Latics’ Bittersweet Symphony – Wigan Athletic 2 Blackpool 1

Leam Richardson League One Manager of the Season 2021/22

  • It was a bittersweet afternoon at the DW Stadium as Wigan Athletic came from a goal down to defeat ten-man Blackpool.
  • Latics’ owners owners Phoenix 2021 had sacked much-loved manager Leam Richardson in midweek and assistant managers Rob Kelly and James Beattie took charge against the Seasiders.
  • The visitors were reduced to ten-men when last man Marvin Ekpiteta was dismissed for a foul on Charlie Wyke after 17 minutes.
  • The Seasiders went ahead on 34 minutes when Jack Whatmough appeared to be pushed by Gary Madine before the striker volleyed past Jamie Jones.
  • Latics dominated the second half and they drew level in the 54th minute when James McClean scored direct from a corner.
  • The hosts sealed an important three points when centre back Curtis Tilt headed Tendayi Darikwa’s cross past Chris Maxwell with two minutes of normal time remaining.
  • Latics move up a place to 22nd place and Blackpool drop to 23rd in the Championship table.

There was a strange atmosphere at the DW Stadium as Latics welcomed Blackpool without Richardson as manager.

Acting assistants Rob Kelly and James Beattie made two changes to the starting XI from the defeat at Coventry City with Tom Naylor and Graeme Shinnie replacing Jordan Cousins and Will Keane. 

The visitors had an early half chance when following a free kick Charlie Patino crossed the ball to Ekpiteta, but the Seasiders’ captain headed high over Jones’ crossbar.

At the other end Latics nearly created an opportunity when Shinnie burst into the box but a last-ditch tackle from Ekpiteta stopped him from getting a shot in.

The visitors then had a great opportunity to take the lead when Sonny Carey found Madine inside the penalty area but the striker dragged his strike wide of the post.

Soon afterwards the visitors were reduced to 10 men. A pass to Ekpiteta was intercepted by Charlie Wyke who lifted ball over the defender, before being fouled as was about to go through on goal.

Referee Andy Davies decided that Ekpiteta was the last man and gave a straight red card.  

It was something of a surprise when the visitors when ahead on 34 minutes. Blackpool launched a long ball towards Maxine who appeared to push Whatmough in the back but the referee allowed play to continue and the striker volleyed past Jones.

1-0 to the Seasiders at half-time.

Latics started the second half brightly pushing forward and utilising the extra man to good effect.

They were now passed the ball much better and ball retention was much improved as Blackpool sat back.

Latics equaliser came in an unlikely fashion in the 54th minute.

McClean’s low in swinging corner avoided everybody at the near post before finding the back of the Blackpool net.

The hosts then pushed forward for the winner and they nearly went in front from a corner when Shinnie’s volley was just inches wide of Maxwell’s near post.

But with two minutes of normal time Latics deservedly found the winner. Darikwa produced an enticing cross to the near post and Tilt did superbly to get in front of his marker and head powerfully into the Seasiders net.

The Latics fans were jubilant after their first win in eight games but it was a bittersweet moment as they had done it without Leam Richardson who had done so much to revive the club during the last two years.

Overview

This was an important result for Latics prior to the break for the World Cup.

Despite Blackpool being down to ten-men, the game was finely poised at half-time but Latics held their nerve and played some very good passing football in the second half.

The players had shown their determination and commitment to get the victory for Leam Richardson.

It had been a very poor decision by the owners Phoenix 2021 to sack Richardson.

Latics had started the season very well and although results haven’t been good recently they’ve been unlucky not to pick up more points.

There is still a long way to go in the season and a few good results could easily have propelled the club away from the relegation zone.

Following the summer recruitment it was obvious to most observers that the club needed to further strengthen the current playing staff during the upcoming transfer window.

Football club’s require good leadership, stability, and team togetherness if they are to be successful in the long term.

Sacking the manager after a few bad results will not necessarily make the club successful.

Leam is an excellent leader and if he had been given the resources I’m sure he would’ve kept the club in the Championship this season.

I hope Richardson’s sacking is not a portent of more bad news. The fans do not deserve to go through the turmoil of another period of administration.

Three late salary payments have damaged confidence and stimulated numerous conspiracy theories.

Surely it is now time for Phoenix 2021 to be open and transparent about their intentions going forward.

Post match comments

Speaking afterwards acting assistant manager Rob Kelly was delighted to see his side’s patient performance pay off in the final stages.

“It was a relief for everyone to get the win,” he smiled.

“It was an important three points for everybody. I thought they responded really well (to conceding), certainly after half-time.

“The longer it went on, we knew we would get a couple of chances and that’s what happened.”

Latics were rallied on superbly by the home supporters in the second period, and Kelly praised the fans’ positive influence from the stands this afternoon.

“I’ve got to say the fans have always been fantastic since I’ve been here,” he said.

“Even at home, they’ve been patient and understanding of where we are and what we are trying to do.

“I thought they (the fans) were really good in the second half, and they have been since we have been here.”

Player ratings

Player ratings courtesy of Whoscored.com

Posted in Blackpool, Curtis Tilt, Gary Madine, James Beattie, James McClean, Leam Richardson, Marvin Ekpiteta, Rob Kelly, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Latics slip deeper into trouble – Coventry City 2 Wigan Athletic 0

Leam Richardson with plenty to ponder

  • Wigan Athletic slipped deeper into relegation trouble after a dispiriting 2-0 defeat at Coventry City.
  • In a competitive first half there were chances at both ends as Will Keane headed against the crossbar for Latics and Kasey Palmer fired inches wide of the target for the Sky Blues.
  • But in the second half Latics offered little going forward and despite some good defending they went behind on 77 minutes when Gustavo Hamer’s deflected strike from outside the box beat Jamie Jones.
  • Latics threw men forward in six minutes of added time but it was the hosts who sealed the three points when Victor Gyokeres finished from Josh Eccles’ pass.
  • Latics remain in 23rd place in the Championship table and the Sky Blues move up to 12th place.

Leam Richardson made three changes to the starting XI from the draw at Swansea with Ramari Edmonds-Green making his debut, Callum Lang and Jordan Cousins replacing Jason Kerr, Tom Naylor and Nathan Broadhead.

In a lively opening period the Sky Blues threatened first when they fired a dangerous cross into the area in the first minute but it came to nothing.

James McClean then had a couple of early shots blocked at the other end before Will Keane headed against the crossbar on 14 minutes but was adjudged to be offside. 

Josh Eccles fired high over the crossbar for the hosts on 14 minutes.

Latics then had another opportunity on 20 minutes when a Max Power corner was headed across the area by Jack Whatmough and McClean fired just wide of the target from a tight angle.

Coventry’s best chance came just before half time when Hamer’s strike from the centre of the penalty area was inches wide of the post.

0-0 at half time with Latics putting in a competitive first half performance.

But the second half was a different story with the Sky Blues dominant as Latics offered very little going forward and had to defend for most of the half. 

The hosts pressed forward from the kick off and Latics had to defend in depth and often desperately.

Ben Sheaf fired just over the angle of post and crossbar on 50 minutes, Hamer had a goal bound strike blocked two minutes later before Michael Rose’s strike just cleared the crossbar a minute after.

Latics were under the cosh and they had to block strikes from Callum O’Hare, Jake Bidwell, Gyokeres and Palmer in quick succession.

Keane had to be withdrawn for an injury on 60 minutes and replaced by Broadhead.

Coventry made a triple substitution on 73 minutes as Jamie Allen, Tyler Walker and Callum Doyle replaced Palmer, O’Hare and Rose.

Richardson made a double substitution at the same time with Graeme Shinnie and Josh Magennis replacing Callum Lang and Charlie Wyke.

Despite concerted Coventry pressure Latics were unlucky to concede from a deflected strike on 77 minutes. Gyokeres unleashing a drive from just outside the area which deflected off Whatmough and completely wrong-footed goalkeeper Jones. 

Gwion Edwards and Thelo Aasgaard replaced Darikwa and Cousins on 82 minutes as Latics tried to respond but they created very little until in added time when they pushed men forward.

Unfortunately in that added time the Sky Blues broke away with Gyokeres showing strength and power to get away from Latics’ chasing defenders and power his strike low past Jones to confirm the three points.

Overview

Coventry are in fine form at the moment having defeated Watford and Blackburn in their previous two games but Latics were well beaten at the Coventry Building Society Stadium.

The other results around the relegation zone couldn’t have gone much worse for Latics on the night with Huddersfield winning at QPR, Hull City winning at Cardiff and Middlesbrough winning at Blackpool.

Latics have only picked up one point in the last seven games after starting the season so well. The players effort cannot be faulted in recent games and fine margins often decide results in the Championship but it is clear to everyone that they are lacking quality in certain positions. 

Latics Chairman Talal Al Hammad has commented on Twitter that the club will use the forthcoming World Cup break to ‘overcome the current obstacles.’ Let’s hope that this involves strengthening the current squad during the transfer window. Latics owner Mr Al-Jasmi must surely realise that they will now have to invest in the squad if they are to retain their hard-won Championship status.

Post match comments

Speaking afterward, Richardson felt that luck wasn’t on their side, as a deflected opening goal helped the hosts on their way to victory. 

“Any negative result is tough to take, especially when the work ethic of the lads was there for all to see,” he said.

“The first half was very competitive, with not much in it – with neither goalkeeper really having a save to make.

“In the second half, they started probably a bit brighter, and the momentum swung with a couple of decisions in their favour. 

“Our distances got too big, and they’ve had a deflected shot that goes in – which is disappointing.

“The last goal, we were chasing the game, but I thought we got into enough areas to go for the equaliser.

“It wasn’t to be, and I thought our lads’ effort and endeavours was there to see, but we just need that a little bit of quality in certain moments.”

Saturday will see Blackpool arrive at the DW Stadium in Latics’ final game before the World Cup international break, and Richardson expressed the importance of his players making the most of the energy generated by the fans to stride towards a positive result. 

“They’re all huge, massive games for us. Saturday, we’re at home, and our home crowd will give us a massive lift,” he said

“They will give us a massive amount of energy, and it’s up to us we replicate that on the pitch and certainly get a positive result.”

Player ratings

Player ratings courtesy of Whoscored.com

Posted in Championship, Coventry City, Gustavo Hamer, Leam Richardson, Mr Al-Jasmi, Talal Al Hammad, Victor Gyokeres, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Latics make battling point at Swansea – Swansea City 2 Wigan Athletic 2

Tom Naylor produced a Man of the Match performance

  • Wigan Athletic battled to their first point in six games with a creditable 2-2 draw at Swansea City.
  • Latics went in front on eight minutes when Will Keane headed home James McClean’s corner and on 16 minutes Tom Naylor doubled their lead from another McClean corner.
  • The visitors contained the hosts for most of the first half but on 43 minutes Ryan Manning reduced the deficit with a superb curling strike past Jamie Jones.
  • Latics defended resolutely in the second half but they were undone late on when Jason Kerr brought down substitute Kyle Naughton in the penalty area and Joel Piroe converted the spot kick to save the Swans blushes.
  • Wigan remain in the Championship relegation zone and Swansea are in ninth place.

Swansea started brightly and Armstrong Oko-Flex had an opportunity in the fourth minute but he dragged his shot wide.

Latics soon got into their stride and after Steven Benda had pushed Nathan Broadhead’s drive around the post from the resulting corner Latics went in front. McClean’s in-swinging corner was met by Keane who headed home for his seventh goal of the season.

It was not long before Latics doubled their lead from another excellent McClean corner which was  this time headed home by Naylor at the near post.

The hosts were stunned and they struggled to find their usual rhythm and when they did get forward Latics were well organised and defended resolutely. Naylor was having a crucial role shielding the back three and winning important tackles.

It looked as though Latics would go into the half time break with a two goal lead but just before the interval Manning unleashed a curling strike from the edge of the area beyond Jones to reduce the arrears.

2-1 to Latics at the break.

The Swans created an opportunity at the start of the second half with Piroe almost immediately forcing an excellent save from Jones.

As the half progressed the hosts were dominating possession and Latics had to defend in numbers. But the visitors defended well and limited the hosts to only a few chances.

Ollie Cooper going close for the Swans when he flicked Naughton’s cross narrowly wide of the post.

Leam Richardson replaced McClean and Broadhead with Thelo Aasgaard and Callum Lang on the hour mark as he looked to give Latics some more attacking options. 

Russell Martin responded for the Swans by making a triple substitution with Matthew Sorinola, Naughton and Oliver Ntcham replacing Cundle, Cabango and Obefemi.

Josh Magennis replaced the hard working Wyke on 72 minutes.

It looked as though Latics might weather the storm but on 80 minutes Jason Kerr collided with Naughton and referee Craig Pawson awarded a penalty.  Piroe converted the spot kick and Swansea were level.

Graeme Shinnie and Joe Bennett replaced Kerr and Naylor on 85 minutes, and Latics had an opportunity to restore their lead in seven minutes of added time but Bennett’s free kick was saved by Benda.

Overall a very creditable away point for Latics at the Swansea.com Stadium but it could so easily have been three.

Overview

There’s been a lot of unfair criticism of Leam Richardson on social media this week and the manager and team showed their character and determination to prove the doubters wrong against Swansea.

The doomsayers have been quick to suggest the manager is not up to the job, but Richardson’s team had been unlucky not to pick up at least three points from the previous three games.

The team spirit and togetherness of the players and manager was evident throughout in South Wales. In the first half Latics had counter attacked effectively and scored two excellent headers from well worked set pieces.

In the second half they had to defend resolutely against a team who are pushing for the play-offs and had won five of their last six games at home.

It was frustrating to see Latics concede an equaliser late on but most supporters would’ve taken a point prior to the game after the recent run of bad results.

Richardson is currently working with a League One squad and a few new signings and loan players. If he is given the resources to strengthen in the January transfer window, a few strategic signings should help to establish the club in the Championship.

Richardson has done a remarkable job in such a short space of time, saving the club from relegation during administration and gaining promotion and the League One title in his first full season.

He does not become a bad manager just because of a few bad results. He certainly deserves a better backing from some of our fan base.

Post match comments

Speaking afterwards Latics manager said that it was another point gained after a performance full of grit, determination and character.

“We know the relentlessness of the Championship and the challenges that we face,” he said

“It can either be two points dropped or one point gained, and I always look at the positives. 

“Factually, our performances haven’t really reflected results but that’s the division we are in. It’s important that every time we enter the pitch, we’re positive and full of energy, as well as being respectful of the opposition.

“It probably deserved to be a draw. We had to defend at times in the second half, but we knew that before the game. 

“Can we be better in certain moments? Of course, we can. We’re still evolving and trying to be better in those moments.

“(I felt) the endeavour and commitment could not be questioned, and I don’t think they could’ve given any more.

“We’re moving forward at a great rate, going up against the likes of QPR, Watford, Stoke City and Watford every three days with a squad that has come from League One who are relishing the challenge. 

“If we can keep making those positive steps with the help of the owners, we’ll be in a better place tomorrow and the next day.”

Player ratings

Player ratings courtesy of Whoscored.com

Posted in Championship, Joel Piroe, Leam Richardson, Ryan Manning, Swansea City, Tom Naylor, Wigan Athletic, Will Keane | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Toothless ‘Tics – Wigan Athletic 0 Stoke City 1

Leam Richardson

Leam Richardson with plenty to ponder
Copyright remains property of Bernard Platt

  • Wigan Athletic slipped into the relegation zone after a narrow 1-0 defeat to Stoke City at the DW Stadium.
  • In a first half of limited chances Latics had a great opportunity to open the scoring in the 38th minute but Will Keane headed over from close range.
  • In the second half Josh Tymon seized upon a defensive mistake to fire the visitors ahead on 62 minutes.
  • Latics were unlucky to have a goal ruled out in added time but they have now lost five consecutive league games.
  • Latics drop to 22nd place in the Championship table and the Potters move up to 17th place.

Leam Richardson made one change from Saturday’s defeat against Watford, with Tom Naylor replacing the suspended Graeme Shinnie.

The first opportunity of the game fell to the visitors but Tymon’s long range effort was wide of Jamie Jones’ goal.

Latics responded and Max Power’s low drive clipped the outside of the near post with the Potters keeper Joe Bursik struggling to get across to it.

Latics had another good opportunity in the 20th minute. James McClean’s corner found Jack Whatmough free at the back post, but the defender’s powerful header cleared the crossbar.

The visitors then had a chance when Jacob Brown broke free of Latics’ defence and tried to find Dwight Gayle in the box, but Brown miscued his pass and Jason Kerr was able to intercept and clear the danger.

The Potters continued to push Latics back into defence and Gayle saw his headed effort go wide of the target in the 32nd minute. 

The hosts then had a glorious opportunity to make the breakthrough when Tendayi Darikwa did brilliantly to create space and deliver a pin-point cross to the far post. Keane looked odds-on to score but he couldn’t keep his header down and his effort went over the crossbar.  

Latics started the second half brightly and Jordan Cousins almost immediately went close to opening the scoring. The former Stoke midfielder found space 25 yards out and unleashed a curling strike which looked destined for the top corner but it was narrowly wide.

The visitors then forced an excellent save from Jones in the 53rd minute. A cross into the box caused a goalmouth scramble before falling to Brown. After creating space, the striker fired towards goal, and Jones did superbly to deflect the shot wide with his leg.  

But Stoke were ahead in the 62nd minute when Latics defence over committed. Three defenders went forward to challenge Tymon but none were able to get in a tackle and he ran through into the penalty area before driving the ball low past Jones.

The Potters nearly doubled their lead in the 88th minute. Substitute Tariqe Fosu broke into the box before finding Harry Clarke whose strike was deflected wide by Jones.

Latics then looked to have a lifeline in the 90th minute. A corner into the far post found substitute Josh Magennis and after a scramble, Naylor turned the ball into the net, but his finish was ruled out for handball in the build-up.

Despite late pressure from Latics, Stoke held firm, and the hosts suffered another frustrating narrow defeat.

Overview

Latics had once again lost out by a narrow margin. They could easily have taken three draws from the last three games against QPR, Watford and Stoke but unfortunately it was not to be.

They cannot afford to continually make mistakes at this level and once again a defensive error allowed Stoke to take all three points.

At the other end Latics are not creating enough chances but even when they do they are not being clinical in front of goal.

Callum Lang is being sorely missed but the other strikers must step up and contribute more goals.

Graeme Shinnie was also badly missed against Stoke, as Latics lacked any real creativity from midfield. At least he will be available for the trip to Swansea on Saturday.

Latics now have three more games before the World Cup and it is important that they try to pick up some points and stop the rot before the break.

These same players started the season strongly and they are capable of getting positive results again.

Post match comments

Speaking afterwards Richardson was disappointed that his side couldn’t capitalise on their key chances, and fell to defeat.

“It was a tough result,” he said. 

“On the back of the last few performances, you want to give a high level of performance again. 

“I didn’t think there was much in the game, to be honest – it looked like two teams who had not won enough games of late, and that it was going to end in a draw.

“It was waiting for that moment of brilliance, and we had a big chance before they scored. For the first time all night when we became lopsided within our shape, they ran through the gap and scored their goal. It was disappointing.”

Wednesday’s narrow loss meant that Latics are still going through a tough period following their return to the Second Tier, and Richardson emphasised that it is his responsibility to now help them come through the other side of this period.

“It’s their (players) first rocky spell as a group, and we are used to winning and progressing. We had eight bad weekends all of last year, and this year, it looks like we will have more than that.

“It’s easy being there high-fiving everyone, lifting trophies, and getting all the accolades, but it’s my job to be there when people need you the most.

“It’s my job when people need leading – players and staff within the Football Club – and we have to progress. It’s a fantastic league, coming up against some fantastic players and football clubs, and a lot of our lads are learning on the job.

“They are doing very well in large parts, but it’s just those moments that we’ve got to be better at.”

Player ratings courtesy of Whoscored.com

 

Posted in Championship, Josh Tymon, Leam Richardson, Stoke City, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Review: The Silence of the Stands – Finding Joy in Football’s Lost Season by Daniel Gray

Daniel Gray already has a collection of critically acclaimed football books, but this is another gem worthy of your attention. ‘The Silence of the Stands’ is partly football during lockdown, part travelogue, part social and economic history of Northern England and Scotland.

Gray’s travels provide a snapshot of our national game during Covid, the period from September 2020 to May 2021. He once again enthralls with his football centred lyrical prose. ‘Football was available again, but it had become hard to track down, a kind of prohibition pursuit where football grounds were speakeasies and Bovril was our Moonshine.’

This was a strange period when mental health was crucial to everyone and football fans needed their football fix, wherever they could find it. ‘The very act of going to a game matters tremendously. It matters to your routine, identity, and equilibrium, and it matters to the routine, identity, and equilibrium of so many thousands of others.’

Gray finds solace in non-league grounds such as Jarrow, Lancaster and Workington in England and Scottish teams such as Cowdenbeath and Raith due to the ban on professional sport during lockdown.

He superbly captures the sights and sounds of a match. Relishing the contenting sounds of football, ‘…the cattle stampede of studs on a hard pitch; the ball tumbling into the side-netting and making a whippy, threshing sea-shanty of a noise; an avuncular voice asking his friend, “Do you want a tea or Bovril at half-time?’’ These sensations and satisfactions are like popping bubble wrap for us followers of football.’

Gray is not only insightful but also humorous and entertaining. During his travels he overhears snippets on the train, in the towns and at the grounds. ‘Eeee, it must be bad if they’re calling off Northern League games,’ a Geordie friend had said to me. ‘They’d play through a nuclear holocaust that lot.’

We also learn about Kendal Town (the Mintcakes) and Lancaster City’s (The Dolly Blues) fantastic nicknames and that Billingham Synthonia’s name is a poetic portmanteau. The attraction of football is hard to avoid, ‘We are weaker than coins near magnets (near a football ground).’

He rightly identifies why football is so special to so many of us. ‘Never had we been more aware of the fact that going to the match was about so much more than going to the match.’

Gray is an endearing and authentic football observer, and this book reaffirms the meaning and importance of football in so many ways.

The Silence of the Stands – Finding Joy in Football’s Lost Season by Daniel Gray. Published by Bloomsbury Sport. Price £12.99.

This review first appeared in the November 2022 edition of Late Tackle magazine.

Posted in Daniel Gray, Football Book Reviews, Football's Lost Season, Late Tackle magazine, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Latics suffer late heartache – Wigan Athletic 0 Watford 1

Jack Whatmough headed against the crossbar

  • Wigan Athletic looked to be heading for well-earned point until Watford’s Joao Pedro headed an 87th minute winner at the DW Stadium.
  • Latics had matched the Hornets in a hard-fought fixture with few chances for either side. 
  • The hosts hit the post from Will Keane’s header and Jamie Jones made an excellent save from Watford’s Ismaila Sarr but with the match heading for a draw Pedro rose highest to head home.
  • Although Jack Whatmough headed against the crossbar in added time Latics couldn’t rescue the draw that their performance had deserved.
  • Latics drop to 20th place in the Championship and Watford moved up to seventh place.

Leam Richardson made one change from last Saturday’s defeat against Queens Park Rangers, with Jones returning to the starting XI, in place of Ben Amos.

Latics started well and created an opportunity in the fifth minute. Will Keane tried his luck from 25 yards out and his powerful strike was well saved by Watford keeper Daniel Bachmann.

Soon afterwards the hosts had a great opportunity to take the lead when James McClean’s free kick from the right-hand side found Keane at the back post and his header from close range hit the outside of the post.

Watford gradually started to assert themselves and striker Vakoun Bayo nearly headed them ahead in the 16th minute. The visitors Dan Gosling crossed the ball towards Bayo, but he could only head the chance over Jones’ crossbar.

The Hornets continued to threaten and Jones made an excellent save in the 21st minute. Sarr combined well with Bayo and Jones who reacted instinctively with his legs to deflect the shot wide.

Latics then had a good spell and and they had a half-chance in the 35th minute. McClean’s ball into the box was picked up by Keane who did superbly to bring the ball down control but before he could pull the trigger Bachmann was quick off his line to snuff out the opportunity.

Keane went close again just four minutes later when McClean’s corner was headed down by Whatmough but under pressure, the striker just couldn’t keep the ball down and the chance went begging.

In the second half both teams continued to battle for dominance with Latics giving a good account of themselves.

In the 70th minute Bachmann nearly gave Latics the lead when he opted to palm Keane’s cross away instead of catching it. The ball looked like it would fall into the path of McClean, but Leicester City loanee Hamza Choudhury did well to close down the danger.

The visitors continued to be a threat on the break and they nearly went ahead in the 80th minute when Samuel Kalu burst down the right and crossed for Sarr in the six-yard box, but Whatmough did superbly to make a last-ditch block and save an almost certain goal.

Latics looked like they would hold on for a precious point but their hopes were dashed in the 87th minute. Yaser Asprilla’s cross into the far post was met by Joao Pedro who headed into the top corner to devastate the hosts.

In seven minutes of added time Latics pressed for the equaliser and they nearly managed a deserved draw when Whatmough’s looping header hit the crossbar but Watford survived the scare to take away the three points.

Overview

It is easy to get carried away and criticise the team and manager after another defeat but Richardson’s team have performed well in the last two games against two of the top teams in the Championship.

The club have come a long way since administration and consolidation in the Championship was always going to be the target for this season.

Latics deserved a draw against the League leaders QPR last week and it was agonising to lose out late on against a strong Watford team who will be pushing for a return to the Premier League.

Latics were balanced and organised and for the most part negated the threat of Watford’s expensively assembled forward line. They had some chances themselves but they had lacked a cutting edge with strikers Charlie Wyke and Callum Lang both absent due to injury and Watford loanee Ashley Fletcher unavailable. 

Despite playing well in the last two games they are on a bad run and have now lost four in a row. It is not a time to panic but Richardson must find a way to get a positive result to address the slump before it becomes a crisis.

Post match comments

Richardson speaking afterwards said,

“It was very frustrating.”

“The question I ask myself – when the emotion is still very raw after the game – could the lads have given any more?

“We were up against a (former) international, Premier League manager with Premier League players, and the difference is in both boxes. In the last couple of weeks, we’ve played against the team top of the league and Watford today, and in the main, we’ve gone toe-to-toe.

“Our lads have given us everything that we’ve asked for, but then with all due respect, the moments are decided in both boxes.

“You’d like the performances to turn into results, and that’s something we will look forward to challenging ourselves to do.

“We have to get results and keep working hard within this group of players. They are really relishing the challenge and meeting it head-on.

“We have to take those (key) moments, and take the game away from other teams.”

Player ratings

Player ratings courtesy of Whoscored.com

Posted in Championship, Jack Whatmough, Joao Pedro, Leam Richardson, Watford, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Review: The Longest Winter – A Season with England’s Worst Ever Football Team by Mark Hodkinson

Mark Hodkinson returns to the familiar territory of his previous books with the story of Rochdale’s worst ever season. This time he contextualises the football club’s struggles with the economic and social turmoil of the early 1970’s.

In 1973/74 Rochdale were in the Third Division (now League One) and under a new manager Walter Joyce. Joyce’s plan was to use only young players during the season, but it massively backfired with the club winning only twice in 46 league matches.

They closed the season with a 22-game winless run and played a match against Cambridge United in front of the lowest-ever Football League post-war crowd of 588.

Rochdale’s 2-0 home defeat to Cambridge on Tuesday 5th February 1974 was one of the bleakest days in modern British history. ‘The country was in deep recession. The Government was in disarray. Inflation was running at 10 per cent. The three-day working week was in place. Miners had announced another national strike. Petrol was running out. And bombs were detonated across England. Supporters of Rochdale thought it fitting that the worst day in the club’s history should fall on such a wretched day.’  

It was a dispiriting time for the players, manager, and directors, but it was even more traumatic for the Rochdale fans. In a letter to the Rochdale Observer, Andrew Harrison wrote ‘I wish Walter Joyce had done something else in life, like gardening, rather than trying to be a football manager.’

Rochdale’s relegation was fittingly confirmed on April Fool’s Day 1974 when Tranmere Rovers won 3-0 against Port Vale. Joyce and his management team had failed by an unprecedented degree but if the team was defeated on the pitch, it was also a reflection of the defeatism emanating from Chairman Fred Ratcliffe and his directors. There was a feeling that the club was on a gradual wind-down to extinction.

Since that dreadful season Rochdale have survived as a Football League club, while others have fallen into non-league, but it’s been an ongoing struggle. 

‘The Longest Winter’ doesn’t quite live up to some of Hodkinson’s previous books but it still provides a vivid picture of a traumatic football season at a time of great social, economic and political unrest.

Ironically, although there have been huge advances since the 1970’s, we are once again facing an economic, social, and political crisis and Rochdale AFC are near the bottom of the Football League.  

The Longest Winter – A Season with England’s Worst Ever Football Team by Mark Hodkinson. Published by Pitch Publishing. Price £16.99,

This review first appeared in the November 2022 edition of Late Tackle magazine.

Posted in 1970s, Football Book Reviews, Late Tackle magazine, Mark Hodkinson, Rochdale, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Latics robbed at Loftus Road – Queens Park Rangers 2 Wigan Athletic 1

Latics attack at QPR

  • Wigan Athletic were unlucky to lose 2-1 at Championship leaders Queens Park Rangers. Referee Dean Whitehouse controversially failed to give a second-half penalty when Tom Naylor was dragged to the floor.
  • QPR had taken the lead from a corner when Sam Field fired home from close range on 12 minutes but Latics were level on 22 minutes when Nathan Broadhead’s low strike found the bottom corner.
  • Latics were only level for a minute though as they conceded from another set-piece routine, Leon Balogun powering his header past Ben Amos.
  • Broadhead unluckily had a second goal ruled out for offside as Latics responded well to the setback.
  • In the second half Latics were the dominant force and hit the frame of the goal through substitute Josh Magennis but Rangers held on.
  • Latics drop to 19th in the Championship table and QPR remain in top spot.

Leam Richardson made three changes from the midweek defeat to Middlesbrough with Jason Kerr, Graeme Shinnie and Broadhead coming into the starting line-up for Joe Bennett, Thelo Aasgaard and Charlie Wyke.

Rangers threatened first when Lyndon Dykes fired a low effort on target but Amos was able to save comfortably.

The hosts went ahead on 12 minutes from a corner when Field was allowed to volley home from the centre of the penalty box.

Latics were not behind for long though and drew level in the 22nd minute. Shinnie’s free-kick was helped on by Jack Whatmough, Max Power and Will Keane before finding Broadhead, who rifled his low strike into the bottom corner.

But only one minute later, Latics defence switched off and QPR regained their lead from another set-piece. Former Latic Leon Balogun powering his header past Amos from inside the six-yard box.

Latics responded well and they thought they had restored parity when Broadhead struck another instinctive finish into the corner, but the Latics forward was adjudged to have been offside.

Broadhead had another chance soon afterwards when he tried his luck from 20 yards out, but his effort flew wide of the post.

Just before half-time Latics created another opportunity when James McClean set the ball back for Jordan Cousins to hit first time, but a last-ditch tackle from Jake Clarke-Salter blocked the danger.

Rangers started the second-half strongly and Tim Iroegbunam’s powerful effort from the right of the penalty area was well turned behind by Amos.

Latics then moved up a gear and started to assert their authority, with Kerr curling an effort just over the crossbar after some good build-up play from Power and Cousins.

They had another opportunity after the hour mark when Power’s dangerous cross from the right was met at the far post by Keane, but the Republic of Ireland striker was unable to keep his headed effort down.

Latics continued to push forward and from a corner Latics they should have been awarded a penalty when Tom Naylor was dragged to the floor. Referee Whitehouse clearly saw the incident but inexplicably failed to award the spot-kick. It was to be a crucial moment in the game.

Latics then had a great opportunity to draw level in the 86th minute. Substitute Ashley Fletcher found Shinnie in the area and his low cross was acrobatically turned towards goal by fellow substitute Magennis, but the striker’s effort agonisingly came back off the frame of the goal.

Latics couldn’t make the breakthrough that their second-half performance had deserved. If only the referee had the courage to award the penalty Latics would’ve come away with at least a point.

Improved performance

After the horror show against Middlesbrough Latics were much improved against QPR, they looked better balanced than in recent games with Shinnie offering creativity in midfield and Broadhead providing a threat upfront.

However, Latics frailty at set-pieces was once again exposed with several of their defenders having another off-day. The defensive lapses need to be eradicated quickly if they are to get back to winning ways in the Championship. 

Jack Whatmough who has looked jaded in recent games, picked up a knock and had to be withdrawn late in the second half. Substitute Rarmani Edmonds-Green provided a promising cameo in the final ten minutes.

Latics were the dominant force in the second-half and they should have been awarded a penalty when Naylor was dragged to the floor in clear view of referee Whitehouse. A criminal decision by the referee which directly affected the final result.

Post match comments

Speaking afterwards Richardson was pleased with his side’s display in West London despite the defeat, and felt that their performance warranted points being taken back to the North West.

“It’s mixed emotions,” he said.

“You are judged by your results, but I thought it was a high level of performance against a really good team who are going well.

“These are the days, and the challenges that we’ve worked hard to get over the last 12 months to make sure we are at stadiums like this, and playing against teams and players like this.

“The level of performance that I and the lads demand was there. We came to the top of the league, and we had to make sure that we met the challenge head-on and represented ourselves as well as we can.

“The disappointing thing is, on the level of play, we probably deserved at least a draw – and potentially a win. We didn’t get it, but we’re still learning, and we have to keep moving forward.”

Richardson was also critical that the referee did not award a penalty when Naylor was dragged to the floor.

“I was disappointed we didn’t get a penalty,” he said.

“The referee half-blew, it looked like Fletch was going to get a shot on goal. “At these stadiums, the referees have got to be a little bit stronger.

“I thought he was going to give a penalty, and then maybe he thought: ‘Do you know what, I daren’t’, so he didn’t.

“Which is wrong – what you see is what you give. “If you see a penalty, give a penalty.

“He saw a penalty today and he should have given a penalty.”

Player ratings

Player ratings courtesy of Whpscored.com

Posted in Championship, Leam Richardson, Leon Balogun, Nathan Broadhead, QPR, Sam Field, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Latics horror show – Wigan Athletic 1 Middlesbrough 4

Leam Richardson Wigan Athletic

Leam Richardson – tough task ahead

  • Wigan Athletic produced a shockingly awful performance and were thrashed 4-1 by struggling Middlesbrough at the DW Stadium.
  • Latics went ahead on 34 minutes when Will Keane headed home from James McClean’s corner but after that positive start they just went to pieces.
  • The normally reliable Jack Whatmough slipped and allowed Duncan Watmore to cut the ball back for Isaiah Jones to draw Boro level on 44 minutes.
  • Early in the second half Watmore capitalised on Tendayi Darikwa’s backwards header to get between Darikwa and Whatmough before slotting past Ben Amos.
  • Worse was to come for Latics when a few minutes later Hayden Hackney fired a low drive into the bottom corner.
  • The rout was completed when Chuba Akpom’s penalty made it 4-1 after Graeme Shinnie brought down Jones, but it could so easily have been many more as Latics were just dreadful on the night.
  • Latics drop to 17th in the championship table and Middlesbrough move up to 20th.

Leam Richardson made three changes from the starting XI which lost at Sunderland with Joe Bennett, Thelo Aasgaard and Jordan Cousins replacing Tom Naylor, Jason Kerr and Nathan Broadhead.

Latics started slowly but their first opportunity came in the 13th minute. Cousins picked out Darikwa with a  crossfield pass, and the Latics captain’s inviting cross nearly found Charlie Wyke but Dael Fry cleared the danger.

Middlesbrough threatened in the 18th minute. Jones seized upon a poor pass in the Latics’ penalty area, but his scuffed shot was deflected wide by the feet of Amos.

Latics went ahead in the 34th minute. Darikwa’s powerful drive was superbly tipped onto the crossbar by Zack Steffen.

From the resulting corner, Keane’s header from McClean’s corner found the net at the near post.

The lead did not last long as Latics pressed the self-destruct button just before half-time.

The normally reliable Whatmough slipped and allowed Watmore in behind the Latics defence before picking out Jones who converted from close range.

Early in the second half the visitors nearly took the lead from a corner.

Jonny Howson’s corner found Darrah Lenihan at the far post who put the ball across goal and Watmore headed against the crossbar before Latics fortunately cleared their lines.

Middlesbrough were pressing forward now and Latics were only offering limited resistance.

Jones was pressing high up the pitch and he pinched the ball off the Latics’ defence before finding Watmore whose shot was deflected wide.

Some sloppy Latics defending allowed Boro to take the lead in the 50th minute.

Darikwa headed the ball backwards into the path of Watmore and the winger cut between Darikwa and Whatmough in the penalty area before placing the ball into the far corner of the net.

Latics tried to respond and from Power’s cross into the penalty area Aasgaard’s shot from 12 yards was charged down and deflected wide by Lenihan.  

But Middlesbrough were able to add a third goal on 57 minutes with Latics defence once again in disarray.

Watmore’s cross was deflected to the edge of the penalty area and picked up by Hackney who fired his effort into the bottom right corner from 25-yards out.

Latics were shellshocked but they had brought this on themselves.

Boro thought they had a fourth goal in the 67th minute but Matt Crooks saw his strike ruled out for offside.

But they did get their fourth goal two minutes later. 

Substitute Graeme Shinnie gave the ball away in midfield and tracked back before bringing down Jones in the box.

Akpom despatched the resulting penalty straight down the middle to give Middlesbrough their first away win of the season in emphatic fashion.

To make matters worse for Latics substitute Callum Lang, returning after injury, limped off and had to be substituted. He now looks very doubtful for Saturday’s visit to Queens Park Rangers.

Dispiriting display

Latics had produced by far their worst performance of the season and were deservedly thrashed by a Boro side that were without a manager, low on confidence and without an away win.

It was a very dispiriting display as the team looked completely out of sorts. Saturday’s performance against Sunderland had been poor but this was on another level altogether.

Latics had been their own worst enemy, giving the ball away far too easily, not getting tight enough to their opponents and making numerous defensive mistakes.

They lacked energy and creativity and rarely threatened against a struggling team.

Richardson now has a huge task to restore confidence and to get Latics players performing at a competitive level for Saturday’s visit to Championship leaders QPR.

Post match comments

Speaking afterwards, Richardson believed that his side were exposed to the unforgiving nature of the Championship following a difficult night.

“It was very tough,” he said.

“It was there for all to see, and it’s an absolutely unforgiving league. If we are not full throttle – myself included, along with the players – running into certain teams and individuals, you will find it tough and get punished.

“Every time we took our eye off the ball, we were punished and that’s the level. With the quality of player, you will get punished and we’ve got to be really mindful, and learn really quickly. 

“I thought we slowly crept into the game and earned our goal. There’s never a good time to concede a goal, and we concede following a free-kick near their corner flag. It’s an accumulation of decisions there on after.

“In the second half, we never really got going at all, and every time we closed our eyes and turned our backs, we got punished.”

Whilst disappointed, Richardson expressed that there is no time for negativity, and their focus must immediately switch to reacting in the right way against Queens Park Rangers on Saturday afternoon.

“One thing we will do, we will calculate it straight away because we are travelling down to QPR, with another great challenge,” he explained.

“We’ve worked hard to earn the right to have this challenge. We are at the destination now, and we have to make sure that we fully respect ourselves, the shirt and the games that we are in.

“We want to be competitive in every game, and tonight, we weren’t as competitive as I would’ve liked or thought, and the group knows that.

“Saturday will be competitive, and we will certainly roll our sleeves up, and find a way forward like we always do with every adversity and learning curve.

“It’s our – and my – job to make sure we learn in the correct way, going into the next block of games.”

Player ratings

Player ratings courtesy of Whoscored.com

Posted in Championship, Chuba Akpom, Duncan Watmore, Hayden Hackney, Isaiah Jones, Leam Richardson, Middlesbrough, Wigan Athletic, Will Keane | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Charlie Wyke on target but Latics are edged out – Sunderland 2 Wigan Athletic 1

View from the away end

  • Charlie Wyke opened the scoring against his former club but Wigan Athletic couldn’t hold on to their lead and conceded two goals in the second half against Sunderland.
  • Latics went ahead when Wyke superbly curled home James McClean’s deflected cross on 44 minutes.
  • The hosts drew level on 54 minutes when Elliott Embleton converted from close range from Dennis Cirkin’s cut back and they went in front on 72 minutes when Cirkin headed home from Alex Pritchard’s free-kick.
  • Despite some late Latics pressure the Black Cats held on for the three points.
  • Latics drop to 13th in the Championship table and Sunderland move up to ninth.

Leam Richardson named an unchanged starting XI for the trip to the Stadium of Light.

The hosts had an early opportunity when Patrick Roberts took on the Latics defence and took aim from the edge of the area but he curled his effort wide of the post.

Embleton then tried his luck from 20-yards but his strike was easily saved by Ben Amos.

Latics first threatened when McClean almost played Will Keane through on goal, but keeper Anthony Patterson came out to claim the loose ball.

The visitors then had another chance when Keane got up to meet a Wyke flick-on from a Max Power throw-in, but his header from the centre of the box cleared the crossbar.

Roberts then had a goal ruled out for offside for Sunderland.

But just before half-time Latics were ahead, when Wyke scored his second goal since returning from a cardiac arrest.

Charlie Wyke

Nathan Broadhead played the ball into McClean’s path whose cross was deflected into Wyke at the far post, and the former Sunderland striker took a touch before curling a superb strike into the top corner.

The hosts started the second half on the front foot, and they were level in the 54th minute when Embleton finished from close range from Cirkin’s cut-back.

Latics tried to restore their lead and McClean saw his curling free-kick pushed behind for a corner by Patterson.

Latics dropped back into defence and the hosts pushed forward to gain the advantage. Latics’ defence were asleep as Cirkin gave them the lead on 72nd minutes when he powered a header home at the far post from Alex Pritchard’s quickly taken free-kick.

Thelo Aasgaard, Josh Magennis, Graeme Shinnie and Ashley Fletcher replaced Tilt, Naylor, Broadhead and Wyke as Richardson tried to get Latics back on level terms.

Darikwa had a chance following a goal-mouth scramble, but he dragged his effort wide of the target.

As the minutes ticked down Magennis had a half chance, but Sunderland held on to take the three points.

Overview

Latics had lacked the high intensity of their performance against Blackburn on Tuesday night.

Max Power, Tom Naylor and Tendayi Darikwa were all excellent against Blackburn but they were way below that standard against Sunderland.

Latics pressed high in the first half with Wyke working tirelessly but as the game progressed they fell further back and struggled to contain Sunderland.

Ultimately it was a couple defensive lapses that were the decisive moments of the game as Sunderland capitalised.

Latics must get back to playing with high intensity, and if they do so, they will have a great opportunity to take the three points against Middlesbrough at the DW Stadium on Wednesday night.

Post match comments

Speaking afterwards, Richardson was naturally disappointed after falling on the wrong side of the result, though he expressed the importance of his side coming together and bouncing back against Middlesbrough. 

“It was disappointing,” he said.

“I thought the first half was very evenly matched, and we controlled the game in certain areas.

“We were very worthy of our goal in the first half, and in the second half, they had a 15-20 minute spell where our distances weren’t great and we never got to grips with them.

“They scored two goals in our box which is unlike us, but we had a few chances at the end where we possibly could’ve nicked an equaliser.

“The lads gave us everything all the way to the end, and there was only one team who were looking likely to score at the end. 

“We won on Tuesday, and we will learn (from) today. Our lads gave everything and we will quickly move on.

“It’s the same messages. We have to keep improving, and we’re all making small steps forward. We certainly won’t get emotionally attached to results because we know we’ve got another game on Wednesday.”

Player ratings

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Posted in Championship, Charlie Wyke, Dennis Cirkin, Elliott Embleton, Leam Richardson, Sunderland, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment