Latics lack cutting edge – Wigan Athletic 0 Brighton and Hove Albion 1


Shaun MacDonald had another outstanding game in midfield

Last season’s defeated play-off contenders Brighton demonstrated this season’s promotion credentials with a 1-0 win at the DW Stadium.

Wigan had greater possession and the better chances but Brighton were always resilient and won the game with a rare strike from Dale Stephens on 68 minutes.

Nick Powell had the best opportunity to put Latics ahead in the first half when he headed straight at the Brighton keeper David Stockdale from close range.

Wigan had territorial dominance but they failed to make it count and they were ultimately punished by Stephens stunning finish.

Brighton move up to second in the table and Latics remain in the relegation zone.

Gary Caldwell made one change to the team which drew with Leeds, Reece Burke coming in and Nathan Byrne dropping to the bench.

Latics got off to a good start with Michael Jacobs shooting wide after six minutes.

Then on 22 minutes Nick Powell met David Perkins’ cross from eight yards out but Stockdale was able to deny him. Dan Burn followed up to get the ball across the line but the goal was disallowed for offside.

Powell limped off soon afterwards and was replaced by Nathan Byrne.

Byrne was soon in the action and was through on goal but former Latics defender Gaetan Bong made a last ditch interception to deny him.

Adam Bogdan was having a untroubled time in Latics goal but on 40 minutes he had to make a rare save to deny Sam Baldock.

The teams went into the interval level.

Latics continued to dominate possession in the second half. But they struggled to create any clear cut chances with Will Grigg often isolated and surrounded by three defenders.

Brighton made a double substitution on 60 minutes with Oliver Norwood and Anthony Knockaert making way for Dale Stephens and Jamie Murphy.

Against the run of play it was Stephens who gave Brighton the lead.

Bong crossed from the left and Skalak fed Stephens who hit an unstoppable shot past Bogdan from 25 yards. It was a huge blow and the Latics’ players heads visibly dropped.

Caldwell surprisingly replaced Grigg with Adam Le Fondre, then later introduced Craig Davies in the 75th minute for Perkins. But both Le Fondre and Davies struggled to make any impact.

Jacobs nearly forced a late equaliser but former Latic Bong was on hand to deny him.

It was a desperately disappointing afternoon for Latics as they had dominated long periods of the game against a top team, but ultimately their lack of a cutting edge had been their downfall.

Posted in Brighton & Hove Albion, Championship, Dale Stephens, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

12th Man – Turning draws into wins

Yanic Wildschut Wigan Athletic

Yanic Wildschut has yet to score this season.

Latics are now unbeaten in four games after the 1-1 draw at Elland Road on Tuesday night. Overall they have drawn five games and three in their last four. They are in 23rd spot in the Championship, but it is surely only a matter of time before they get the points their performances deserve and they start to climb the table.

The performances against Brentford, Burton and Leeds have been very good and with a little luck and some better finishing the points total could be so much better.

Gary Caldwell will be acutely aware that if the team had accrued six more points they would now be sitting comfortably in mid-table.

The team spirit, determination and commitment of the players cannot be faulted. They have shown they are a hard team to beat but they now need to turn the draws into wins and they will be able to move out of the relegation zone.

There’s no doubting that this is a tight division were any team is capable of beating another on the day. But what are the reasons why Latics aren’t turning the draws into victories?

Some would argue that it is because we don’t play with two central strikers. But we are still creating plenty of chances and yet we are not converting them.

Will Grigg is our top scorer with six goals but no other player has scored more than one goal and I think this is where the problem lies. Our midfield players haven’t scored the goals like they did last season.

Latics have seven players on one goal but then that’s it. Our midfield players and wingers just aren’t contributing enough goals.

Michael Jacobs scored 10 last season and has only scored one so far, Yanic Wilsdchut scored seven and Max Power scored six and both have yet to score this season.

Nick Powell probably had his best game for Latics at Leeds but he needs to be adding more goals to his repertoire. Jordi Gomez is another creative player who should be chipping in with more goals.

Midfielder Shaun MacDonald claimed an important first goal for the club at Leeds and it is time that others got in on the act.

It was always going to take awhile for the team to adapt to the Championship but now is the time for the midfield players to take more responsibility and ensure that they get on the score sheet.

Latics have a tough game coming up against third placed Brighton but with more goal-scoring input from the midfielders they are capable of claiming the three points.

This article was first published in the 12th Man column for the Wigan Evening Post on Friday 21st October 2016.

Posted in Brighton & Hove Albion, Championship, Jordi Gomez, Max Power, Michael Jacobs, Nick Powell, Shaun MacDonald, Wigan Athletic, Yanic Wildschut | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Latics late show is well earned – Leeds United 1 Wigan Athletic 1


Shaun MacDonald grabbed an important first goal for Latics

Shaun MacDonald volleyed a 91st minute equaliser to deservedly give Wigan a share of the points against Leeds United at Elland Road.

Chris Wood had given United the lead in the first half with a neat finish but Latics dominated the second half and should have been level before MacDonald’s late show.

Michael Jacobs hit the post and Nick Powell and Jake Buxton both had close range efforts well saved by Leeds keeper Rob Green.

Latics remain in 22nd spot in the Championship, but it is surely only a matter of time before they get the points their performances deserve and they start to climb the table.

Gary Caldwell made two changes from the team which started against Burton Albion with Will Grigg and David Perkins coming in for Adam Le Fondre and Yanic Wildschut.

Latics started confidently by moving the ball to good effect and enjoying plenty of possession.

In an even opening neither team created any clear cut opportunities until Chris Wood was on hand to put Leeds ahead on 29 minutes. Dan Burn unluckily played the ball against the legs of Hadi Sacko and the winger crossed the ball to Wood who expertly chested the ball down before volleying past Bogdan.

Latics responded to the setback and nearly drew level on 39 minutes. Will Grigg cut the ball back to Michael Jacobs and the midfielder’s low shot struck the base of the post from 12 yards out with Green beaten.

Soon afterwards they had another couple of great opportunities when both Nick Powell and Jake Buxton went close to getting on the score sheet.

Powell met Jacobs’ corner from the right hand side and forced a reflex save from Green before Buxton was unable to turn the rebound home, and the ball was cleared from the goal-line.

Latics went into the interval unlucky to be 1-0 down.

Caldwell replaced Jacobs with Yanic Wildschut at half time as Latics went in search of an equaliser.

Wigan were dominating possession but were finding it difficult to create clear cut opportunities. They forced a series of corners but were unable to captitalise on them and Leeds always looked dangerous on the break.

Adam Bogdan made a good save low down to deny Luke Aisling on 55 minutes as Leeds countered.

Caldwell replaced Nathan Byrne and Jake Buxton with Jordi Gomez and Craig Morgan on 62 minutes as Latics looked to unlock the home defence.

Nick Powell was having his best game for Latics since signing permanently and he was unlucky not to be awarded a foul on the edge of the box after being tripped but referee Peter Bankes dismissed appeals.

Bogdan did well to claw away a goal-bound effort from Wood, but it was Latics who were having the best of it. They were the team dominating possession and looking to create chances.

Max Power curled an effort just over the crossbar and moments later he couldn’t quite make his header count after good work by Wildschut.

But just when it looked like Latics might be out of luck the equaliser came from a Jordi Gomez corner. Max Power headed the deep cross back into the area towards MacDonald, who volleyed the ball home via the right hand post much to the delight of the small travelling band of Wigan fans.

Posted in Championship, Chris Wood, Leeds United, Shaun MacDonald, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Latics and Brewers in stalemate – Wigan Athletic 0 Burton Albion 0


Dan Burn had his best game for Latics

Dan Burn gave a Man of the Match performance as Wigan were held 0-0 at home by Burton. The 6ft 7in central defender made two goal-line clearances and numerous important headers and interceptions to frustrate the Brewers.

Burton edged the first half, although Adam Le Fondre should’ve scored when he was one-on-one with the Brewers keeper Jon McLaughlin. but chipped over the crossbar.

Latics dominated the second half and should’ve secured the three points when Nick Powell got on the end of a great cross by Stephen Warnock but the former Manchester United midfielder headed narrowly wide of the target.

Wigan are unbeaten in three games but are now 22nd in the table. Burton remain in 16th place after 12 games played.

Gary Caldwell made three changes from the side who drew 0-0 at Brentford with Adam Le Fondre, Nick Powell and Yanic Wildschut coming in for Will Grigg, Jordi Gomez and David Perkins.

The Brewers started brightly and Shaun MacDonald and Nick Powell had to block goal attempts from O’Grady and Turner, while Aikins and Naylor shot over.

Latics responded with Wildschut forcing a good low save from McLaughlin and Michael Jacobs had an effort on goal deflected wide. But the best chance of the half fell to Adam Le Fondre when he was one-on-one with McLaughlin but the striker’s chipped effort just cleared the crossbar.

But Latics had to thank Dan Burn for twice making goal line clearances to deny the visitors. Firstly, he managed to block Lucas Aikins’ goal-bound shot, and then he denied Chris O’Grady’s long distance lob which looked to be going in until Burn made an overhead goal-line clearance.

Latics upped the tempo in the second half with Powell heading just over from a Nathan Byrne cross on 52 minutes and the same combination then forced Kyle McFadzean to clear at the near post.

John Brayford committed a professional foul on Wildschut on 59 minutes as the powerful Dutchman broke clear of the Brewers defence. It might have been a red card but referee Andy Davies issued a yellow.

Powell and Le Fondre combined well but McLaughlin saved. Burton responded through substitute Jamie Ward, who set up Aikens and Bogdan was forced into a good save.

Wildschut was again brought down, just outside the box on 63 minutes, McFadzean seeing yellow this time. Powell then forced McLaughlin into a punched save from the free-kick.

Caldwell brought on Craig Morgan for Nathan Byrne on 66 minutes and Latics best chance came soon afterwards as Stephen Warnock’s superb cross was met by Nick Powell’s powerful diving header which shaved the outside of the post.

McLaughlin then pushed Michael Jacobs effort around the post for a corner.

With 15 minutes remaining Caldwell introduced Craig Davies and Will Grigg in place of Le Fondre and Wildschut in an attempt to secure all three points. But it was to no avail as Burton held on despite Latics enjoying plenty of possession and applying lots of pressure.

In the final analysis a draw was probably about the right result as Latics had not been clinical enough in front of goal and Dan Burn had come to the rescue on two occasions.

Posted in Burton Albion, Championship, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

12th Man – Good news from the Football League ladder

Burton Albion

Latics fans at Burton Albion last season

Football has been under a cloud in recent weeks with all the revelations about corrupt practices, bungs and backhanders. The lacklustre performances by the England team hasn’t helped matters either, but amidst all the doom and gloom there have been some shining examples about why we all still love the game so much.

AFC Wimbledon climbing above MK Dons

AFC Wimbledon reached a significant milestone last weekend when they climbed above Milton Keynes Dons in the football ladder for the first time in their short 14-year history.

The Wombles defeated Oxford United 3-1 to move up to 10th in League One, two places above MK Dons, who lost 1-0 at home to Port Vale.

AFC Wimbledon were formed by Wimbledon FC supporters in 2002 after the original club were disappointingly allowed by the FA to relocate to Buckinghamshire, and were later renamed MK Dons.

The new team started life in the Combined Counties League and they have steadfastly worked their way through the divisions to their current position in the third tier of English football.

For many football fans the way that Milton Keynes stole Wimbledon’s place in the football league still rancours. The concept of relocating football clubs away from their natural homes, effectively a franchise system, is an anathema to true fans of the game.

It is heartwarming that AFC Wimbledon fans have built the club from the ground up and have deservedly progressed through the league’s pyramid system.

The club is planning to build a new stadium in the London Borough of Merton where the original Wimbledon FC played, and if they finish above MK Dons at the end of the season football fans everywhere should be celebrating.

Burton Albion’s meteoric rise

Latics’ next opponents Burton Albion are another great success story. The club was only formed in 1950 joining the Birmingham and District League and in the last seven seasons they have enjoyed a meteoric rise from the Conference to the Championship.

Like Dave Whelan at Wigan, their Chairman Ben Robinson has been the driving force behind Burton’s rapid progress. Robinson took over in 1997, and moved them to the Pirelli Stadium in 2005.

The club has done remarkably well considering that their stadium only has a capacity of fewer than 7,000 and their average attendances were only 4,000 last season.

One of Burton’s biggest strengths has been recovering from losing managers to bigger clubs. Nigel Clough left for Derby County in 2009, Gary Rowett joined Birmingham City and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink left for Queens Park Rangers. Nigel Clough returned in 2015 and took them into the Championship behind Latics last season.

Robinson’s patient approach should be a model for other owners to follow. He has sacked only one manager, Paul Peschisolido in 2011. Robinson told ‘The Guardian’,

“It’s the manager who should stand or fall on his beliefs, tactics and skills. The big factor with us is we’ve had our gradual development over all these years. We’ve always given our managers time to develop and not interfered.”

The Brewers have made a good start to the season and currently sit in 15th place in the table with 13 points, but despite the good start the priority is still to stay in the division.

Latics’ fans will be hoping for three points tomorrow but I’m sure that most will appreciate the Brewers success story and after the game will want them to enjoy a good season in the Championship.

This article was first published in the 12th Man column for the Wigan Evening Post on Friday 14th October 2016.

Posted in AFC Wimbledon, Burton Albion, Championship, League One, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Captain Warnock is leading by example – Brentford 0 Wigan Athletic 0

Stephen Warnock Wigan Athletic

Captain Stephen Warnock produced a Man of the Match performance. Photograph courtesy of Wigan Athletic.

The recently appointed Wigan Athletic captain Stephen Warnock produced a Man of the Match performance in the 0-0 draw at Brentford and helped the club to their first away point of the season.

The 34-year-old former England international defender inspired a defensive shut-out against free-scoring Brentford at Griffin Park. The Bees had scored nine goals in their previous two home matches but Warnock along with fellow defenders Dan Burn, Jake Buxton and keeper Adam Bogdan were all determined not to concede.

Warnock marshalled the defence superbly and despite suffering a head injury in the first half he was able to make several excellent interceptions and a crucial headed goal line clearance.

Despite Brentford having the majority of the chances, Latics might have taken all three points in the final quarter when substitutes Adam Le Fondre and Nick Powell went close.

Latics maintain 21st spot in the table and Brentford slip down to 7th.

Latics made two changes from 2-1 victory over Wolverhampton Wanderers, with Will Grigg returning to the starting line up in place of Adam Le Fondre and Michael Jacobs returning in place of Yanic Wildschut.

A confident Brentford attacked from the kick off and Latics struggled to make an early impression.

The home team created some good opportunities in the opening period but Warnock and Burn were able to make important interceptions to deny Scott Hogan and Lasse Vibe.

Latics started to get into the game around the half hour mark with Grigg and Jacobs combining to set up Max Power whose effort was saved by keeper Daniel Bentley.

The visitors might even have gone ahead just before the interval when Nathan Byrne set up Power from a tight angle but the midfielder’s effort hit the side netting.

Warnock was on hand 10 minutes into the second half to make another crucial defensive clearance, this time reacting superbly to get his head in the way of Vibe’s powerful effort which looked destined for the top corner.

Shaun MacDonald was having another good game in midfield breaking up several good Brentford attacks. He was able to make some telling tackles including blocking a cross which would surely have given Hogan a great chance to score. Warnock was again in the thick of the action and denied Egan’s powerful effort with his head.

Gary Caldwell made a double substitution on 57 minutes with Powell and Wildschut replacing Jordi Gomez and Nathan Byrne.

Wildschut, Powell and Jacobs soon combined well and Will Grigg almost got on the end of a great cross into the six yard box.

With 10 minutes remaining Le Fondre replaced Grigg, and almost immediately he had an opportunity to make an impact, but unfortunately his effort at the near post ended in the side netting.

Either team could have won it in the final stages, first Buxton did well to clear off his own line after Lewis MacLeod’s cross shot was only half saved by Bogdan, then Wildschut produced a powerful run at the Bees defence, but his final effort was blocked by Harlee Dean.

In the dying seconds Powell was felled on the edge of the area by Egan, and from the resulting free kick his powerful shot was punched to safety by Bentley.

Overall a draw was a fair result as Latics had defended admirably and created some good opportunities on the counter attack. Brentford had proved that they are a very good attacking team, and few teams are likely to come away from Griffin Park with a clean sheet this season.

Posted in Adam Bogdan, Brentford, Championship, Dan Burn, Jake Buxton, Stephen Warnock, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

12th Man – Let’s cut out the backbiting

Gary Caldwell

Gary Caldwell doesn’t deserve negative criticism. Photo courtesy of Wigan Athletic.

It was great to see Latics get back to winning ways against Wolves on Tuesday night. It was a hard fought but deserved victory against a very good Wolves team who had recently beaten Newcastle and Brentford.

Prior to Tuesday’s game Gary Caldwell faced a lot of criticism and it appears that some of our supporters have taken a dislike to the manager and want him to fail. The negativity towards Caldwell from some quarters is very strange indeed.

The Scot did a brilliant job last season, rebuilding the club, transforming the playing staff and winning the League One title in his first full season as manager, but some fans are set against him.

Latics haven’t had the best start to the season, but it’s fair to say that Caldwell’s team hasn’t been outplayed so far and they haven’t been beaten by more than one goal in any game. They have dominated possession in most games and their performances deserve to have more points on the table.

In a very tight division and were any team is capable of beating another. Fine margins will dictate who wins the points. A defensive mistake, a top quality strike, a refereeing decision, an injury to a key player can all decide where the points will reside. So the resentment towards Caldwell and his style of play remains hard to comprehend.

For the uninitiated, Caldwell believes in possession, building from the back and trying to play football on the ground. His previous managers Bobby Robson, Gordon Strachan and Roberto Martinez have influenced his footballing beliefs.

But he is also his own man, a modern manager who is still learning and developing all the time. He is still one of the brightest youngest managers in the Football League at 34-years-old, and he has already shown that he is more than capable of being a success at a higher level.

The current vitriol directed towards Caldwell is often irrational and covers everything from Latics’ style of play, the formation, his connection to Roberto Martinez and being stubborn and sticking to his football beliefs.

Whatever some detractors think Caldwell will continue to instruct his players to play the ball out from the back and pass their way to success. This style of play is not unique to Latics; it is a progressive system that has been successful with many top teams.

Rather than constantly criticising the manager the fans should be congratulating him on having a well thought out system of play.

It is still early in the season, we are a new team in a new division and we don’t have the resources of some of the bigger clubs in the Championship.

Latics are not far off becoming a good team and Caldwell should be given the time to deliver better results. The backbiting needs to stop now, the fans need to get behind the manager like they did last season and the club can continue to move forward.

This article was first published in the 12th Man column for the Wigan Evening Post on Friday 30th September 2016.

Posted in Brentford, Championship, Gary Caldwell, Newcastle United, Wigan Athletic, Wolves | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments