Wigan cruise to another victory – Oldham Athletic 0 Wigan Athletic 2

Oldham away

Wigan threaten from a corner

Wigan maintained their one hundred per cent record and moved to the top of League One with a comfortable win at struggling Oldham.

Wigan went ahead after only eight minutes when Ivan Toney turned home Lee Evans’ cross from close range.

Oldham were in disarray and it was not long before Michael Jacobs increased Wigan’s lead when he converted another chance following a goalmouth scramble.

The away team were in total control and should have added further goals in the first half but some poor finishing and good saves by Ben Wilson denied them.

The second half was a scrappy affair and Oldham did try to make a fist of it but they rarely looked like penetrating Wigan’s defence which was well marshalled by Dan Burn.

Paul Cook’s team have had a remarkable start to the season and are looking a very good bet for promotion.

Wigan were on top right from the kick off pressing deep into the Oldham half.

Lee Evans fired wide after five minutes and created the opening goal on eight minutes crossing for Ivan Toney to score his first goal for the club since joining from Newcastle United on loan.

Jacobs then quickly doubled the lead on 15 minutes, his first effort from inside the box was saved but his follow up was fired through a group of defenders and past keeper Wilson.

Wigan were now in total control and should have added a third after a slick move in the 23rd minute. Nick Powell and Jacobs had a neat interchange on the edge of the box and the former Manchester United midfielder’s low drive had Wilson at full stretch to make the save.

Gavin Massey then forced another fine save from Wilson after 36 minutes after being set up by Jacobs.

It was looking as though Wigan would get five or six goals but some poor finishing and good keeping by Wilson somehow prevented a massacre.

Only 2-0 at the interval but there was an expectation of further Wigan goals in the second half.

However, Oldham started the second half more positively, probably after receiving a verbal rocket by manager John Sheridan.

Aaron Amadi-Holloway’s header forcing an early save for Christian Walton.

The game then descended into a scrappy affair with both teams cancelling each other out and Wigan knowing that as long as they kept Oldham at bay the three points would be confirmed.

Toney did fire just over on 57 minutes and Evans was denied by a late Peter Clarke tackle in the box, but clear opportunities were few and far between for either side.

Oldham substitute Darius Ossey did have a late chance, firing straight at Walton but by then the three points were already sealed for the away team.

Wigan had eased their way to the three points and moved to the top of the table against a team who look likely to be struggling at the opposite end of the table.

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12th Man – Cook’s positive vibes

Paul Cook suit

Paul Cook has banished the negativity

I’m trying not to get too carried away so early in the season but Latics have made an impressive start to the campaign. They rarely have a good start and it is the first time they’ve won their first three games since Paul Jewell’s team conquered the Second Division with 100 points in 2002/03.

New manager Paul Cook has quickly changed the atmosphere around the club and banished the negativity surrounding last season’s relegation.

Cook’s banter and plain speaking has endeared him to the fans and the players have responded with improved performances on the pitch.

Latics have some very talented players at the club but they simply weren’t performing to their potential last season.

The managerial changes certainly did not help matters and the high turnover of players inevitably created unrest in the camp, but the transformation under Cook and his coaching staff is remarkable.

Admittedly they are now in a lower division and the calibre of the opposition is not as good but the improvement in performances is for all to see.

The manager has let some players leave the club but he has also brought in quite a few new faces with five making their home debuts against Bury.

Christian Walton, Chey Dunkley, Gavin Massey, Lee Evans and Ivan Toney have all settled quickly and they were integral to Sunday’s win.

Cook has quickly established an attacking style of play with a 4-2-3-1 formation and the players already look comfortable playing possession football.

Against Bury they demonstrated their promotion credentials with a confident 4-1 victory. There was a stand out performance by Nick Powell who has started this campaign where he left off last season and grabbed a brace.

Like his hat trick against Barnsley last season the former Manchester United midfielder was unstoppable being involved in three of the four goals and most of Latics’ best moves.

Powell is a massive asset at this level and if the club can repel any suitors and keep him fit then he is certainly capable of helping them to promotion.

Playing alongside Powell were Michael Jacobs and Lee Evans who both ran him close for the Match of the Match award. Jacobs looks to have regained the form that was so important in Latics’ title win in 2015/16.

As well as getting on the score sheet he singlehandedly took on the entire Bury defence in one dazzling dribble setting up a great opportunity for Will Grigg.

New loan signing Evans bossed the midfield and created numerous chances as well as setting up Powell’s first goal with an inch perfect curling cross. He rounded off a great home debut with a superb 25-yard net buster.

Latics have another local derby tomorrow when they travel to Oldham Athletic. They will be expected to come away with the three points but Cook will have to guard his players against any complacency after such a positive opening to the season.

This article was first published in the 12th Man column for the Wigan Evening Post on Friday 18th August 2017.

Posted in League One, Lee Evans, Michael Jacobs, Nick Powell, Oldham Athletic, Paul Cook, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Promise of good times ahead as Wigan rout Bury – Wigan Athletic 4 Bury 1

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Nick Powell at the double

Latics demonstrated their promotion credentials with a confident 4-1 victory against local rivals Bury.

Former Manchester United midfielder Nick Powell grabbed a brace as Latics maintained their good start to the League One campaign.

The home team produced some slick attacking football and went ahead when Michael Jacobs turned in Powell’s cross but Bury responded through new signing Alex Bruce’s diving header.

Powell restored the lead when he headed home a superb Lee Evans cross and then made it 3-1 from the spot after Ivan Toney was brought down in the area.

Evans made it 4-1 with a blistering drive but it could easily have been five or six as Latics produced some superb free flowing football to dominate the second half.

Latics had started brightly with Powell firing narrowly wide after only two minutes.

Then a free flowing move involving Powell and Michael Jacobs saw Reece James’ cross well saved by Joe Murphy at the near post.

But it was not long before Latics went ahead with another neat interchange between the strikers.

Ivan Toney flicked a ball on to Powell who set up Jacobs in the box and he converted with aplomb.

But within two minutes The Shakers stunned the home crowd by drawing level. Zeli Ismail’s corner was met by Alex Bruce’s diving header and Bury had a foothold in the game.

The Shakers briefly threatened through Harry Bunn and then Tom Aldred but Latics were soon back in the ascendancy.

James breaking down the left found Powell at the far post but he was unable to get his header on target.

Powell then went close from a Jacobs corner but his effort at the far post was well saved by Murphy.

Murphy then came to the rescue again when he saved at close range from Chey Dunkley following Evans’ corner.

The teams went into the interval level, but Latics commenced the second half like the first creating chances right from the kick off.

Gavin Massey nearly got on the end of a deep cross by Evans and then again went close on 50 minutes when he couldn’t quite connect with Toney’s cross from the right.

Latics regained the lead on 53 minutes when Powell calmly headed home Evans’ inch perfect cross from six yards out.

The home team grew in confidence and were now creating even more problems for the Bury back line.

Latics were camped around the Bury box and on 63 minutes Aldred pushed Toney to the floor to give away a penalty.

Powell in typically confident fashion despatched the spot kick straight down the middle to make it 3-1.

After a few feisty challenges on Powell and a booking for retaliation the Man of the Match was withdrawn and replaced by Alex Gilbey. Ryan Colclough also coming on for the tiring Massey.

On 84 minutes Will Grigg replaced Toney and the striker should have added a 4th goal in the 87th minute. He expertly let the ball run across his body in the penalty area and fired a rising shot just over the cross bar. Gilbey then forced Murphy into a full length save tipping his shot around the post.

Latics had been rampant in the second half, Jacobs producing a particularly dazzling run turning several Bury defenders inside out, but unfortunately the final effort was blocked.

Grigg did have another opportunity but was unable to react inside the six yard box. However, on 92 minutes Evans unleashed a blistering 25 yard strike to put the seal on a thoroughly convincing victory.

 

 

Posted in Alex Bruce, Bury, League One, Lee Evans, Michael Jacobs, Nick Powell, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

12th Man – Cook’s high standards

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Paul Cook. Photograph courtesy of Wigan Athletic.

Latics continued their good start to the season with a somewhat lucky 2-1 League Cup victory against a combative Blackpool team.

Paul Cook’s rotation policy for the League Cup was an eminently sensible approach to what is a lengthy fixture list.

He made 11 changes to the team which won at MK Dons but he will have learned some valuable information about his fringe players and those returning from injury.

The manager has clearly stated his list of priorities for the season with the league as the number one, then the FA Cup, League Cup and finally the tarnished Football League Trophy.

Although Latics progressed past Blackpool, Cook was rightly critical of the performance when he said,

“In general we want to control games better than that, we had no real control of the game, we were hanging on and that’s the disappointing thing but it was a great experience for the young lads. Without a doubt fitness is an element but this team had never played together, they only trained Sunday and Monday and it’s important that you develop all the good habits on a daily basis and those lads’ habits will ultimately get better as we go on.”

For whatever reason some of Latics’ returning players didn’t impress on the night and that will affect their chances of breaking into the league team.

I expect there will be a much different starting eleven for Sunday’s home game and it will be interesting to see if any of Tuesday’s team start against Bury.

Cook rightly sets high standards and will be demanding a much improved performance in what could be a tricky local derby.

Bury have shown ambition by recruiting extensively in the close season. Manager Lee Clark has signed 18 players either permanently or on loan in the belief that they can be challenging near the top of the table.

The Shakers may have lost last season’s top scorer James Vaughan to Sunderland but amongst those signed are former Everton, Leeds and PNE striker Jermaine Beckford, Charlton’s loanee striker Nicky Ajose and former Huddersfield winger Harry Bunn.

Bury opened their League One campaign with a 1-0 victory over Walsall and the margin would have been greater if they had not missed two penalties.

Beckford and Chris Maguire both missed from the spot but Beckford made amends by heading home what proved to be the winner in first-half stoppage time.

Cook will be determined that Latics continue their good start to the campaign against Bury but he may lose his fast fading voice in the process.

This article was first published in the 12th Man column for the Wigan Evening Post on Friday 11th August 2017.

 

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Wigan bolt out of the starting blocks – MK Dons 0 Wigan Athletic 1

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View from the away end

Match report by Jamie Aspinall.

For a change, Latics started the season with a win and a great performance to boot. Nick Powell was the only player able to find a way past ex-Latics keeper Lee Nicholls, who kept the score down to 1-0 but it should have really been more.

It was an organised and pleasing performance from Paul Cook’s side and a composed finish by Powell after great vision from Michael Jacobs rewarded the travelling support of 1,200 Wigan fans with a well-deserved victory.

Apart from the sending off of Callum Elder, things couldn’t have gone much more to plan for the away side. The opening stages saw Latics steady themselves into the game showing good shape with a focus on possession football.

They created many chances throughout the ninety minutes, most of which involved Michael Jacobs, who made countless attacking runs, feeding the strikers with his positive passing. He probably should’ve been on the score sheet after numerous efforts on goal, but many of his shots were lacking in the power required to beat MK Dons’ Man of the Match Lee Nicholls in goal.

Latics’ new captain Sam Morsy summed up the game perfectly… “we were in total control and should have converted more to be honest”.

Paul Cook is trying to instil a hard working, fighting mentality into his team with team spirit at the core. He came out before the start of the game to salute the fans and mentioned in his post match interview “I will always thank our supporters for turning up and the lads should always go over too, irrespective of the result”. He also said “I really enjoyed watching us play today”, I think most Wigan fans will agree that it was the first positive performance for some time.

Considering this was the first competitive game of the season the team showed great synergy throughout. New arrival, Christian Walton looked commanding in goal when called upon, Chey Dunkley was strong and showed a good partnership with Dan Burn.

Nathan Byrne battled all game getting stuck into tackles. Callum Elder probably had the quietest performance of the Latics’ starting line up until his mistimed tackle unfairly saw him sent off. His replacement in the second half, Terell Thomas added more of an attacking option in the left back position.

The midfield was held together by the passing duo of Lee Evans and Sam Morsy, which gave freedom to Michael Jacobs and Gavin Massey to make runs and drive at the MK Dons defence. Massey along with Jacobs was guilty of not converting a few very good chances in front of goal.

Nick Powell was his usual dangerous self and was yet again on hand to provide the three points, Wigan fans will be hoping his season is injury free this time around.

Ivan Toney worked hard to hold up the ball and the determination was there, it was hard to tell whether he will be amongst the goals this season as he only really had one clear cut chance when a header from a cross was saved well by Nicholls on 60 minutes.

The early signs are very positive for Wigan in terms of performance and how well the team seems to have gelled in such a short space of time.

Confidence should be high going into the next League game against Bury at home and with the players on show yesterday, and with some good quality waiting in the wings there will be high hopes at the club for a promotion push back to the Championship.

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12th Man – Cooking up something good

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Will he be on fire?

It’s been a typically hectic close season at Latics with a new manager Paul Cook, new coaching staff and the usual high turnover of players.

For some fans transfer speculation can be unsettling as their favourite players seek a move away or they are told that the players are not in the manager’s plans.

I was disappointed with the departures of experienced defenders Stephen Warnock and Jake Buxton and keeper Matt Gilks but that may have been down to the large wage bill rather than any shortcomings of the players.

Max Power has expressed his desire to leave while Omar Bogle doesn’t apparently fit into Cook’s style of play.

Both would’ve been assets in League One but Latics do have strength in depth in most areas with some promising new signings.

Young forward Ivan Toney joined on loan from Newcastle United on Wednesday but I’m still expecting a few more ins and outs before the end of the transfer window with Peterborough midfielder Marcus Maddison among those linked with Latics.

However, competition for a starting place will be tough with an array of options particularly in midfield with Sam Morsy, David Perkins, Alex Gilbey, Lee Evans, Jordan Flores, Nathan Byrne and Michael Jacobs.

Going forward, youngster Callum Lang has had an impressive pre-season and if Will Grigg and Nick Powell can get back to full fitness they will surely score plenty of goals at this level.

Looking at League One as a whole I think Blackburn will be the favourites for automatic promotion as they have a strong squad and have done well since Tony Mowbray took over.

There’s about eight or nine teams who could be in the hunt for the play-offs. Cook’s former club Portsmouth look strong and I expect them to be amongst those challenging at the top end alongside Latics, Fleetwood, Scunthorpe and Bradford.

New manager Cook looks the right fit for Latics and has made a good impression with the fans in pre-season.

He certainly has the potential to be successful, like another Liverpudlian Paul Jewell who led the club from the third tier to the Premier League between 2001 and 2005, but only time will tell if he can reach those heady heights.

The season kicks off tomorrow at one of Will Grigg’s former clubs MK Dons and everyone will be hoping that the striker can reignite the fire that took Latics to the League One title in 2015/16.

This article was first published in the 12th Man column for the Wigan Evening Post on Friday 4th August 2017.

Posted in League One, MK Dons, Paul Cook, Wigan Athletic, Will Grigg | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

When Saturday Comes pre-season preview 2017/18

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New manager Paul Cook. Photograph courtesy of Wigan Athletic

When Saturday Comes magazine recently asked for my views on Latics’ prospects for their pre-season preview so I thought I’d also record my responses here.

1. Realistically, how will you do?

I’m optimistic with Paul Cook in charge and if we can retain the majority of our current squad that we can challenge for a swift return to the Championship. Wigan must get back to the attacking football that was so successful under Gary Caldwell in League One and if they do that then they will have a good chance to bounce back quickly.

2. Which teams did you like and dislike most last season?

Liked Brighton and Huddersfield for their style of football and decent fans and continue to dislike Millwall for their horrible fans.

3. What was the best moment of last season?

In a season of few highlights it was Nick Powell’s 11-minute hat-trick to stun Barnsley that took the eye. The talented Powell had been injured for most of the season but he came on against the Tykes when they were 2-0 down with only 20 minutes remaining and gave Latics an unlikely 3-2 win.

4. What was the worst moment of last season?

A self-inflicted relegation from the Championship was the responsibility of the board that unnecessarily sacked Caldwell and appointed the hapless Warren Joyce in his place.

5. What one thing would most improve your matchday experience?

A decent real ale in the bars at the DW Stadium would get the thumbs up from many fans.

6. We’d like your prediction for next season’s League table.

1. Blackburn

2. Wigan

3. Fleetwood

4. Scunthorpe

5. Bradford

6. Portsmouth

7. Rochdale

8. Southend

9. Bristol R

10. Bury

11. Oxford Utd

12. Blackpool

13. MK Dons

14. Charlton

15. Peterborough

16. Plymouth

17. Wimbledon

18. Oldham

19. Doncaster

20. Rotherham

21. Gillingham

22. Northampton

23. Walsall

24. Shrewsbury

The full WSC pre-season guide for 2017/18 is now available at your local newsagents.

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