The 12th Man Column: How much grit have Wigan Athletic got left?
Latics fans give their views on another rollercoaster week
Stuart GloverThere are a lot of repeats on TV these days.And when Latics went 1-0 up against Norwich in the front of the cameras on Sunday afternoon, we probably all thought that there was about to be another one.We’ve seen that film before, and it isn’t a comedy. It is a tear jerker that ends in tragedy.But not on this occasion. For Latics didn’t concede two goals to slump to another defeat. Rather they showed some of the fight and character that has been seen more often than not at the DW this season, but all too little on our travels.Whether that result was seen as one point gained or two dropped tells you all you need to know about the current perspectives of the fan base.The case for one gained: An unexpected point again a good team, with good players who are top of the league. And a point which importantly restored our cushion over the bottom three, rendering Rotherham’s late equaliser the day before ineffective (if not literally pointless).The case for two dropped? We had been winning. Norwich didn’t play brilliantly and were there for the taking. And the three points would have been a huge step towards safety.Which camp am I in? The former. One gained.Why? Simply because while we had been winning, we shouldn’t have been. It was never a penalty. But that’s football. And perhaps it evens out Clarke’s offside arm which was a harsh decision.Incidentally how can we be sure that it wasn’t a penalty? Simply because it couldn’t have been deliberate if he went for it with his leg and then it deflected up onto his hand. And neither did his hand stop the ball from going in. Because it was his leg that did that before it was deflected onto his hand.And we cannot allow football to get to the stage where any contact with the hand is legitimately given as a penalty. Because then as soon as players get to the by-line they will start to aim for defender’s hands rather than putting crosses in and the game will be even further gone that it is now.So a point gained it is. And that means we are two, but effectively three, points clear of Rotherham and the relegation zone.All of we need to do to stay up is to match Rotherham’s results from here on in.We would probably all agree that if we play like we did on Sunday until the end of the season, we will stay up. But we’d probably also all agree that we won’t play like that in all of our last four games!The question is how many will we play well in? How much grit and character have we got left to show?And just as importantly however many good games will Rotherham have?This weekend will be crucial. Not just because half of the rest of the season will be played over it, but also because Rotherham have their best two chances to win over Easter.In fact, in another one of my bold, and usually incorrectly predictions, I am saying that if Rotherham don’t beat Swansea on Friday, then we will stay up as they will also lose their last two games.(For the record this contradicts my last prediction which stated categorically that if we sold Will Grigg we’d go down). Anyway come on Swansea, make it a really Good Friday for us.Speaking of repeats, it is great to see the current repeat of the Walk for Joseph event taking place. Well done to everyone involved – who are continuing to raise awareness and funds for this wonderful charity – all in honour of the legendary Joseph Kendrick a lad who is truly as hard as nails. And it is just as well that it is for such a deserving cause, because frankly, this year of all years, the idea of walking 58 miles to an away game seems like the very definition of madness! Many, I suspect, wouldn’t walk one mile for an away game this season. But that is what true inspiration and leadership can do, and Joseph and his family personify that.
Sean LiveseyI said ahead of Sunday’s match with table topping Norwich that I wanted to see fight from Paul Cook and fight from his players. We had that and more on Sunday, Paul Cook stated at the end of the match that he had wanted Norwich to know they had been in a game and that certainly rang true.A number of changes from the Hull defeat on Wednesday saw Leon Clarke, Lee Evans and Kal Naismith come in to the side. Once again eyebrows were probably raised pre-match but once again Paul Cook’s changes and tactical approach paid dividends.Norwich were rattled in the first half, Latics quick pressing was reminiscent of the beginning of the season and Latics were well worth their one goal lead at half-time. Norwich naturally pressed forward but the Latics rear guard stood strong and as the match reached its last 10 minutes it looked like we might have snatched an unlikely and valuable three points.Norwich’s equaliser wasn’t unexpected but unlike the previous Wednesday, Paul Cook’s side didn’t fold. They went in search of the winner and they should have had one as well. Leon Clarke scored in stoppage time to send the Dave Whelan stadium in to raptures – but the linesman on the near side had other ideas. Replays showed that the goal should have been given – whether that decision comes back to bite us over the next three weeks remains to be seen.Regardless of that goal being ruled out it was still a remarkable result for Latics, it’s also a performance that importantly keeps us ahead of Rotherham but equally should give us all confidence that we can do this. If we can play like that against top of the table opposition we should have enough to get what’s required and get over the finishing line.Daniel Farke was the latest in a long line of managers to comment on how well set up Latics are and how in his eyes we’re in a false position. Of course the fact remains we aren’t in a false position. We’ve had countless opportunities to get out of the mire we now find ourselves in, but yes we are certainly a better side than our league position suggests. The key now is to turn those warm words in to real, tangible results. Beginning with Leeds on Friday. It seems our fate could be decided on Easter weekend. It’s not an easy set of matches for us to navigate either – like Norwich, Leeds are a formidable opposition. They can see the finishing line in sight and will very probably be returning to the Premier League this summer.With our horrific away form and ability to shoot ourselves in the foot it may be considered one where we can’t expect anything. Sadly we need something – a win is too much to hope for, but a point? Play with all the heart and effort we did against Norwich and it’s more than a possibility. Any sort of positive result against Leeds sets up perfectly for a truly do or die clash against Preston. North End turned us over when we were riding high in the league and we arguably haven’t recovered since then. A win over our Lancashire rivals would go a long way to ensuring we face each other in the Championship again next season.But for now these are just permutations, it’s up to the players and Paul Cook to translate that in to action. This season hasn’t been perfect by any stretch but it can still have a happy ending. Let’s make sure it does.