Wigan Athletic: Five things we learned from Wycombe Wanderers (a)
Paul Kendrick reflects on five talking points from Wigan Athletic's 3-1 victory at Wycombe Wanderers in midweek...
1 Lotta bottle! Not for the first time this season, Latics found themselves trailing in a game in which they'd struggled to get going. But after a half-time chat with Leam Richardson - and the introduction off the bench of Gwion Edwards and Stephen Humphrys - the visitors turned the game completely on its head in the final quarter. How many times over the years have we seen successful teams leaving it late before forcing crucial goals in the closing stages? This Latics side has that quality in abundance. The fitness and conditioning levels are obviously a factor, but the belief and never-say-die attitude is there for all to see.
2 He's one of our own! It's fair to say most fans won't look back at the tenure of administrators Begbies Traynor with much gratitude. But the decision to loan out Callum Lang to Motherwell - which made absolutely zero sense at the time, and even less so looking back - may have very inadvertently benefitted the club down the line. Rather than seeing him sold for a pittance along with countless others, Latics were able to welcome the Academy graduate back midway through the campaign, when the club was on a much sounder financial footing. The subsequent takeover and Great Escape led to Lang signing a long-term contract extension, with both player and club now reaping huge rewards. The young forward is arguably the most important figure in the run-in - capable of dragging Latics through a hectic fixture pile-up on their way towards the bright lights of the Championship.
3 Fan-fare! As 'one of our own', Lang enjoys a special relationship with the Latics fanbase, who have taken him to their hearts as a symbol of the new 'Phoenix' club from the flames. And the forward certainly appears to favour playing in front of bumper away followings, who seem to - in the words of Leam Richardson after the game - suck the ball into the net. Nine of Lang's 15 goals this term have come on the road. Even more telling, eight of those nine have come in front of the away end. Our snapper Bernard Platt certainly isn't complaining, with the regular source of 'limbs' on show from the travelling fans making for some outstanding postcards from the season!
4 Dynamic duo! At the risk of a Callum Lang overload, it's also worth pointing out the importance of his burgeoning partnership with Will Keane. Lang's brace at Adams Park makes it 27 now for the pair this term from 31 matches - which compares very favourably with double acts from the recent past. They'd have to go some to match the 45 produced by Nathan Ellington and Jason Roberts in the Championship promotion campaign of 2004-05. But second on that all-time list - the 34 scored by Will Grigg and Nick Powell under Paul Cook in 2017-18 - is well within reach...with a third of the campaign to go.
5 Points to prove! Speaking of the past, it's worth comparing - and admiring - how Latics are faring against recent promotion-winning sides from this level. Leam Richardson's men have 66 points on the board from 31 matches. Which represents 98 points over a 46-game campaign. At this stage under Paul Cook in 2017-18, Latics also had 66 points on the board...finishing with 98. Under Gary Caldwell in 2015-16, Latics had 56 points on the board at this stage...finishing with 87. Even that might be enough this time, with third-placed MK Dons - the best of the rest at the moment - currently on course to hit 85 points. Their credentials will be tested over the next fortnight or so, though, with Rotherham, Latics and form team Bolton to play in their next four matches.
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