Latics move on up – Wigan Athletic 1 Bristol City 0

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Nick Powell’s perfect header was the difference

Latics moved up to third in the Championship table with a deserved 1-0 victory against the Robins at the DW Stadium last night.

In a closely fought encounter neither team had gained the upper hand until Nick Powell’s perfectly placed header in the 52nd minute made the difference.

Famara Diedhiou had a late opportunity to draw the Robins level but his header from close range was easily saved by Christian Walton.

The Robins are expected to be amongst promotion challengers but it was newly promoted Latics who looked the better side on the night and remain unbeaten at home since March.

Latics made one change to the starting line-up from Tuesday night’s victory against Hull City with Joe Garner replacing the injured Will Grigg upfront.

The Robins had an early chance when Andreas Weimann picked up a poor back pass by Antonee Robinson but Cedric Kipre made a superb intervention to deny the in-form striker.

Latics gradually took control of proceedings and were denied a penalty in the 22nd minute when Michael Jacobs was upended in the box and referee Oliver Langford turned away the appeals.

Jacobs then went close with a powerful drive from 25-yards which just cleared the crossbar.

Powell might have given Latics the lead a few minutes later when he fired wide of the target from the edge of the area. The ever dangerous midfielder then dispossessed a Robins defender by the dead ball line and put in a low cross but agonizingly no Latics player could make the vital contact.

The Robins forced three consecutive corners just before half-time but Latics’ defence stood firm and the teams remained level at the interval.

Latics started the second-half strongly and Josh Windass nearly gave them the lead but his flicked header just cleared the crossbar from Reece James’ free-kick.

Windass was in the thick of the action and his superb pinpoint cross allowed Powell to produce a sublime headed finish past Niki Maenpaa.

The former Glasgow Rangers striker then fired wide of the target as Latics went in search of a second goal. Sam Morsy got forward soon afterwards and fired another effort high over Maenpaa’s crossbar.

The Latics captain was back to his best producing a Man of the match performance in midfield harrowing his opponents, winning the ball and setting up attacks.

Despite Latics’ dominance they couldn’t add a second goal and they had to defend resolutely in the remaining minutes of the game with Cedric Kipre and Chey Dunkley once again outstanding in the centre of defence.

Diedhiou had a late chance to draw the Robins level with a header but it would have been an injustice if they had drawn level.

Overall Latics had been the better team and created the better chances. I had expected more from the Robins who had set up with a 4-4-2 formation but they looked unconvincing going forward.

After three games in six days Latics now have a week to recuperate and allow some of their star players to recover from injury.  It’s been a remarkably good start to the campaign for Paul Cook’s men and all the signs are that they are in for a successful season in the Championship.

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12th Man – Broadcast interference

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Photo by JESHOOTS.com on Pexels.com

It was brilliant to see Latics win under the floodlights on Tuesday night against Hull City and move up to fourth in the Championship table. It was an entertaining game with both teams going all out for the three points. The only disappointment was the attendance of 8,848 with 418 away supporters.

It was perhaps not surprising that the attendance was so low given that Championship games are now available to view on the clubs ifollow platform and the Sky red button and mobile app.

Midweek attendances in the Championship will inevitably be affected as fans can pay a one-off fee of £10 per game to watch their team rather than attend the game.

The number of Latics’ fans attending was certainly down on Tuesday night and those attending from Hull was fewer than would previously have been expected.

Last season the English Football League (EFL) launched its subscription package, ifollow. For £110 a season it allowed non-domestic residents to watch English Football League matches live.

This season the service was extended to domestic residents, offering the chance to stream live matches that fell outside the 3pm blackout times following a new broadcast agreement with Sky.

These services are good for fans who can’t make the game due to work, or other commitments or who live abroad but it has surely deterred many fans from attending the live game as they can now watch the game cheaply from the comfort of their own homes.

Sky and the EFL are financially compensating the football league clubs, but in the long run it will surely be creating a group of supporters who stop attending live games and become armchair supporters.

Latics’ home game tonight against Bristol City will be broadcast live on Sky and this will no doubt have a detrimental effect on the attendance and the atmosphere in the stadium.

It is probably only a matter of time before the Saturday 3pm blackout time disappears for all English clubs. During the recent international weekend the EFL streamed 3pm kick offs on their ifollow platform for L1 and L2 teams to domestic customers for the first time.

There is much talk of “growing the game” “increasing participation” and ensuring future generations engage with live football, but when the cheapest option is to watch from home then many will choose not to attend the live games.

Supporting your local team is increasingly the harder option and it should be crucial for the clubs to try to maintain a close connection with the local community.

Latics make great efforts to engage with the community but if supporters can no longer be bothered to go to the games, it will be much easier for them to switch allegiances to one of the bigger more successful clubs.

We are in danger of creating a generation of fans who choose convenience over feeling the exhilaration of celebrating in the stands or on the terraces when their team scores.

The live football experience is something unique: the proximity to the action, the crowd noise, the highs and the lows. The special camaraderie with your friends is impossible to replicate in your own home.

For a fan like myself nothing can beat the live experience nor would it stop me from attending the games but there may be future generations who will face the prospect of watching matches from their homes with empty stadiums.

Posted in Championship, ifollow, TV, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Latics in seventh heaven – Wigan Athletic 2 Hull City 1

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Latics captain Sam Morsy

Wigan Athletic moved up to seventh place in the Championship table after a hard-fought 2-1 victory against Hull City at the DW Stadium.

Latics received good news before kick off when captain Sam Morsy’s red card at Brentford was rescinded after an appeal and it was Morsy who gave Latics the lead on 21 minutes with a superb low drive from 25 yards into the bottom corner of the net.

Josh Windass increased the lead on 38 minutes with a diving header from Lee Evans cross but the Tigers pulled one back on 43 minutes through Jarrod Bowen after some sloppy Latics defending.

The second half was keenly contested with both teams creating good goalscoring opportunities but neither side was able to add to their tally and Latics were able to secure the three points.

Paul Cook made two changes from Saturday’s defeat to Brentford, with Will Grigg and Michael Jacobs returning to the starting 11 in place of James Vaughan and Callum Connolly.

The Tigers opened strongly and were the better team in the opening exchanges with former Latics striker Nouha Dicko creating an opportunity after dispossessing Cedric Kipre but Chey Dunkley was able to make a vital interception.

Soon afterwards Dicko threatened again when Evans was caught in possession by Kevin Stewart but he fired high over the crossbar.

Latics gradually gained a foothold in the game with Antonee Robinson and Reece James getting forward to good effect.

Will Grigg nearly got on the end of a fine cross by James and soon afterwards Morsy produced a piece of magic firing magnificently home from 25 yards to give Latics the advantage.

Michael Jacobs nearly added to the lead a few minutes later when he forced David Marshall into a full length save from the edge of the area.

However it was not long before Latics increased their lead when Evans crossed to the back post and Windass dived to head his first goal for the club.

It looked as though Latics would cruise to half time well in control but just before the interval Bowen was allowed free rein to walk through the statuesque Latics’ defence and slide the ball past Christian Walton for the visitors.

The Tigers once again started well at the beginning of the second half and Dicko was allowed plenty of room in the box but wasted a great opportunity firing straight at Walton.

Latics responded with Nick Powell forcing a good save from Marshall before Windass blazed over from the rebound.

Both Robinson and Jacobs had opportunities to increase Latics’ lead but Marshall saved well on both occasions to deny them.

Latics looked fatigued towards the end of the game but despite five minutes of added time they held out for their fourth win in eight games and moved up to seventh in the Championship table.

It is still early days but Latics have made a strong start to the campaign exceeding many peoples’ expectations and if they can continue their good form they certainly look capable of a top half finish.

Posted in Championship, Hull City, Jarrod Bowen, Josh Windass, Sam Morsy, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Latics take a stinging from the Bees – Brentford 2 Wigan Athletic 0

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Brentford defend a Latics corner

Brentford moved to second place in the Championship table with a convincing victory against Wigan Athletic at Griffin Park.

The Bees were buzzing from the kick off and Romaine Sawyers forced a very good low save from Christian Walton in the opening minute. 

Latics struggled to cope with the hosts pace and power throughout the first half and it was no surprise when they went ahead through Neil Maupay on 24 minutes.

Latics responded when Nick Powell forced a finger tip save from Daniel Bentley and James Vaughan fired into the side netting but Brentford should’ve been more than one ahead at the interval as they created a hatful of chances.

The visitors’ hopes of getting something from the game were extinguished on 58 minutes when captain Sam Morsy was shown a straight red after a clash of heads with Brentford’s Yoann Barbet.

Five minutes later Maupay added his second after Latics failed to clear a corner and the three points were effectively sealed.

Despite waves of Brentford attacks Latics on the whole defended very well with Cedric Kipre and Chey Dunkley impressing and keeper Walton making some outstanding saves. 

But Latics couldn’t get a foothold in midfield and the forwards were left chasing shadows for much of the game.

The Bees moved the ball quickly, passed slickly and attacked in numbers.

Latics had been outgunned by a team at the peak of their form and many teams will suffer a similar fate this season at Griffin Park.

Latics will quickly want to bounce back to winning ways with home games against Hull City and Bristol City upcoming.

Paul Cook is likely to rethink his starting line up and utilise more of his squad as they face three games in seven days. I expect Will Grigg and Michael Jacobs to return to the starting line up as the manager looks to reinvigorate his charges.

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12th Man – Big buzz around Brentford

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Griffin Park, Brentford. Photo by Andreas Praefcke

Latics travel to West London tomorrow for what should be an exciting Championship fixture against Brentford. The former Walsall manager Dean Smith has made a big impact since taking over in November 2015 with some attractive attacking football.

Latics and the Bees have had the highest number of shots in the Championship so far, and some statistics suggest that they should be the top two teams in the division, so I’m expecting plenty of goalmouth action in what could be a high scoring game.

Brentford is one of the best traditional away days in the football league. Like ourselves they are a relatively small club in Championship terms and have even been referred to as a ‘tinpot’ team, but they have finished fifth, ninth and 10th in the past three Championship campaigns and are currently fifth in the table after six games.

It’s usually a friendly experience at the compact Griffin Park where the fans mix well together beforehand. It is the only English football league ground where there is a pub on every corner.

Standing is still available and the supporters are close to the pitch, which helps to create a good atmosphere although the ground only has a capacity of 12,763.

It is going to be one of the last times Latics play at the ground before they move to the new stadium at Lionel Road in December 2019. The new all-seater stadium will have a capacity of 17,250, which should help to improve the Bees finances as they make a push towards the Premier League.

Latics will definitely be without winger Gavin Massey who had an operation on a leg injury this week and Michael Jacobs is also doubtful but Darron Gibson and Dan Burn could be available for selection after long injury lay-offs.

If Brighton bound Burn is available it will be interesting to see if he is selected, particularly after Cedric Cipre produced a Man of the match performance in the last home game against Rotherham.

Burn will complete his move to the Premier League club in January, so I expect Cipre to retain his place in the starting 11.

It was great to catch up with the in-demand Nick Powell before the international break and following Latics’ win against Rotherham he expressed his desire to stay with the club.

The 24-year-old former Manchester United player is out of contract at the end of the Championship season but the very good news is that he wants to stay at Latics and is awaiting a contract offer from the new owners.

Powell is an unassuming character off the pitch and quite unlike his on the pitch persona. Quiet and softly spoken he is the opposite of the rabble-rouser that people expect him to be like. He may be renowned for his on the pitch antics but he is a very different person off it.

Representatives of the prospective new owners, the International Entertainment Corporation (IEC), were at the Rotherham game but their protracted takeover of the club from the Whelan family has still to be finalised.

The long-running saga continues to rumble on as completion dates come and go. Further information on the takeover is due to be released on September 21st, but don’t hold your breath on the deal being finalised.

This article was first published in the Wigan Evening Post on Friday 14th September 2018.

Posted in Brentford, Championship, Griffin Park, International Entertainment Corporation, Lionel Road, Nick Powell, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exclusive: Nick Powell wants to stay at Wigan Athletic

Nick Powell stays

Nick Powell wants to stay

Wigan’s £10m rated midfielder Nick Powell has attracted interest from several Premier League and Championship clubs during the summer transfer window but following Latics 1-0 victory against Rotherham United he expressed his desire to stay with the club.

The 24-year-old former Manchester United player is out of contract at the end of the Championship season but speaking exclusively to ‘Let’s Hang On’ Powell said,

“I want to stay at Wigan and am waiting for a contract offer from the new owners.”

Representatives of the prospective new owners the International Entertainment Corporation (IEC) were at Saturday’s game but their protracted takeover of the club from the Whelan family has still to be finalised.

Powell was substituted after 60 minutes on Saturday with a tight hamstring but he said he would be fit and available for Latics next fixture away at Brentford following the international break.

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Solid defence provides springboard for success – Wigan Athletic 1 Rotherham United 0

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James Vaughan scored his first goal of the season

Wigan Athletic moved up to 9th in the Championship table after a hard-fought 1-0 victory against Rotherham United at the DW Stadium.

Latics were the better team in the first half creating several very good goal scoring opportunities but they were unable to capitalise on their dominance.

In a more even second period both teams created chances but it was Latics who came out on top despite some late Millers pressure.

Latics made the breakthrough on 73 minutes when substitute Callum McManaman cut inside and his low drive could only be parried by keeper Marek Rodak and fellow substitute James Vaughan followed up to score.

Both teams defended well throughout, but Latics central defensive pairing of Chey Dunkley and Cedric Cipre were outstanding and helped the hosts to keep a clean sheet despite the Millers late aerial bombardment.

Paul Cook made two changes to the team defeated 1-0 at QPR with Reece James and Callum Connolly starting in place of the injured Gavin Massey and the rested Nathan Byrne.

Latics started strongly with Dunkley testing Rodak with a header from a corner and a Josh Windass free-kick flashed just wide of the keeper’s right hand post.

Nick Powell appeared to be pushed in the area when attempting to reach a cross from Reece James but referee Scott Duncan waved away Powell’s appeal.

Windass then deflected Powell’s shot from distance narrowly wide of the post as Latics finished the half strongly.

Grigg nearly got on the end of a loose ball in the area but Rodak was on hand to deny him the opportunity.

The Millers looked dangerous on the counter attack and Ryan Manning tested Christian Walton with a 25-yard effort just before the interval.

The second half was a much more even affair but Latics still had the lion’s share of possession and chances.

Grigg fired narrowly wide of Rodak’s left hand post from 20-yards as Latics searched for the breakthrough.

Cook made a double change on the hour mark by introducing McManaman and Vaughan for Powell and Grigg.

McManaman was soon in the action forcing a close range save from Rodak after he had spilled Callum Connolly’s initial strike from the edge of the area.

The FA Cup winner McManaman’s next intervention gave Latics the advantage. The winger cut inside and forced a low save from Rodak but the keeper could only parry the ball into the path of Vaughan who poked the ball over the line.

The Millers had introduced the physically powerful Kyle Vassell on the hour mark and later striker Jamie Proctor as they went in search of the equaliser, but Latics back four of James, Dunkley, Cipre and Antonee Robinson held firm.

Dunkley and Cipre in particular were superb, and deserve all the plaudits as they had their best games in a Latics shirt since coming together as a partnership at the beginning of the season.

Keeper Walton was called upon late on to deny Williams from the edge of the box but Latics had just about deserved all three points.

Posted in Cedric Kipre, Championship, Chey Dunkley, James Vaughan, Rotherham United, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment