Wigan Athletic: The 12th Man - 'This weekend is another tough game against a team whose fans think the bigger your crowds, the more points you should get, so expect Twitter to be full of the usual nonsense come Saturday...'
Our panel of Wigan Athletic experts run the rule over a fighting midweek draw at Cambridge, ahead of a top-of-the-table trip to Plymouth...
The Oxford game was called off last Saturday thanks to our opponents having seven players out with injury – sorry, Covid – which meant we went to Cambridge on Tuesday having not played a league game in three weeks. In some cases, that can be a good thing, with injuries having time to mend and some players getting a well-earned rest. But it can also mean a bit of sharpness can be lost, and that’s how it looked for at least 45 minutes on Tuesday. Although we huffed and puffed a fair bit, there wasn’t much more than that. We also had almost all the ball and yet managed to concede two goals before really getting going, which is becoming an altogether too regular occurrence. But we can’t win every game at a canter, and we’ll still be top if we win the one we have in hand. If we win the two games in hand over some clubs, in fact, we’ll be four points clear of third. Not many of us would have turned that down in August, that much is certain. This weekend is another tough game against a team whose fans think the bigger your crowds, the more points you should get, so expect Twitter to be full of the usual nonsense come Saturday. However, win this one and we go up at least one place, and could even go top if Wycombe get nothing at an ever-improving Sheffield Wednesday, and if Oxford get over their injury – sorry, Covid – crisis before Wycombe wander into town. As it stands, we’re still in the hunt for promotion, and still in two cups, so I’m happy enough with how things are. We have some injuries we need to shake off, as a couple more would really expose the fact that our squad isn’t quite so deep as we’d like to think, but these things happen.
In the latest edition of ‘There’s Never a Dull Moment at Wigan Athletic’ we encounter a mysterious Covid-related match postponement and another thrilling midweek comeback from two goals down. If there was any shadow of a doubt before, we’ve confirmed Karl Robinson won’t be receiving a holiday card from our fanbase over the coming weeks. There is sadly little-to-no expectation for the EFL to adequately compensate Latics and discipline Oxford for the massive inconvenience they caused our club and our fans (in addition to their own traveling fans). Regardless of who the blame should fall on for our misfortune, the incident provided a reminder that Covid is not behind us, and that virus ramifications can still impact us at any given time. The silver lining was that it presented another opportunity for our club and the local community to shine. Fans from across the British Isles and even America came to Wigan last weekend to see the mighty Latics play. The news of the relatively ‘last-minute’ postponement was nothing short of upsetting. It was heartwarming to see visiting fans receive personal tours of the DW then attend the Ashton Town match as VIP guests. It was only further confirmation that every single Latics fan across the globe is valued as an individual and that their experience should always be meaningful. Luckily, a healthy group of nearly 500 travelling ’Tics only had to wait three more days to see the team in action again. The Cambridge match was always going to be a challenge – even under the most ideal circumstances. With our captain suspended, our two first-choice strikers out with illness, and several other first-team players recovering from injuries, Leam Richardson needed to tap into our squad depth as much as ever to put a strong side on the pitch. We were the better team for the first hour of play but still found ourselves two goals down. It would’ve been easy to go through the motions for the final 30 minutes and accept victory wasn’t meant to be. However, the first four months of this season have proved that’s not in our nature. We scored two well-taken goals just before the 90-minute mark, and were the slightest of shirt tugs away from earning a stoppage-time winner. Saturday brings our longest away day of the season and one of our toughest opponents yet. Plymouth are coming off a run where they went 13 games unbeaten in the league prior to two recent losses. Latics have had their own assortment of streaks throughout the first half of this campaign. Our most notable one that still remains is our streak of 10 Saturday league wins in a row dating back to August 14. Needless to say, it will take a spirited effort at Plymouth to continue that run. The past week has shown us that football can be as unpredictable as anything else in life. It’s great to know that through it all, our club will continue to make us proud.
Karma sometimes takes its time before returning to haunt, or otherwise bless, the recipient. When I was young (a long time ago) my brother and I used to laugh at, and pity, the poor souls who were queuing to get into Asda while we were going to the match. On Saturday last, my wife and I got to the car park to have it suggested to us by a very pleasant, smiley, young man, that we might want to turn around and go home as the match was off. It became clear the universe had decided my fate – you guessed, a trip to Asda. So to Tuesday, and at the end it seemed a fair result, accompanied by a great deal of relief. Although, in the first half, Cambridge gave the ball away regularly, they defended well in their own area and their goalkeeper made two very good saves. We dominated possession but too many balls appeared to be put in the penalty area with the expectation/hope that ‘something’ would happen. Shots on target were few and far between, and at least three shots might have been caught by a passing pedestrian on Newmarket Road. The introduction of the first two substitutes in the second half galvanised the team who, thereafter, played with more purpose as well as the endeavour previously displayed. Passes were crisper and quicker, the ball was on the floor more, and gaps were found despite the 11-man defence of the home side. Again, this was a testament to the spirit of the club and the belief of the supporters, especially those who made the trip down on a midweek night.
It’s always the same when we don’t win a game.
Or we don’t play that well, but still win;
They allus come out to express they had doubt,
That we’re nowhere near good enough, by the crin.
No matter they scored with their one shot on goal,
As we went in one down at half time;
It don’t matter to them, as they clear out their phlegm,
If we don’t win 3 baht, it’s a crime.
When we cannot score, every player is poor,
“We’ll be dropping dahn t’ league at this rate”;
“Leam’s losing the plot if we can’t beat this lot,
Relegation’s probably our fate”.
I can’t comprehend how they twist and they bend,
It’s as if being glum gives em pleasure;
Cos winning’s alreet, but not nearly as neat,
As the moaning, (they do it for leisure).
So on to t’ next game, it’ll be just the same,
If we win then we’ll mostly be cheering;
But come home with “nul pwan”, you can picture those fans,
Do their moaning, and then get the beer in!
You don’t have to be bitter, to tweet on to twitter,
But it helps when you follow our tag (#wafc);
Pessimism by choice and a miserable voice,
Are also handy tools in your bag.
So try not to be glum, and to beat the same drum,
Cos we get that you like a good whine;
But maybe it’s best if you give it a rest, Till next year, about May’d be fine.
Cos if we haven’t gone up, & we’ve not won a cup,
You can moan with some justification;
But up until then, the misery men,
Should accept that it’s simply frustration!
The Oxbridge double-header – or at least it should have been. Imagine mine and everyone’s surprise as midday approached on Saturday afternoon, and the club confirmed the postponement of the afternoon’s festivities against Oxford. Imagine how it must have felt for hundreds of Oxford fans well on their way through a 165-mile journey up here. Many of those Oxford fans had already arrived in Wigan. Closer to home, I had two disappointed boys ready to go with money burning a hole in their pockets that they were hoping to spend in the club shop on Crusty-related merchandise, while the club will have lost untold thousands in wasted food, unrequired stewards and stadium staff, while any potential re-arranged match will come with a much lower crowd than the original match would have had. All leading to a drop in income, which is vital at this level of football. So, when Karl Robinson speaks about doing everything possible to get a match on, I’m highly sceptical. Why only conduct lateral flow tests on the day of the game? Surely these should have been done pre-travel or at least on arrival in the north west on the Friday evening? Oxford only travelled with one goalkeeper, which seems ridiculous in the circumstances – earlier this season, when Jamie Jones was unavailable due to injury, Sam Tickle took his place on the bench, despite being an Academy goalkeeper. Why didn’t Oxford travel with an Academy goalkeeper? This isn’t a rare occurrence, it’s very much the rule across the rest of the division. It leaves a bad taste in the mouth, and one would hope the EFL examine the circumstances of Saturday’s postponement, especially with Robinson’s fury when similar happened to his side last season when Swindon pulled out at the last minute due to Covid. At least Oxford had two days’ notice then, not the less than three hours we had. Spare a thought for Latics fan Michael Jackson, who had travelled all the way from Atlanta Georgia to take in Saturday’s match before finding out it had been called off.
Thankfully, the club made a fuss of him and gave him a tour of the stadium and training ground before he was whisked off to Ashton Town to see their win over Cleator Moor Celtic. Wiganers know how to treat visitors, and hopefully Michael enjoyed his weekend despite the disappointment. Michael was also present as Latics came from behind to grab a vital point at Cambridge on Tuesday evening. A match I’m still struggling to see how we didn’t win, despite being 2-0 down with just six minutes left. Leam Richardson’s side showed no signs of that expected rustiness – Tuesday’s match was our first league outing since beating Fleetwood three weeks previously – and with better finishing Latics could have been out of sight by half-time. Sadly, we didn’t show that better finishing, and instead two speculative balls into the box – Cambridge’s only chances – saw us staring down the barrel of another Tuesday night defeat. But there’s some team spirit in this squad and the introduction of Thelo Aasgaard and Jordan Jones gave Leam’s side the impetus to get something. Two goals really should have been three, but a very minor shirt pull from Callum Lang was spotted in the build-up to our disallowed third goal, meaning a point was all we would get. Nonetheless it’s a point no one expected at 80 minutes, and a great platform from which to start another winning run, starting at former table-toppers Plymouth who may well be in the middle of their own sticky patch. Especially after their defeat to Wycombe this week. There’s a long way to go in this season, injuries are beginning to bite but we’re still well within the mix and exceeding all expectations this season. Roll on Saturday, it’s never dull.
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