Wigan Athletic: The 12th Man - 'He may only have a few matches left in a Latics shirt, but he’s giving our fans a reason to never forget his contributions...'

The Latics players celebrate at LincolnThe Latics players celebrate at Lincoln
The Latics players celebrate at Lincoln
Our panel of Latics experts look ahead to a potentially crucial Easter period, with their side within touching distance of automatic promotion...

Matt Auffrey:

There are few things in the world of sport more frustrating than a scoreless draw in football. Not only are you vaulted into the ‘one point gained vs two points dropped’ debate at the onset of every post-match discussion period, but your matchday experience was void of the emotional highs and lows that come from seeing your team score and concede goals. Tuesday’s match at Burton Albion was as unremarkable a scoreless affair as one could imagine. Yet, during the 92nd minute, Kelland John William James Watts produced one of the most incredible defensive plays Latics fans have seen over the last decade. His flying header and goalline clearance in front of an empty net preserved a clean sheet and cemented itself as an instant ‘season-defining’ play. It marked a resilient finish to a match that featured many adverse conditions. Watts is no stranger to adversity - at least as a Latics footballer. He first lost his starting position at the end of October, and surely questioned his future as a loanee multiple times throughout the rest of the season, as he battled with inconsistent playing opportunities. Now, during his most recent playing spell, he has delivered superbly in the absence of the injured Curtis Tilt. He may only have a few matches left in a Latics shirt, but he’s giving our fans a reason to never forget his contributions. He’s one example of many players in this squad who have risen to the occasion in big moments, even when their first-team opportunities have been limited. There was Jamie Jones in the Carabao Cup against Hull and Bolton, Thelo Aasgaard in the FA Cup against Blackburn, and Divin Baningime in the Papa John’s Trophy against Arsenal. Good teams rely on select players to elevate their game and become matchwinners. Great teams rely on any player who steps on the pitch to fill this role. As a result of Watts’ heroics, we’ve secured another crucial point towards promotion and the league title. We’ve quietly gone nine games without a loss in the league, and our positive playing form could not have come at a more ideal time. Despite their recent Wembley triumph, Rotherham are quickly losing ground in the race for automatic promotion after three consecutive league losses. MK Dons find themselves in the middle of an impressive 15-game League One unbeaten run, but they are sandwiched between two teams in the table (Rotherham and ourselves) who each have a valuable game in hand on them. It’s possible a team could finish the season with 90-pus points and still fall short of automatic promotion. As the magic number of points needed to secure promotion and win the league title decreases every few days, all Latics should worry about is the next match on the fixture list. Cambridge will visit the DW this weekend with their league status already decided for next season. However, as we learned on Tuesday against Burton, this does not automatically entitle us to three points. With Ipswich away next Tuesday, Plymouth at home next Saturday, and Portsmouth away on the following Tuesday, the fixtures will only get more difficult over the final two weeks of the season. Latics are rounding the final curve before they make a mad dash for the finish line. No matter where our competition is behind us in the race, we should only continue to look forward. A sweet prize soon awaits us.


Another week, and another four points on the board from two away games. A comfortable win at Lincoln, even if again we are accused of being over physical (change the record, lads). At Burton, we were nowhere near our best, but we took a point thanks to Kell Watts' clearing header. And with Rotherham in three-fall at Portsmouth, a good night for us. On to Cambridge, let's put on a show for the Sky cameras, and chalk another one off. Stay safe.

Emma Peters:

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As we approach the dying seconds of the 2021/22 season, it's fair to say Wigan Athletic have exceeded all reasonable expectations throughout this campaign. It has been said time and time again, but I think it's massively important to reiterate just how special this season has been for this club. From administration and the literal brink of death, battling to survive to topping the table comfortably with a handful of games remaining, all inside 12 months. Wow! We continued our onslaught on League One this week with a trip to Lincoln, which saw Callum Lang plant himself firmly back on the scoresheet, opening the scoring before Anthony Scully equalised. Far be it from the Latics to take that lying down, it fell to the man Will Keane (again, I know) to nod the visitors in front for the second time. Going into half-time comfortably on top of the game is always nice, but Langy wasn't finished yet. After a seemingly difficult run of games for the Liverpool-born forward, which included a two-match ban for 10 bookings, Latics' No.19 attractively reintroduced himself to the away fans by firing in a second with his signature strike across goal, confirming all three points and keeping us top of League One. Three points clear of second-placed MK Dons and six ahead of previous league leaders Rotherham, who failed to get a result at home to Charlton. Moving into midweek with another game on the road at Burton, it was vital Leam Richardson's men left Staffordshire with more points than they arrived with. And credit to Albion who, with not a great deal to play for, still gave us a game and made it very difficult for us. A couple of close chances for both teams could have tipped the game in either direction, but the scoreline remained 0-0 approaching full time. It seemed the game was destined to end in a stalemate until Ben Amos was spotted off his line, leaving it up to Kell Watts to get back and pull off one of the best goalline clearances I've ever had the pleasure to witness with my own eyes keeping it level, and allowing us to collect another point in the right direction. We welcome the arrival of Cambridge on Saturday as we look to further our chances of promotion to the Championship and, with only five games remaining, we definitely seem to be in an ideal position to make that a reality in the coming weeks. All being well, there is potential to be lifting the League One trophy after our final home game against Plymouth on April 23. And I, for one, cannot think of a group of chaps that deserve it more than these. It's all getting very exciting. Up the 'Tics!

Will Heyes:The race for the League One title is gathering pace. Latics are in pole position as the finishing line draws ever closer. They are not there yet, but they do have control over their own destiny. An impressive feature of their games is their ability to grind out results, despite not being at their best. They are disciplined and don't appear to be fazed by going behind. Look at the number of games where they have come back from behind and score late goals. They have been disciplined and patient, especially when you consider Rotherham led the table for so long, only to be overhauled by a poor run of results and Latics winning their games in hand. As it appears now, Rotherham have shot their bolt and may not even finish second. Latics' biggest threat for the top spot is from MK Dons, who are keeping up the pressure. With recent performances against Accrington and Lincoln, Latics are showing signs of the free-flowing football they displayed earlier in the season, which bodes well for the remaining games. The goalless draw at Burton, was one of those workmanlike performances, where Latics ground out a result. The Kell Watts goalline clearance in stoppage time earned them a valuable point which could yet prove decisive. Latics have a four-point cushion over the Dons, with a game in hand and a better goal difference, which in effect counts as an extra point! We are now entering mathematical territory. As it stands MK Dons, if they win their remaining four games, can finish with 95 points. Latics need eight more points from their last five games to finish with 95 points. Assuming Latics' goal difference remains. So 96 points will see Latics as champions, no matter what the Dons do. With Will Keane, Calum Lang and now Josh Magennis, Latics must surely have the most potent strike force in League One. When they go forward, they look menacing, while the defence is also one of the meanest in the division. One more thing...what more does Leam Richardson have to do to win a 'Manager of the Month' award...?

Tony Moon:

Well, Lincoln was belting, but Burton was not,But a point is a point, and it’s all that we got,But was it that bad? Because Burton played well,And as for the chance at the end … flipping heck! (No, of course it doesn’t rhyme … use your imagination);

Against Lincoln, we were calm, and clinical, composed,But Burton just saw us all nervy, an’ exposedCos Josh should have scored, early on, calmed us down,But instead, he just fluffed it, and looked like a clown;

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That’s not to say, though, he didn’t put in a shift,It’s just that a goal, early on, is a lift,But he wasn’t the only one to have an off night,No, most of the others seemed a little uptight;

With under-hit passes, or maybe too long,Whatever we did, at times, just seemed wrong,Mistake after mistake then heroic redemption,The lads did their duty, without seeking exemption;

But try as they might, it just wasn’t conducive,To free-flowing football, an’ that first goal proved elusive,But Burton should ha’ scored toward th’ end, they were through,Before Jason Kerr’s tackle was wondrous to view;

And then Kell, me owd mucker, why aye, me owd fettler,He back-pedalled to t’ goal line, to deny ‘em the settler,So the points they were shared, but then, Rotherham got none,Amazing how their fall from t’ top just goes on;

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See, no games are easy, (though Twitter disagrees),And sometimes, not every game is a breeze,But wi’ Talal alongside us, (in t’ crowd, aye, he was),To cheer, and to grown, and to give the applause;

We have to be chuffed to be sat where we are,Cos we’re top of the league, going up...aye we are!

Sean Livesey:

Seven points in a week, seven points ahead of Rotherham, with five games remaining. Back in February when we were staring down the barrel of a month's worth of matches to fit in, and Rotherham were sweeping everything aside, it's a position we'd have taken when offered it every day of the week. But for some it's not enough. I've seen Tuesday's point at Burton described in various guises, as toilet-based excrement to papering over the cracks. I know Wiganers love to moan. But if you can't find joy in this season of all seasons, maybe football isn't the sport for you? This is what worries me about promotion, if indeed it does come. Leam Richardson, despite the remarkable feats he's achieved so far as manager both this season and last, will be treated exactly the same as those other title-winning managers Gary Caldwell and Paul Cook were. You can name a stand after the man, you can give him all the platitudes in the world, but if he only manages his side to a 0-0 draw at Burton he'll still be called not fit to burn by the vocal few online (I am, of course, referring to the minority online, as it's always a minority. But minorities are vocal...look at the latest government policy for that...) This has quickly become downbeat when I didn't mean it to be and, of course, wondering how your manager will get on in the Championship is a great problem to have. Let's get there first, though. So if Burton was a stutter, it's up to us to make sure we're quickly back to winning ways. And it's to the Sky cameras and an Easter Saturday match-up with Cambridge this weekend. Looking back to the return fixture in the autumn, a game we should have won, it's remarkable how much we've achieved, and how we've coped with the absence of Charlie Wyke, news of which broke that week. Many clubs might have fallen out of the promotion race altogether at that point, instead we somehow seem to have rallied against the injustice of it all. We'll know a lot more about the promotion race after this weekend. Four points ahead of MK in second, with a game in hand, is an excellent place to be. And as long as we stay in front of either MK and Rotherham, we'll achieve what we set out to do at the start of the season. A win on Saturday would go a long way to achieving that. So to surmise, even if you think 'we're papering over the cracks' or it's all 'long-ball rubbish', try not to direct it to the players over the next few weeks. Instead, help them get over the line. I don't ever remember abusing your own players as being a decent form of motivation. Just look at Sunderland...they've been doing it for years...