Top drawer ‘Tics – Wigan Athletic 3 Aston Villa 0

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Anthony Pilkington

Wigan Athletic produced one their best performances of the season to demolish play-off chasing Aston Villa at the DW Stadium.

New signing Anthony Pilkington was the early catalyst but this was an all round team performance.

Debutant Pilkington produced a sublime piece of skill to set up Gary Roberts who rifled Latics into the lead on 41 minutes.

In the second half the expected surge from Villa didn’t materialise and the hosts increased their advantage on 79 minutes when substitute Michael Jacobs headed home at the back post from Lee Evans searching cross.

Joe Garner added a third from the penalty spot on 83 minutes after substitute Glen Whelan was adjudged to have brought down Josh Windass.

It was an important result for Latics as they won only their second game since November and moved six points clear of the drop zone and they will be hoping it will prove a turning point in their season.

Paul Cook made three changes to the team beaten by Sheffield United on New Year’s Day, with new signing Pilkington making his debut, goalkeeper Jamie Jones replacing Christian Walton and Windass replacing Darron Gibson.

Latics should have been ahead within the first three minutes as Reece James’ found Windass inside the six yard box but he could only hit his shot straight at Lovre Kalinic.

Villa had a glorious chance to open the scoring on 10 minutes after a mix up between Jones and Cedric Kipre allowed Yannick Bolasie to set up Tammy Abraham but the prolific striker missed the target with the goal at his mercy.

But Latics continued to create chances with new signing Pilkington making an instant impact linking up well with his new colleagues and providing some searching crossfield passes. 

Kipre headed off target at the near post from a James corner and Garner forced a good save with his legs from Kalinic before Latics went ahead.

Pilkington showed great skill and composure before cutting the ball back to Roberts who superbly rifled the ball past Kalinic.

Latics had early chances to increase their lead in the second half when Windass wasted a good opportunity and Garner had a header blocked.

Villa were surprisingly lacklustre for a team packed with quality but Latics showed great determination and commitment to pin their opponents back.

It was therefore no surprise when Latics went further ahead.

Evans produced a superb deep cross to the back post and sub Jacobs returning from three months out with a hamstring injury dived to head home.

Four minutes later sub Whelan was adjudged by referee Tony Harrington to have brought down Windass and Garner stepped up to convert despite the best efforts of Kalinic.

A convincing scoreline but it could so easily have been more as Latics had thoroughly dominated their opponents.

It was a massive improvement on recent displays and with several key forwards coming back from injury the prospects for the rest of the season are looking much brighter as they look to maintain their Championship status.

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Posted in Aston Villa, Gary Roberts, Joe Garner, Michael Jacobs, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Letting Will Grigg leave would be a big mistake

Will Grigg Wigan Athletic

Will Grigg

Rumours have been circulating that striker Will Grigg will be allowed to leave Wigan Athletic during the transfer window.

Several Championship clubs and League One Sunderland are reportedly interested in either a permanent or loan deal for the striker who still has 18 months on his current deal.

Speculation has been mounting that the Latics fans’ favourite has fallen out of favour with manager Paul Cook and that he will be allowed to leave.

Cook’s tactics have recently been called into question with Grigg often finding himself on the bench, with either Joe Garner or James Vaughan filling the lone striker role.

Latics progress this season has certainly been hampered by injuries to the forward line with Grigg, Michael Jacobs, Gavin Massey and Nick Powell all having spells on the treatment table.

Grigg’s limited game time this season is partly due to a hamstring injury but also due to the manager’s team selections. However, he is still Latics’ top scorer along with Nick Powell with four goals in his 10 starts and six substitute appearances.

Cook and Latics’ new owners the International Entertainment Corporation would face a considerable backlash if the fans’ favourite was allowed to leave at this time.

The new board should be wary of the negative reaction and the effect on attendances with the club perilously close to the Championship relegation zone.

Selling Grigg would send out the wrong message from a board that has yet to fully communicate its intentions with the club’s fanbase.

 

Posted in Championship, International Entertainment Corporation, Paul Cook, Will Grigg | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Latics fall at the first hurdle – West Bromwich Albion 1 Wigan Athletic 0

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Will Grigg had an early chance to put Wigan ahead

Wigan Athletic were narrowly defeated 1-0 by West Bromwich Albion in this Third Round FA Cup tie at the Hawthorns.

Latics dominated the early exchanges and could have gone ahead through Will Grigg, Chey Dunkley and Lee Evans but they were left to rue the early misses when Bakary Sako headed the only goal of the game on 31 minutes.

Albion had further opportunities to increase the lead in the second half with Sako twice denied a second goal, first by Latics Man of the Match Jamie Jones and then by Chey Dunkley’s goal line clearance.

Latics might have grabbed an equaliser when Callum McManaman headed over the crossbar from close range but it would have been hard on the Baggies who deservedly progressed to the Fourth Round.

Paul Cook made seven changes to his starting eleven with Jones, Nathan Byrne, Callum Connolly, Leo Da Silva Lopes, McManaman, Josh Windass and Grigg all coming into the team. Cook also had to make a late change when Darron Gibson picked up an injury in the warm-up and was replaced by Evans.

Latics were the dominant team in the early stages and should’ve been ahead after creating several good goalscoring opportunities.

McManaman had a shot deflected wide before he set up Grigg for a one-on-one with Jonathan Bond but the Baggies keeper managed to turn his low effort around the post. From the corner, Dunkley rose high above the defence but agonisingly headed just over the crossbar.

Grigg then set up Evans in a great position on the the edge of the box but the Welsh midfielder nearly hit the corner flag with a wayward shot.

Chris Brunt forced an excellent top corner finger tip save from Jones on the half hour mark and a minute later Latics’ failure to capitalise on their chances proved costly when Brunt crossed for Sako to head home despite the best efforts of Jones who pushed the ball against the crossbar but unfortunately it came down over the line.

Jones made another good save just before half time when he denied Everton loanee defender Mason Holgate.

Jones was having a fine game and soon after the interval he prevented Sako from adding a second goal before Dunkley cleared the Mali international’s follow up off the line.

Reece James replaced Da Silva Lopes on 57 minutes and the Chelsea loanee once again put in another top performance this time from a midfield position. Perhaps if James and Samy Morsy had started Latics might have got a better result at the Hawthorns but understandably the Championship has to be the priority.

Jonathan Leko had a chance to increase the Baggies advantage when he broke clear of Nathan Byrne but he failed to hit the target when one-on-one with Jones.

Windass fired wide of the target on 60 minutes and Latics’ best chance to draw level in the second-half fell to McManaman who headed narrowly over the crossbar at the back post.

McManaman visibly tired in the second half and was substituted for Shaun MacDonald after 77 minutes, but he showed enough in the first half to suggest he should start against Aston Villa next Saturday.

Grigg had a half chance late on when he flicked on substitute Gary Roberts angled cross but Bond saved relatively easily and the 2013 winners went out of this season’s FA Cup.

The Baggies unlike Latics have strength in depth and although making 11 changes they could call on many experienced Premier League players and some up and coming youngsters. Latics meanwhile are struggling with injuries and just don’t have the resources of a recently relegated Premier League outfit.

Despite the narrow defeat Latics can at least take some positives from the game: McManaman and Grigg looked lively particularly in the first half; Dunkley and Kipre are rebuilding their partnership in the centre of defence; Evans was much improved from recent games and Jones was impressive between the sticks.

There is no doubt that they need their injured players back and some new additions in the transfer window but there were at least some signs of improvement at the Hawthorns.

 

Posted in Bakary Sako, FA Cup, West Bromwich Albion, Wigan Athletic, Will Grigg | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Time for a rethink as Latics are outclassed by the Blades – Wigan Athletic 0 Sheffield United 3

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Paul Cook – time for a rethink

It was another disappointing afternoon at the DW Stadium as Wigan Athletic slumped to defeat against promotion chasing Sheffield United.

Goals from David McGoldrick, Mark Duffy and Billy Sharp gave the Blades a deserved three points as Latics were once again second best.

Latics made one change from the starting eleven at Swansea City with Gary Roberts replacing Dan Burn who has now signed permanently for Brighton.

Latics had some early half chances as Cedric Kipre and then Joe Garner headed off target.

Gavin Massey was looking bright and creating problems down the right hand side and had a good opportunity from the edge of the area but shot straight at Dean Henderson.

Soon afterwards he forced a better save from the United keeper who could only parry the ball into the path of Lee Evans but the former Blade somehow failed to hit the target from six yards out.

The miss proved costly as five minutes before half time Latics failed to clear a corner and McGoldrick fired high into the roof of the net from close range.

McGoldrick might have doubled the lead soon afterwards but Chey Dunkley made a superb recovering challenge to deny the striker a second goal.

Oliver Norwood then struck the outside of the post as the visitors threatened to take complete control.

But early in the second half the three points were effectively sealed by the Blades.

In the 48th minute Henderson’s route-one kick found Sharp who got between Darron Gibson and Massey to play in Duffy for the second goal.

Then in the 53rd minute the prolific Sharp added the third and a record breaking 220th Football League goal from a cross by McGoldrick.

McManaman and Grigg were introduced from the substitutes bench in the 51st and 78th minutes respectively but the game had been lost well before they could make any real impact.

The Blades had deservedly come away with the points and have now moved up to third in the table but Latics are surely capable of performing much better and are currently not doing themselves justice.

Injuries are certainly not helping Latics, who are still missing Nick Powell, Michael Jacobs and Antonee Robinson and have now lost Gavin Massey for the second time this season with a reoccurrence of a hamstring problem. 

But several of Latics’ players are not performing to their previous high standards: Goalkeeper Christian Walton is not dominating his penalty area and is seemingly lacking in confidence; midfielder Lee Evans is no longer the creative force of early season and is giving the ball away far too easily, and the sporadically effective Josh Windass now seems even less interested.

Latics who haven’t won since the end of November have now slipped down to 20th in the table and are just four points above the Championship relegation zone.

Paul Cook must take some of the responsibility for the poor run of form. It is especially difficult to understand why he has not used forwards Callum McManaman and Will Grigg in recent weeks.

McManaman was outstanding when he came on against West Brom but he didn’t start against either Swansea City or Sheffield United. Grigg is Latics’ most proven striker but he has also not started in recent games.

Cook is also unfortunately becoming increasingly negative with his formations.

He started with just one striker, Joe Garner, against Sheffield United and decided to pack the midfield in an attempt to frustrate his opponents but it was soon evident that Latics need more creativity in the final third if they were going to defeat an in-form Sheffield United.

Cook’s tactic of playing high balls up to Garner is futile given that he is almost always out jumped by bigger and stronger opposing defenders. 

Latics had been at their most effective in early season when they were positive, kept the ball on the grass and used their wingers to create goalscoring opportunities.

Time for a rethink from the manager methinks.

Posted in Billy Sharp, Championship, David McGoldrick, Mark Duffy, Paul Cook, Sheffield United, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Latics fail to capitalise on first half dominance – Swansea City 2 Wigan Athletic 2

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Joe Garner

In a game of two halves Latics allowed the Swans to come back from 2-0 down and secure an unlikely draw. 

The visitors had dominated the opening half and should have been out of sight by the interval. 

They went ahead after only eight minutes when Joe Garner converted from the penalty spot and he added a second with a header from a corner on 33 minutes.

Latics looked to be in complete control but after the Swans made changes at half time they fought back to deny Latics a second away win of the season.

Swansea were on top in the second half and drew level with two goals from corners as Mike van der Hoorn headed home on 82 minutes after Dan Burn had unfortunately conceded an own goal in his final appearance for Latics.

Latics stay 19th in the Championship table four points above the drop zone while Swansea remain 13th.

Paul Cook made two changes to the staring eleven at West Bromwich Albion with Lee Evans and Darron Gibson returning in place of Callum Connolly and Josh Windass.

Latics’ Man of the Match at the Hawthorns Callum McManaman and striker Will Grigg both surprisingly remained on the bench.

Latics went ahead after only eight minutes after Kal Naismith was fouled in the area by Wayne Routledge and Garner converted the spot kick.

Latics were getting forward in numbers and captain Samy Morsy had a shot blocked before Lee Evans twice went close with a volley and a header.

It seemed only a matter of time before Latics would add to their lead as Naismith was denied by Erwin Mulder and Chey Dunkley had an attempt cleared off the goal-line.

But in the 33rd minute Garner doubled the lead when he headed home from a corner.

Naismith should’ve added a third just before interval but he dragged his effort wide of Mulder’s left hand post.

The Swans manager Graham Potter made two changes at half time changing the formation and they were soon causing Latics problems through Jason Montero.

The Swans pulled a goal back from a set-piece delivery which deflected off Burn and past Christian Walton.

The hosts were now on top as Latics retreated into defence.

Oli McBurnie had a near post effort off target and Bersant Celina shot just over from 25 yards.

But with just nine minutes remaining the Swans drew level as van der Hoorn got free in the area to score from a corner that Latics felt should never have been given.

Ultimately it was a frustrating afternoon for Latics who should’ve secured all three points after a dominant first half against an abject Swansea.

Latics’ high press in the opening period had been very effective but their failure to convert their numerous chances proved costly.

The Swans resurgence in the second half gradually wore them down although the hosts were somewhat lucky to draw level from a corner which shouldn’t have been given.

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Latics Review of the Year – Part 2

Paul Cook

It’s been a Jekyll and Hyde start to life back in the Championship as we approach the turn of the year. Latics exceeded many people’s expectations by making an excellent opening to the campaign producing some impressive performances including a superb 3-0 away win at Stoke City.

In September they moved up to seventh place in the Championship table after a hard-fought 2-1 victory against Hull City. But an unfortunate spate of injuries to attacking players and some poor away performances meant they have slipped down the table.

One of the most dispiriting displays was away at Millwall against a team who were struggling in the relegation zone. Latics had performed superbly winning 1-0 against title favourites West Bromwich Albion at home on the previous Saturday but this performance was the antithesis.

They were completely out of sorts, but in spite of Millwall’s overall dominance, they went ahead with an own goal just before half time.

Latics were then gifted the chance to double their lead when James Vaughan was brought down in the box, but Josh Windass wasted the golden opportunity blazing the penalty high over the crossbar.

Probably their worst performance of the season was against local rivals Preston North End were they were defeated 4-0. It was a chastening defeat for Latics who had made such a bright start to their Championship campaign against a team who had been bottom of the table before kick off.

However, the home form continued to impress with a convincing 3-1 win against Blackburn Rovers.

Man of the Season so far, Reece James scored a superb free kick against Leeds United in November but the unbeaten home run came to an end with an unfortunate mistake by Christian Walton.

The takeover of the club by the International Entertainment Corporation (IEC) was completed at the beginning of November.

The change in ownership from Dave Whelan to IEC meant the end of an era for the club. Whelan’s time in charge had been a golden period and it will be a hard for the club to ever reach those heights again.

To climb through the divisions and to establish themselves in the Premier League for eight years, reach a League Cup Final, win an FA Cup Final and qualify for the Europa League is an almost unbelievable achievement.

Whelan and his grandson David Sharpe have steered the club for the last 23 years and now another family duo with the backing of IEC will have a big say in the future of Latics.

Former England international footballer Joe Royle has become a Director of the club and son Darren will be Executive Chairman.

The January transfer window will provide a strong indication of IEC’s intentions and whether they are prepared to invest in the team.

The contract of captain Samy Morsy has now been secured by IEC but it will be interesting to see if Nick Powell and Nathan Byrne are also offered improved deals.

Latics may not have the resources of some of the big championship clubs but investment in the team is now required just to maintain their Championship status.

The squad has been badly hit by injuries this season and is in need of reinforcements. Michael Jacobs has been unavailable for a considerable time, Nick Powell is out until January, Dan Burn will move to Brighton in the new year and full back Antonee Robinson is out until February.

Latics will certainly need a left back, centre half and probably another attacking player in the January window.

Joe Royle still has close links with Everton and this could prove beneficial in the loan market. Latics already have Callum Connolly and Antonee Robinson at the club but with Lee Evans loan from Sheffield United becoming permanent and Dan Burn joining Brighton they will have more loan spots available.

Latics away form, only one win all season, is very poor and the performance at Portman Road was deeply worrying.

The team produced one of their worst performances of the season to succumb 1-0 to the Championship’s bottom club Ipswich Town at Portman Road.

The Tractor Boys had been without a win at home all season but Latics allowed a team which was low on form and confidence to grab all three points.

Unfortunately as we approach the new year the good home form now seems to have deserted them as well.

Paul Cook said after the recent Birmingham City home defeat that it was the lowest point in his 18 month tenure. His team are currently out of sorts and out of ideas.

There has been little creativity from the centre of the park and they are sorely missing the injured Nick Powell.

The manager must take responsibility for the ineffective long ball tactics used in the last few games and he must get the team back to the passing football that was so integral to their success at the beginning of the season.

The players need to step up to the challenge and the manager must return to his winning formula or they will become embroiled in a relegation fight.

Callum McManaman was a shining light at West Bromwich Albion with a Man of the Match display and if he can link up with Will Grigg and Gavin Massey it does give us some optimism for the forthcoming games.

Cook is very capable of turning around the team’s fortunes but the pressure is growing on the manager to quickly halt the slide down the table.

Posted in Championship, Dave Whelan, David Sharpe, International Entertainment Corporation, Paul Cook, Reece James, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Slip Slidin’ Away – West Bromwich Albion 2 Wigan Athletic 0

Callum McManaman

Wigan Athletic slipped nearer to the Championship drop zone with another away defeat, this time at promotion contenders West Bromwich Albion.

Jay Rodriguez grabbed a goal in each half as the Baggies moved up to third place in the Championship table.

Latics struggled to contain the Baggies in the first half and they went ahead after only eight minutes when Rodriguez found time and space in the box to place his header past Christian Walton.

Latics were much improved in the second half and particularly after the introduction of substitute Callum McManaman on 54 minutes, but just when it looked like the visitors might equalise Rodriguez smashed home a volley from 25 yards to consolidate the Baggies advantage.

The visitors might have reduced the arrears late on when Reece James’ audacious free kick deceived Baggies Sam Johnstone but much to the keeper’s relief the ball struck the base of the post.

Paul Cook made four changes from the defeat to Birmingham City, with Chey Dunkley returning at centre back and Dan Burn moving to left back. Gavin Massey started on the wing,  Callum Connolly came into midfield and Joe Garner started up front.

Latics had an early shout for a penalty when Josh Windass went down in the box but referee Robert Jones wasn’t interested in the appeals.

On eight minutes Latics fell behind when Dwight Gayle’s cross found the unmarked Rodriguez who placed his header into the corner of the net.

Gayle went off soon afterwards with a hamstring strain and was replaced by substitute Hal Robson-Kanu but the Baggies continued to cause Latics’ shaky defence plenty of problems.

Robson-Kanu forcing an excellent low save from Walton at his near post after 19 minutes.

The Latics’ keeper made another top quality save 10 minutes later, when Harvey Barnes’ deflected looping cross looked destined for the net until Walton’s late intervention.

Latics were probably a little lucky to be only one down at the interval and it was obvious that changes needed to be made at half time. Windass and Garner had been particularly ineffective but Cook left it until 54 minutes before withdrawing Windass and introducing McManaman following the chants of the Latics fans.

The FA Cup winner proceeded to have his best game since returning to the club, tormenting the Baggies defence and creating numerous goalscoring opportunities.

Albion full back Kieran Gibbs was soon in the referee’s book for fouling McManaman and their captain Jake Livermore soon followed for another foul on the winger.

From the resulting free kick, James’ delivery found Massey at the back post, but his rising shot just cleared the Baggies crossbar.

Walton produced another top drawer save to deny Harvey Barnes’ effort from distance, but he couldn’t prevent Rodriguez’s second goal soon afterwards when the striker’s 25-yard volley smashed into the Latics’ net.

Lee Evans replaced the tiring Massey on 76 minutes and Will Grigg replaced the ineffective Garner a minute later.

McManaman continued to terrorise the Albion back line and despite only playing less than half the game he was the Latics Man of the Match along with Reece James.

James nearly pulled a goal back on 86 minutes with an audacious free kick, curling the ball low around the defensive wall and deceiving the Baggies keeper but unfortunately hitting the base of the post.

McManaman was almost unplayable and when he turned several defenders in the penalty area it looked as though he would score but Ahmed Hegazi managed to deflect the ball off target.

McManaman then teed up Grigg at the back post but the substitute couldn’t quite get enough power on his header to beat Johnstone.

Latics are on a worryingly poor run of form and are now only four points off the relegation zone at the half way point in the season.

A much improved second half performance by Latics was instigated by the creativity and trickery of McManaman. The enigmatic winger must surely now be given a starting place against Swansea City on Saturday.

It is easy in retrospect to criticise team selections, but Paul Cook’s decision to persist with the ineffective Windass and the selection of Joe Garner was a mistake at the Hawthorns.

It is now time to re-evaluate his attacking line-up with Will Grigg the obvious choice to come in alongside McManaman at the Liberty Stadium.

 

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