down a resolute Cheltenham rearguard at the weekend, and narrowly failed - Jack Whatmough hit the post and Josh Magennis saw a late 'goal' disallowed for offside - to get past Oxford. The two performances continued the trend of Latics not quite being at it in recent weeks, for a variety of - very understandable - reasons. That they have continued to remain unbeaten is grounds for optimism. Especially when...

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3 Mind the gap! Although Latics saw leaders Rotherham extend their lead at the top to three points - albeit having played two matches more - Latics have strengthened their automatic promotion spot in the last week or so. They are now two points clear of third-placed Sunderland, with three games still in hand. The wheels have somewhat come off the Sunderland and Wycombe 'Believe' buses in recent weeks. If this is, indeed, Latics' blip, it's not exactly panic stations. Possibly because of...

Josh Magennis heads for goalJosh Magennis heads for goal
Josh Magennis heads for goal

4 Tweaking the balance! Latics again utilised a switch in formation to their advantage against Oxford. Having been comprehensively outplayed in the opening half an hour, the tweak that saw James McClean move to left-back, Tendayi Darikwa to right-back, and Max Power advance into midfield proved a masterstroke. Power immediately laid on the equaliser for Callum Lang, with Oxford boss Karl Robinson admitting after the game that he was shocked by - and had no answer to - the reshuffle. It's not the first time Leam Richardson has ripped up the game-plan mid-game - with a favourable outcome. And just as the early criticism was valid, there should equally be praise for identifying a problem and sorting it out.

5 Attention switch! Like a circus juggler, Leam Richardson and Latics now turn their focus to a different competition, and Saturday's FA Cup trip to Stoke City. There have already been inevitable calls for the manager to 'play the kids', but his team selection so far in the FA Cup has been virtually full-strength. With more than 4,000 fans in the away end drunk on cup fever - and possibly other stimulants - the Latics boss has an interesting conundrum on his plate, with no 'right' answer.

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