Five things we learned from Middlesbrough (a)

Paul Kendrick reflects on five talking points from Wigan Athletic's 1-0 defeat at Middlesbrough...

Wednesday, 21st August 2019, 1:31 pm
Updated Wednesday, 21st August 2019, 2:31 pm
Paul Cook

Paul Kendrick reflects on five talking points from Wigan Athletic's 1-0 defeat at Middlesbrough...

1 Latics' away form is not getting any better. In fact, it's getting worse. Thursday (August 22) marks exactly one year since the 3-0 victory at Stoke City last season that saw Paul Cook's men wipe the floor with the pre-season promotion favourites on their own patch. Since then, Latics haven't kept a single clean sheet on the road. And they've won only once - at Leeds, on Good Friday, with 10 men. A backs-to-the-wall effort that Cook admitted was 'freakish' earlier this week. We've heard explanations, excuses and mitigation, but the simple fact is this horror run cannot continue. By Cook's own admission, Latics survived last season because of their fabulous home form. That cannot be relied upon again this term.

2 Even with an extra centre-back drafted in, Latics continue to look vulnerable from crosses. In fact, Britt Assombalonga's winning goal means seven of the nine goals Latics have conceded this season have come from balls into the box. And far too many of them have been far too easily scored - free headers from strikers who cannot believe their luck. And it's not just down to the centre-backs...because opposition wingers and full-backs have been afforded far too much time and space to lump balls into the Latics box. Closing down the attacks at source is as important as marking tighter in the danger zone. It's a fatal combination at present.

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3 It never rains but it pours. Latics didn't help themselves at the Riverside Stadium. But they certainly didn't have the football Gods on their side. Just moments after making their third and final substitution, Kieffer Moore pulled up lame and had to leave the field, leaving them to play for the final 10 minutes with only 10 men. True, they hadn't looked much like scoring all night with a full complement. But the sight of the focal point of Wigan's attack disappearing down the tunnel, not to be replaced, would have given a Boro side desperately short on confidence themselves a massive shot in the arm at a crucial time.

4 Injuries are already biting. We're only two-and-a-half weeks into the campaign, but already the Latics squad has been decimated by injuries - and most of them at the top end of the pitch. Kieffer Moore (calf) has joined Joe Garner (rib), Anthony Pilkington (quad), Josh Windass (calf) and Joe Gelhardt (hamstring) in the treatment room. That leaves only 20-year-old Callum Lang - who's never played for Latics in the league - as the only recognised senior striker available for selection. Are the players being pushed too hard in training? Are they not being pushed hard enough? Either way the medical staff are working overtime for the second season in a row.

5 Spare a thought for the fans who travelled. Once again they were the butt of tired old jokes on social media from hilarious 'fan' accounts. But every single Wiganer who travelled up to Teesside on Tuesday night - given the away record - needs a medal (as well as their heads testing). It'll be the same again at Loftus Road this weekend, when hope springs eternal that this will be the one that proves to be the line in the sand - the win, the performance, the result that turns it all round. Latics were incredibly hard-done by at QPR on this weekend last year, going down 1-0 in controversial circumstances. What Paul Cook wouldn't give for a controversial 1-0 victory this time to redress the balance...