Latics mustn’t slip up at Portman Road

Gavin Massey

Gavin Massey could return at Portman Road

Latics face a potential banana skin tomorrow at bottom-of-the-table Ipswich Town. The Tractor Boys must be regretting the departure of Mick McCarthy at the end of his contract in April as they have only won once this season under previous manager Paul Hurst and are still without a win under new manager Paul Lambert.

Ipswich have only accumulated 11 points from 21 games and are eight points from safety and in danger of being cut adrift at the foot of the table. They’ve only scored 17 goals so far this season and conceded 37.

The club appears to be in a downward spiral after 17 seasons in the Championship and the owner Marcus Evans has been reluctant to splash out in the transfer market.

It was noticeable that the four highest scorers from last season: Martyn Waghorn (Derby), Joe Garner (Wigan), Bersant Celina (Swansea) and David McGoldrick (Sheffield United) have all left the club and been replaced by players from Leagues One and Two.

Evans would like to sell the club as it is losing £8m per season and crowds have been falling but no offers have been forthcoming. The former Norwich manager Lambert has had a disappointing start to his tenure with only two points taken from his first six games in charge.

However, the law of averages suggests that Lambert’s team will win at some point and manager Paul Cook must ensure that it isn’t his team that slip up at the bottom club.

Latics have a poor record on the road, winning only once away from the DW Stadium this season. They did get a point at local rivals Bolton in the last away game but they have been struggling to find some consistency on their travels.

They have also suffered with a horrendous injury list and they had more bad news last week when it was revealed that midfielder Nick Powell would be out until January with a hamstring strain.

Michael Jacobs, Antonee Robinson and Chey Dunkley are all still unavailable and Latics will also be without Kal Naismith who received a one-match suspension after being sent off against Derby last Saturday.

At least there was some good news about winger Gavin Massey who is nearing fitness and was involved in the Development Squad fixture against Sheffield United on Tuesday and is likely to play a part against Ipswich.

Latics with a fully fit squad are capable of competing at the top end of the table and are still only 11 points off a play-off spot but a defeat at the bottom club would have a dispiriting effect and could knock the confidence as they are only seven points above the relegation zone.

Ipswich will be desperate for a first win under Lambert but Latics must be resolute and focused to ensure that they come away with the three points at Portman Road.

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Posted in Championship, Gavin Massey, Ipswich Town, Paul Cook, Paul Lambert, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

10 men Latics can take heart from battling performance – Wigan Athletic 0 Derby County 1

James Vaughan

JamesVaughan

Ten-men Latics produced a spirited second-half display but were narrowly defeated  by Derby County at the DW Stadium.

Latics had started the game brightly and could have gone ahead early on when James Vaughan missed a glorious opportunity but on 15 minutes they were reduced to 10 men when makeshift full back Kal Naismith was dismissed for pulling back Harry Wilson.

Soon afterwards Jack Marriott put the Rams ahead when he headed home Jayden Bogle’s cross.

The visitors then produced a 15 minute period of intense pressure as Latics struggled to stay in the game.

However, a re-shuffle by Paul Cook enabled the hosts to contain the visitors before half time and the 10 men went on to dominate in the second-half.

Latics’ best chance fell to Reece James, on his 19th Birthday, when he went through one on one with Scott Carson but his left footed effort couldn’t beat the Rams keeper.

Derby will certainly be relieved to have come away with all three points after Latics had matched Frank Lampard’s promotion chasers for much of the game.

Wigan drop a place to 16th in the Championship table and Derby move up to third.

Paul Cook made one change from the team which had drawn with Bolton Wanderers as James Vaughan started in place of Will Grigg.

Latics made the early running and threatened when Nathan Byrne broke down the left and crossed towards Vaughan, but the former Latics keeper Scott Carson just got to the ball first.

Latics should have been ahead moments later when Gary Roberts crossed for the Vaughan but the striker couldn’t make the vital connection with the goal at his mercy.

It proved to be a vital miss as on 15 minutes Latics were reduced to 10 men when Wilson was pulled back by the last man Naismith.

The hosts tried to stay composed but five minutes later Marriott produced a clinical headed finish from Jayden Bogle’s cross.

Derby were now in the ascendancy and Nathan Byrne’s goal-line clearance from a Wilson shot kept the hosts in the game.

To quell the storm Cook took decisive action and made a double change with Vaughan and Roberts replaced by Darron Gibson and Callum Connolly.

Mason Mount forced a good save from Christian Walton and at the other end James tested Carson from a free-kick just before half time.

Those expecting Latics to capitulate in the second-half were to be disappointed as they went on to dominate the proceedings. They seemed re-invigorated by Cook’s half time teamtalk and took the game to the Rams.

Morsy had an early half chance and then later fired a shot narrowly wide of Carson’s right hand post.

The best chance of the second-half however fell to the marauding full back James, the Chelsea loanee was through on goal but his left foot effort just couldn’t beat the Derby keeper.

Latics continued to press right up until the final whistle, with centre back Dan Burn getting forward to good effect on several occasions, but they couldn’t make the breakthrough and Derby held on for the three points.

Cook although clearly disappointed with the result, was proud of Latics’ performance against a team who will be in the promotion shake-up at the end of the season.

The character and determination of the squad players cannot be faulted at the moment, but it is such a pity that the high number of injuries has so far prevented Latics from making greater progress up the table.

The absence of so many regular members of the starting eleven has inevitably been hugely detrimental to their progress, and with Nick Powell now out until January, they will be desperately hoping for some good news on the injury front very soon.

Posted in Championship, Derby County, Jack Marriott, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Reece James is destined for the top

Reece James

Reece James

Chelsea currently have forty (40) players out on loan and one of their brightest prospects is also one of the youngest, 18-year-old Reece James currently on loan at Wigan Athletic.

The England U18, U19 and U20 right back has been an ever present for Latics since signing on a season long loan in June. James has just won Latics’ Player of the Month award for the third consecutive month after an impressive start to life in the Championship.

Reece is from a big football family as father Nigel runs the Elite Football Academy in South London and his 17-year-old sister Lauren plays for Manchester United Women’s team and England U17s.

Reece has been with Chelsea since the age of six and last season Captained the Under-18s to an FA Youth Cup triumph and was named Academy Player of the Season.

At the end of last season he had a big decision to make, should he stay at Chelsea with the Under-23s or go on loan elsewhere?

Reece told the Times newspaper why he decided to go to Wigan,

“I wanted to go to a club that played good football and the season before they won League One and I liked the way they played. Chelsea and Wigan both play out from the back and because they both get after the ball when they don’t have it”.

It’s been a great move for both parties as James has been the most consistent performer and 15th placed Latics have made a creditable start to their Championship campaign.

His first goal for Wigan was a stunning free kick against Leeds United and manager Paul Cook commented after the game,

“Reece has been excellent for us since he’s been here. He’s an 18-year-old boy, but everything about the kid suggests he’s going to have a very strong career. He’s a fantastic kid, and his ability is only matched by his temperament and his attitude. If every 18-year-old conducted themselves the way Reece does, football would be in a good place”.

There are rumours that Brighton, who have already signed Latics’ centre-back Dan Burn, are interested in signing James in the January transfer window.

Brighton scouts have been so impressed with his displays for Cook’s side that they are prepared to offer £10m for him. James is seen as a long-term replacement for 38-year-old Seagulls captain Bruno.

However, despite interest from Brighton and other clubs, James may decide to see his long-term future at Chelsea.

Interestingly, head of youth development at Chelsea, Neil Bath has said that the club prefer all their players to have at least 150 appearances in senior football before they enter the first-team at Chelsea, whether that be a youngster or a new signing.

This would imply that James would need at least two more full seasons away on loan before permanently returning to Chelsea, which might leave the door open for Latics to retain his services for another season.

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Derby day stalemate – Bolton Wanderers 1 Wigan Athletic 1

Will Grigg5

Will Grigg on target from the penalty spot

Latics were held to a 1-1 draw in a hard-fought derby with Bolton Wanderers at the University of Bolton Stadium.

Wanderers went ahead against the run of play in the 7th minute when Pawell Olkowski’s deep cross found Will Buckley at the back post and the winger produced an accomplished finish past Christian Walton.

Latics drew level on 25 minutes through Will Grigg’s penalty after the striker had been brought down by Jack Hobbs in the area.

The visitors had chances to take all three points in the second-half when Reece James had a corner cleared off the line and Josh Windass and Callum McManaman went close.

Wanderers had a penalty appeal turned down late on when the ball hit Samy Morsy at close range.

Latics remain in 15th in the Championship table while Wanderers stay in the relegation zone in 22nd spot.

Manager Paul Cook made two changes from the midweek win over Blackburn Rovers as Windass and Grigg replaced Nick Powell and James Vaughan.

Latics started on the front foot and could have gone ahead after six minutes when Windass pulled the ball back for Lee Evans but he blazed his shot high over the crossbar.

The miss was doubly disappointing as a minute later Bolton went ahead as Buckley finished well at the back post from Olkowski’s deep cross.

Latics got back in the game on 25 minutes when Grigg was brought down by Hobbs in the area and then stepped up to convert the penalty.

All level at the interval but Latics were on top at the beginning of the second-half with Gary Roberts firing across goal.

The visitors started to assert their passing game while the hosts relied on set-piece situations to try to create a threat.

Windass had a glorious opportunity to put Latics in front when he turned his defender in the area but he fired into the side netting with the goal at his mercy.

Reece James’ in-swinging corner then looked to have given the visitors the advantage but Christian Doidge somehow managed to hook the ball over his own crossbar from on the goalline.

Soon afterwards James’ shot deflected into the path of McManaman but the winger couldn’t quite get a shot off at close range.

As the game moved towards the final whistle Wanderers had appeals for a penalty when the ball hit Samy Morsy in the face at close range but referee Simon Hooper waved away appeals.

Overall Latics had had the better chances to win the game but they failed to be clinical when the opportunities arose. They have at least stemmed the tide of poor away results with the point at Bolton and are now undefeated in three games.

After 20 games played newly promoted Latics are only nine points off a play-off spot and the signs appear promising.

Latics’ prospects certainly look more positive than the bleak outlook at local rivals Bolton where the club continues to go from one financial crisis to another, the players and staff go unpaid, the team has not won in ten and is mired in the bottom three.

Posted in Bolton Wanderers, Championship, Wigan Athletic, Will Buckley, Will Grigg | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Wigan back to winning ways – Wigan Athletic 3 Blackburn Rovers 1

 

GaryR2

Gary Roberts stunning strike

Latics produced a much improved performance to comfortably overcome local rivals Blackburn Rovers and end a five game winless run.

The hosts are in the throes of an injury-crisis but several squad players stepped up to the mark and they fully deserved the three points against a lacklustre Rovers.

Gary Roberts produced a stunning strike from 25 yards for the opening goal on 37 minutes before the hapless Jack Rodwell conceded a penalty bringing down Josh Windass and James Vaughan emphatically converted the spot kick.

Rovers pulled a goal back on 83 minutes when centre back Dan Burn turned the ball into his own net following a corner.

But Latics eased any late nervousness when Windass fired low across the six yard box and Callum McManaman converted at the back post to make it 3-1.

Latics move up to 15th in the Championship table two points behind Rovers in 13th place after 19 games.

Paul Cook made two changes to his starting line-up with Vaughan and Lee Evans returning in place of Darron Gibson and Josh Windass.

Neither team gained the upper hand in the early exchanges, with Nick Powell having to be substituted on 22 minutes the signs didn’t look good for Latics, but on the half hour mark the hosts had a trio of glorious chances. First Vaughan saw his header cleared off the line then Burn’s effort was tipped onto the crossbar by David Raya before Cedric Kipre headed narrowly wide of the post. A big let off for Rovers.

But Latics did go ahead just four minutes later when Roberts drove forward before unleashing a stunning low drive which beat Raya and hit the post before crossing the line.

Latics had further chances to increase their lead before the interval, with one opportunity particularly notable as Windass managed to somehow prevent a certain goal by blocking it on the Rovers goalline.

The hosts continued to have the better of it in the second half and should have gone further ahead when Windass broke down the right and crossed for Vaughan, whose  first-time effort was comfortably saved by Raya.

Adam Armstrong had an opportunity at the other end for Rovers but his effort was easily saved by Christian Walton.

It was a chance Rovers would regret missing as soon afterwards the hapless Jack Rodwell playing as a central defender brought down Windass in the box.

Vaughan stepped up and blasted the spot kick past Raya and high into the Rovers net.

Rovers were now offering little resistance and Latics had further chances to increase their lead with Burn, Vaughan and Evans all having attempts on Raya’s goal.

Rovers somehow pulled a goal back on 83 minutes when Burn turned the ball into his own net following a corner. But with four minutes of normal time remaining Latics confirmed the three points when McManaman calmly converted Windass’ cross.

It had been a surprisingly one-sided local derby with Rovers offering little threat against an injury-hit Latics side who had previously been struggling for confidence. The result should give Cook’s team a big boost going into another important local derby against Bolton Wanderers on Saturday.

Posted in Blackburn Rovers, Callum McManaman, Championship, Gary Roberts, James Vaughan, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Latics struggling to make the chances count – Wigan Athletic 0 Reading 0

Goalscorer Nick Powell

Nick Powell had a header disallowed for offside

Latics struggled to capitalise on their chances as they were held to a 0-0 draw by Reading at the DW Stadium.

The hosts were without Gavin Massey, Michael Jacobs, Chey Dunkley and Antonee Robinson due to injury although striker Will Grigg returned to the bench after five weeks out. 

Latics had the majority of the opportunities with Josh Windass, Nick Powell, Nathan Byrne, Cedric Kipre and Joe Garner all going close, but they were unable to take advantage in a dour encounter.

Nick Powell might have given Latics the lead but he had a close range headed goal disallowed for offside following a short corner.

The Royals best chance came in the second half when Yakou Meite’s close range effort was turned away by Christan Walton.

Latics drop a place to 17th in the Championship table while Reading remain in 20th place just outside the relegation zone on goal difference.

Paul Cook’s team made the early running with Dan Burn heading wide from a Gary Roberts cross before Cedric Kipre missed a great chance heading over when he got on the end of Kal Naismith’s flick-on.

Powell then forced Royals keeper Anssi Jaakkola to tip over his 25-yard drive.

From the resulting corner, Powell looked to have given Latics the lead when he headed home at the near post but James was adjudged to have been offside when he played a one-two with Gary Roberts.

Kipre couldn’t capitalise on another good opportunity in the penalty area before Nathan Byrne had an even better chance heading wide at the back post with the goal at his mercy.

Josh Windass then forced another good save from Jaakkola from Naismith’s low cross into the area.

Early in the second half Roberts cut inside his marker and saw another shot saved by Jakkola before Windass missed the target from the rebound.

Latics were missing a clinical finisher and it was somewhat surprising that Will Grigg wasn’t introduced until the 71st minute.

Winger Callum McManaman remained on the bench and it was a little disappointing that Cook didn’t utilise his attacking threat. However, after four defeats the manager didn’t want to risk losing the game and seemed relieved to get a point on the board.

Despite lacking their early season continuity and cohesion Latics had still managed to create plenty of opportunities but had been profligate in front of goal.

Substitute Joe Garner had the hosts final opening from a James corner but his effort was blocked on the line and the points were shared.

If Latics are to get back to winning ways in the upcoming fixtures against Blackburn and Bolton they will need to improve in the final third, they cannot continue to waste opportunities if they are to thrive in the Championship. Forwards Grigg and McManaman must surely start against Blackburn on Wednesday night at the DW Stadium.

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Latics could become Championship contenders

Will Grigg5

Will Grigg could return against Reading

The current EFL Championship table shows the competitiveness of the division with only 13 points separating 16th placed Wigan from leaders Norwich City. Looking at the results this season it shows that the majority of the games are hard to predict, closely fought and often the margin between the teams near the top and those lower down is a relatively small one.

Latics have shown they are capable of defeating the top teams having produced two excellent performances against promotion favourites West Bromwich Albion and Stoke City.

After a superb start to the season Latics were in the play-off positions but have been desperately unlucky to be hit by a run of serious injuries which has hampered their progress. Few teams could maintain a winning run at this level with at least half of their starting XI missing.

Latics have been without their usual forward line of Gavin Massey, Michael Jacobs and Will Grigg for some weeks now and they have recently been joined on the injury list by defenders Chey Dunkley and Antonee Robinson.

Captain Samy Morsy was missing due to suspension for the game at Middlesbrough but there are now signs that the injury problems could be abating.

Gavin Massey is back in training after his hamstring operation and Will Grigg is now nearing fitness and could be available for tomorrow’s game against Reading.

During the last few weeks the protracted takeover of the club by the International Entertainment Corporation was finally completed and the new owners can now set about developing the club’s considerable potential.

Latics have an excellent management team in place led by Paul Cook and the Board has plenty of football experience with Executive Chairman Darren Royle, Director Joe Royle and Chief Executive Jonathan Jackson.

The Board’s main aim is to stabilise in the Championship this season but if they can re-capture their early season form then the play-offs are not an unrealistic prospect.

Latics are very lucky to have secured Cook on a four-year contract going forward as he has attracted attention from Premier League clubs and is amongst the contenders for the Republic of Ireland manager’s job.

He had an exceptional first season not only leading Latics’ return to the Championship but also leading his side to the FA Cup quarter-finals following victories over three Premier League sides, including the Champions Manchester City.

Cook will be given a boost if the club can tie down Nick Powell and Samy Morsy to new contracts and he will be looking to add to the squad in the January transfer window.

The manager was recently seen scouting at Accrington Stanley checking on Newcastle 21-year-old loanee midfielder Daniel Barlaser. Latics have also been linked to the promising Everton midfielder Kieran Dowell which is perhaps not surprising given Joe Royle’s Everton connections.

Players returning from injury, new contracts for key players and some astute signings in the transfer window and Latics could be in a stronger position come January.

Posted in Championship, International Entertainment Corporation, Paul Cook, Reading, Wigan Athletic, Will Grigg | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment