Wigan Athletic: Five things we learned from Middlesbrough (h)
Paul Kendrick reflects on five talking points from Wigan Athletic's 2-2 draw against Middlesbrough at the DW Stadium...
1 What a night! It's fair to say more than a few Latics fans chose to swerve the game, opting instead to watch at home on the red button - totally understandable on a weeknight in freezing temperatures. But those who braved the elements were treated to one of the most eventful 90 minutes of the campaign...11 yellow cards, one sending-off, four goals, one disallowed, one missed red card...and centre stage being taken by...
2 ...one of the worst refereeing performances of all time. Next time you hear a fan of a Premier League club moaning about officials and VAR, just mention the name of Oliver Langford...(shudder)... The West Midlands whistler will be forever remembered in the annals of the DW Stadium for his efforts, which had BOTH managers admitting after the game they didn't want to say too much for fear of being fined. Middlesbrough boss Jonathan Woodgate's ire was directed at an offside call in the first half which would have given Boro a flying start. But Paul Cook's gripe was certainly far greater, with Harold Moukoudi somehow staying on the pitch despite completely taking out Kieffer Moore on the edge of the box, just about to pull the trigger, at 1-0 up on the hour mark. To make matters worse, Langford produced a second yellow for Chey Dunkley within a minute, which led to the Boro equaliser, and Cook being booked for dissent along with seemingly half of his team. While those involved have to look at their own behaviour, there was certainly plenty of mitigation for their ranting.
3 Character in abundance. There was every chance for the Latics players on the pitch to feel sorry for themselves when Boro went ahead just after the three-quarter mark, with seemingly everything going against them. But huge credit to each and every one of them - and the subs - for digging deep and showing what they're made of. Despite this season having been underwhelming to say the least, one thing that can't be said is the players lack heart, passion, fight, pride, desire. If those qualities have any bearing on the end-of-season league position, they'll be fine.
4 The wanderer returns. Great to see Anthony Pilkington back on the field, and slotting back in nicely to the Latics attack. The team always looks better with the much-travelled forward on the field, who is equally comfortable on either foot, can pick and pass and is not afraid to shoot. It's just a shame he's been unable to string a number of games together during his time without picking up an injury. If Latics can keep him fit between now and May, he could well be the best mid-season addition of them all.
5 Skip skip hooray! Special mention also to Sam Morsy, for marking his 150th Latics appearance in style with the opening goal. But arguably an even greater achievement was managing to stay out of the referee's packed notebook on such a controversial night. The Latics skipper has been on nine bookings for almost two months now, one short of a two-game ban. Latics desperately need their on-field general - and Paul Cook's lieutenant - out there as much as possible in the run-in. That he's managed to stay the right side of the disciplinary line, while playing arguably his best football of the season, shows there's more to his armour than tough tackling. Long may it continue.