Our 12th man columnists discuss Latics’ form and the Christmas schedule
Martin Tarbuck: Though it was arguably better than Kal Naismith’s, I didn’t have a very good time last weekend.
Aside from this column, I am the Mudhutter fanzine editor and, due to heavy downpours before the game, we managed to do all of six minutes selling and still got drenched.
Thus leaving me with hundreds of unsold fanzines and a large print bill to pay.
Of course, bang on three o’clock, what do you think happened?
Yes, that’s right – the sun came out and blue skies were apparent.
I’d have preferred it the other way around, but that’s life...I’m sure Alanis Morrissette once wrote a song about it.
Later on that afternoon, I’m sure we’d have all preferred a different outcome as well.
But yet we still somehow managed to claim a slightly pyrrhic victory given the strong second-half performance.
I don’t think we can complain about the sending-off too much, but the theatricals of young Liverpool protege Harry Wilson were all a bit much to take throughout the rest of the game.
I’d love to get stuck into the appalling ref at this stage, particularly for bottling the second yellow card for Derby.
But with the benefit of reflection, I suppose we shot ourselves in the foot early on, and Derby should have been out of sight in the first half.
That we battled so hard into the final minutes to try and claw it back against one of the increasing number of Championship super powers is to our great credit, and in spite of the defeat gives us all plenty of hope we can stay well clear of trouble with such a gritty performance.
I also perversely love games like that for the subtle nuances it brings out, which is all part of what makes football so unique.
A player gets sent off ridiculously early...the first reaction is “oh well, that’s this game gone then” from many of the fans and maybe even the players.
Indeed, usual managerial protocol is to sacrifice a forward in this situation.
However, as the game develops, and the opposition fails to score, and even “only” score one, it’s then that beautiful siege mentality kicks in.
You hear these cliches about it sometimes being harder to play against 10 men than 11, because the 10 men can galvanise due to a burning sense of injustice, and that’s exactly how it went last Saturday.
It wasn’t the best attendance at the DW on Saturday, but boy was that crowd fired up – baying for every decision, trying to get the ref to even things up (fat chance!) and punish every Derby indiscretion in the way he was so quick to penalise ours.
Clearly, the players felt the same, and it was a virtuoso captain’s performance from Sam Morsy that allowed us to take control of a game where we had a numerical inferiority.
So yes, disappointing to lose, as it always is, but at least we managed to eke an afternoon’s entertainment from a game which was in danger of completely deflating after the first quarter of an hour.
Stuart Glover: Saturday’s game changed early on with the sending off of Kal Naismith.
Did he touch the Derby player? Yes.
Was there a lot of contact? No.
Was it fair to send him off? Absolutely.
He was never ever going to get away with that.
And the ridiculous thing was that he didn’t need to do it.
As good as Christian Walton is, Derby probably would have scored if Naismith had let him through, but conceding a goal would have been much better than playing with fewer men for over 75 minutes.
Especially as this was still early in the game.
Latics were on top up until the sending off.
But that poor decision from Naismith changed the rest of the first half.
After that, until the break, Derby were in charge.
Paul Cook made some good changes to the midfield, which allowed Wigan to be far more competitive in the middle of the park.
But we were still hanging on and we did really well to be only one down at the break.
That can should be considered to be a real success.
The game could easily have been out of reach with half of it still to play.
While Cook tried to get the midfield unit to take more control, Sam Morsy seemed take personal control of the attempt to get the number of players evened up.
He appears to have pretended to have been head-butted during the first period.
This is very disappointing and not the way we should want Latics to try and compete.
It was a poor decision from the skipper, and a good decision from the referee not to dismiss the “assailant”.
After the break, Latics were the better side again.
In fact it was really encouraging to see how we fought and once again became a competitive force.
It is the sort of fight and application that we haven’t seen during the last two years at this level.
The other controversial incident was during the second half when Derby’s Harry Wilson went down in the penalty area.
The referee did not give a penalty but nor did he book Wilson.
If he had done the latter, then Wilson, who was cautioned in the first half, would have been sent off.
Personally, I think the referee got it right.
But that is only on the basis that Wilson didn’t seem to appeal for the penalty.
Yellow cards are rightly given for ‘attempting to deceive the officials’.
On the basis that, when players are fouled, they always appeal, I am not sure it is right to argue a player who doesn’t appeal for a penalty is trying to deceive the ref.
Surely if there is no appeal, the referee isn’t going to give a spot-kick?
So how is there an attempt to con him or her?
It is very difficult to think of examples of penalties that have been given when there was no appeal for one. Whether the player dived or just fell over themselves, if they don’t appeal they are not trying to con the referee.
I wrote last week after the Will Grigg penalty incident in Horwich that often people think that if it isn’t a penalty, it must be a yellow card. This isn’t true.
Players do stumble, they do fall, they do go down under legitimate tackles.
How do we decide when someone is trying to con the referee and when they are not?
Surely it is on the basis of whether they appeal or not.
That, of course, doesn’t mean that every appeal should result in a spot kick.
But as penalties are very unlikely to be given when there is no appeal for one, I am not sure how that gets defined as trying to deceive the referee. Which is what the yellow card would be given for.
While a player may dive, and then decide not to appeal, even in those rare circumstances they are not really trying to deceive the officials into giving the penalty as they must know that without the appeal, they simply won’t get one.
This weekend we attempt to get our first away win since Stoke back in August.
In fact that was our only win away this season.
We make the long trip to Suffolk to play an Ipswich team who are rock bottom of the league and have only won once anywhere this term. Surely something has to give.
Surely this is our chance to start to turn things around. To get some form going away from the DW Stadium.
But this is Wigan Athletic. Nothing is straightforward.
Sean Livesey: Down to 10 men after just a quarter of an hour against a Derby side flying high towards the top of the table, it was always going to be difficult.
The fact Latics kept the defecit to one goal, and could have gone on to actually earn a point, should be seen as a positive.
The silly mistakes of October and November seem to have been eradicated, injured players such as Will Grigg and Gavin Massey are returning, and we’re still firmly placed in mid-table.
It’s been a difficult autumn, but there’s much to be happy with Latics’ current position. We’re not pulling up any trees but, equally, we aren’t being cut adrift of the rest.
A couple of wins before Christmas would certainly see us well placed for a renewed effort in January.
This season was all about consolidation.
And as long as Paul Cook can keep Latics up this season, that will be a success.
In a season of so much change, being able to retain our Championship status would be a big achievement.
At the start of the season, I predicted a 16th-placed finish for Latics – and we’re on target for that.
If we hadn’t had such a torrid time with injuries, I imagine we may well have been looking at something higher.
We’ve a relatively kind run of fixtures coming up and, with players returning from injury, we could well be looking at a happy festive period for Cook and Latics.
That starts with Ipswich on Saturday.
Ipswich often reminds me of Oldham, in no small part due to Portman Road resembling a bigger (and probably slightly warmer) Boundary Park.
But also because Ipswich forever seems to be battling to remain in their league.
Mick McCarthy provided that stability but, equally, not much else.
Hence the breakdown in relationship between the Town fans and the Yorkshireman.
I imagine a lot would have happily seen him return after the start to the season they’ve made.
The Tractor Boys are firmly rooted to the bottom of the table and, with a record worse than Bolton’s, it’s been a torrid first half of the season for the side from East Anglia.
With Paul Hurst dispatched, to be replaced by old Norwich favourite Paul Lambert, many would have expected an upturn in fortunes.
That upturn hasn’t come by yet, but of course there’s always Saturday.
As much as Paul Cook and his Latics team can look at the positives of this season, our away record needs serious consideration.
It would be a truly Wigan thing to do to travel to Portman Road and fail to come away with anything.
We did it back in October, when we were flying and travelled to Preston, only to come away with nothing but our tails between our legs.
We stopped the rot with that point at Bolton earlier in the month, but can we take that next step and actually get all three points on the road for the first time since August?
Let’s hope so.