Relentless Latics edging closer to promotion – Morecambe 1 Wigan Athletic 2

Latics on the attack
  • Wigan Athletic increased the pressure on their promotion rivals with another three points against Morecambe at the Mazuma Stadium.
  • Highly rated striker Cole Stockton scored an early goal for the hosts but the visitors equalised just before half time through Will Keane.
  • In an end-to-end game Latics secured another victory when substitute Stephen Humphrys looping header found the top corner of the net in the 73rd minute.
  • Latics move into second place in the table one point behind leaders Wycombe but with four games in hand. Morecambe are in 21st place and are four points from safety.

Latics retained the same starting eleven from the victory against Doncaster Rovers. New signing Graeme Shinnie was included on the bench but the other recent signing Josh Magennis was not included in the squad.

The Shrimps started the brighter with Stockton heading Jacob Bedeau’s pass down to Arthur Gnahoua who chested the ball down before dragging his effort wide of the target.

Latics responded and James McClean cut inside on the left and tried his luck with his weaker right foot but his shot deflected into the hands of keeper Trevor Carson. 

The hosts went ahead on seven minutes with the Latics defence statuesque. Greg Leigh nutmegged Gavin Massey before crossing low and when the ball bounced off Kell Watts, Stockton was on hand to fire home from close range.

The hosts were in the ascendancy and Gnahoua’s free-kick from the right was headed across goal by Bedeau to find Anthony O’Connor at the far post but his header cleared the crossbar.

As the half progressed Latics started to assert themselves and Callum Lang did superbly to beat three defenders before unleashing a low drive and forcing an excellent save from Carson who pushed the ball way for a corner.

The visitors went close to equalising when Power played a neat pass to Lang whose cross to McClean at the far post was headed over from close range. 

Latics got the equaliser just before half-time through Keane. Power put Darikwa in the clear with a great pass, and the captain found Keane with a low cross and the striker showed good composure before slotting home his 13th goal of the season.

Latics started the second half strongly,  but it was Morecambe who had the first chance. Stockton held the ball under pressure and before finding Jonah Ayunga who took the ball down into his path before forcing an excellent save from Amos. 

Stockton then almost restored Morecambe’s advantage when he curled a strike from distance against Amos’ left hand post.

At the other end Latics went very close when Power’s free-kick was headed on by Naylor at the near post and then flicked on by Lang but his effort crashed against the crossbar. 

Humphrys replaced Massey in the 62nd minute and the substitute made a big impact by heading Latics in front in the 73rd minute. 

Lang crossed from the right and Humphrys climbed the highest to loop his header into the top corner.

Humphrys almost added a second goal soon afterwards when his drilled cross from the left was turned towards goal by a Shrimps defender, but Carson was able to save with his feet.

Despite some late Morecambe pressure Latics held out fairly comfortably to record another away victory and move into the automatic promotion places. They are now only one point behind leaders Wycombe but with four games in hand.

Latics are unbeaten in 16 games in all competitions. They are the form team in League One with 16 points from the last six games and their relentless pursuit of promotion continues to gather pace.

Manager Leam Richardson praised his team’s resolve after the game.

“Firstly, I’d like to compliment the lads from certainly the improvement of last year and surpassing the points tally from what we did last season. 

“I think – in any football competition – it’s important to always try and improve on last year. We set out this season to be competitive in every game and I think it’s a really big compliment to the lads to surpass the points tally from last year. We’ll keep our head down and keep moving forwards.

“These teams are fighting for their lives. They (Morecambe) have got some good players on the pitch, they’re well-coached and well-drilled, and you’ve got to respect every team in the league.

“I thought in the first half, it took our lads a little while to earn the right to play because Morecambe were a threat from set-pieces and sending the ball over the top. I thought in the second half, we were excellent and thoroughly deserved to score the two goals and on the balance of play, we deserved to win. “

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Latics 15-game unbeaten run continues – Doncaster Rovers 1 Wigan Athletic 2

Max Power’s flicked header opens the scoring for Latics

  • Wigan Athletic extended their unbeaten run in all competitions to 15 games with a hard fought victory at League One strugglers Doncaster Rovers.
  • Max Power flicked home James McClean’s corner in the 11th minute and Latics created several chances to extend their lead in the opening 20 minutes.
  • The hosts battled back into the game at the end of the first half, but Latics increased their advantage when Will Keane headed home from Tom Pearce’s excellent cross in the 54th minute.
  • Substitute Omar Bogle scored with his first touch in the 60th minute but Latics comfortably held on for a valuable three points in the promotion race with rivals Rotherham losing at Fleetwood and Sunderland drawing at Accrington.
  • Latics are now in fourth place on 48 points but with five games in hand on leaders Wycombe who have 52 points. Doncaster remain bottom of the table and are nine points from safety.

Latics made three changes from the side that overcame Blackburn Rovers in the FA Cup with Ben Amos, Gavin Massey and James McClean replacing Jamie Jones, Jason Kerr and Gwion Edwards in the starting line up.

Rovers had former Latics players Joe Dodoo and Bogle in their squad.

Latics were quickly out of the blocks and set about creating several good goalscoring opportunities.

First Tendayi Darikwa’s searching low cross just evaded Callum Lang who was ready to tap home from close range. 

Massey floated an inviting cross from the right for Keane, but the Latics striker failed to convert with his header.

Massey then had a good opportunity down the right hand side but his final shot was wayward after breaking into the box. 

Tom Pearce then had a great chance when he cut inside the box after good work by McClean but the full back drove his left footed strike narrowly wide of the far post.

Latics deservedly took the lead in the 11th minute when McClean’s corner from the right found Power whose instinctive glancing header at the near post evaded Rovers keeper Louis Jones.

The visitors continued to press forward and they nearly increased their lead in the 18th minute when Lang clipped a delicate ball to Keane at the back post but his header just cleared the crossbar.

Latics could and should have been three or four goals ahead in the first 20 minutes and they also had a goal disallowed soon afterwards when Lang was adjudged to be offside from McClean’s through ball.

Gradually Rovers started to enjoy more possession as Latics took their foot off the gas. The hosts had their first attempt on goal on the half-hour mark when Aidan Barlow lined up a powerful shot from the edge of the area, but his effort was well saved by Amos. 

Former Latic Dodoo then pulled the ball back to Tommy Rowe from the right but his low effort was met by a superb block from Latics captain Darikwa. 

Doncaster then had another opportunity when a free-kick was headed back to Matt Smith by Rowe on the edge of the area but his snapshot didn’t trouble Amos.

Manager Leam Richardson would have had stern words with charges at half time as Latics should have had the game sewn up in the first 20 minutes but Rovers had been allowed back into the game as Latics eased off.

The visitors started the second half strongly and had an early chance when McClean found Keane with a low cross from the left, but he was unable to test the Rovers keeper. 

Keane did manage to double the visitors’ advantage in the 54th minute. McClean set the ball back for Pearce to deliver a superb cross from the left and Keane’s downward header flew past Jones in the Rovers net. 

It looked as though Latics would now take complete control but on the hour mark Darikwa conceded a silly foul on the left hand side and from Ethan Galbraith’s free-kick the substitute Bogle scored with his first touch. 

The hosts’ spirits were now raised but it was Latics who went closest when Keane tried his luck from the edge of the area but his shot was tipped behind for a corner. 

Latics continued to look the more dangerous and McClean’s strike from the left was deflected just past the post. 

Power then tried his luck from the edge of the box but his deflected effort rolled narrowly wide of the right-hand post. 

The hosts battled bravely and pushed for a late equaliser, but Latics defended resolutely and held out comfortably for an important three points in their quest for promotion. 

Latics are now in a strong position in the League One table and they will be hoping to capitalise on their five games in hand on the leaders Wycombe.

League One Table

Afterwards Richardson praised the travelling 1800 supporters for their role in the victory.

“The last ten minutes our fans got us over the line, they kept all the lads focused and it doesn’t go underestimated.

“They relax me on the side when they are supporting the team that hard and you can see the lads are focused, and the last ten minutes more or less came to nothing, and they played a big part in that.”

Reflecting on the game itself, Richardson added:

“You have to respect Doncaster as well; they are in a certain place at the minute where they are fighting for their lives and you could see that with their performance. I thought they kept us honest all afternoon and pushed us right to the end.

“One of the big things before the game – and certainly at half-time – was to say not to disrespect a point or three points, because they are just as valuable as any other, no matter what team you play against and which stadium you play in – at the end of the season they still accumulate to the same amount of points so we have to be respectful to the opposition and to ourselves.

“I thought we started both halves really well but with Doncaster’s style of play they kept us honest and kept us on our back foot.

“We probably have to do better in possession and the lads know that, but we found a way to win and that’s the most important with the time of the year, the condition of the pitches and the squad as it is.”

Player ratings courtesy of Whoscored.com

Posted in Doncaster Rovers, League One, Leam Richardson, Max Power, Omar Bogle, Wigan Athletic, Will Keane | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Latics shock Rovers in FA Cup thriller – Wigan Athletic 3 Blackburn Rovers 2

Thelo Aasgaard

Latics Academy Graduate Thelo Aasgaard

  • Thelo Aasgaard’s stunning late strike helped Wigan Athletic knock Championship side Blackburn Rovers out of the FA Cup at the DW Stadium.
  • Rovers took the lead through Reda Khadra’s low strike but Wigan levelled when Max Power fired in from 30 yards.
  • The hosts went ahead when Aynsley Pears carried the ball over his own goal line after Jack Whatmough had headed across goal.
  • Daniel Ayala’s header levelled in the 89th minute but substitute Thelo Aasgaard curled home from the edge of the area in the 94th minute to send Latics through to the 4th Round.

Leam Richardson made three changes from Latics’ 6-0 triumph at Oldham Athletic in the Papa John’s Trophy in midweek. Jamie Jones, Jason Kerr and Kell Watts replaced Ben Amos, Curtis Tilt and Gavin Massey in the starting eleven.

Rovers started brightly and had an early chance when John Buckley raced through on goal, but Jones anticipated the danger and kicked the ball away.

However his clearance only landed as far as Lewis Travis who tried his luck from distance but his optimistic effort floated wide.

Latics came close at the other end in the fifth minute when Tom Pearce’s dangerous cross from the left was met by Will Keane, but he glanced his header over the crossbar.

The visitors then had a couple of chances in quick succession. First, Gallagher had shot from a tight angle but his effort was comfortably saved by Jones, before in form striker Brereton Diaz found space on the edge of the area and curled an effort just over.

Jones came to Latics rescue in the 14th minute when Buckley intercepted a loose ball and advanced through on goal, but the Latics keeper made an excellent save low down at his near post.

Brereton Diaz then had the ball in the back of the net for the visitors, but the assistant referee raised his flag for offside.

Latics defence was giving the ball away far too easily as they tried to play out from the back and it nearly proved costly when another loose pass out of the defence allowed Brereton Diaz a free hit from the edge of the area but Jones did excellently to tip the ball behind for a corner.

All level at half time but Latics would have to improve considerably if they were to progress through to the next round.

The half started badly for the hosts, as the defence backed off in the 49th minute Khadra fired low into the bottom corner from the edge of the area.

Latics needed to up their game now and they got a foothold in the 61st minute from Power’s superb 30-yard strike which bounced just in front of Rovers keeper Pears.

Richardson’s side were energised now and from substitute James McClean’s corner Kerr’s header at the far post clipped the top crossbar from close range.

Latics then went in front following a major error by the Rovers keeper.

Power’s free-kick was headed back across goal by Whatmough but the hapless Pears only managed to carry the ball over his own goal line. Pears had struggled with crosses all afternoon but this was particularly poor work.

A disaster for the visitors but the hosts nearly added a third when substitute Gavin Massey pulled the ball back to Lang who fired his effort over from inside the area in the 81st minute.

Latics now had one foot in the fourth round, but with only one minute of normal time remaining Rovers were awarded a free-kick and Ayala equalised despite Latics’ appeals for offside.

The tie now looked destined for extra time, but with 94 minutes on the clock substitute Aasgaard produced a match winning strike.

The Latics Academy graduate curled a stunning effort over the goalkeeper and into the top right corner from the left hand side to send the home crowd into raptures. It was a glorious end to an exhilarating FA Cup tie.

Latics will now be hoping for a home draw against Premier League opposition and the prospect of pulling off another FA Cup shock.

The FA Cup 4th Round Draw will take place on Sunday after the West Ham v Leeds game, which kicks off at 14:00.

Speaking to the media afterwards Latics manager Leam Richardson said he was delighted to progress to the 4th Round of the FA Cup.

“It was a local Derby in the FA Cup (that had everything) with goals, mistakes and a battle hardened performance,” he said.

“I’ve got to give credit to the lads. We adapted certain things and respected Blackburn thoroughly because they are going really well in the league and they have some good players around the pitch. 

“I thought in the first half they were excellent and in the second half, we imposed ourselves a little bit more as well. 

“We had to dig in at times. They’ve got some fantastic players and lads who are doing really well in the Championship, touching the Premier League door. Tony (Mowbray) has been there a long time and I’ve got a lot of respect for him as a manager and a person. 

“I’ve got to give credit to Thelo, he came on and scored a winner for the Football Club to put us in the next round. It’s what you dream of as a boy and people will ask did he mean it, but I watch him practice daily and I guarantee that he’s definitely meant it. 

“He’s done the kid, dropped his shoulder to come inside and you can see with his actions that he went for the goal. Fair credit to him, and he’s put his team and the Club to the next round.”

Posted in Blackburn Rovers, Daniel Ayala, FA Cup, Jack Whatmough, Leam Richardson, Max Power, Reda Khadra, Thelo Aasgaard, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Magnificent McClean gives Latics the edge in five-goal thriller – Oxford United 2 Wigan Athletic 3

James McClean

  • James McClean’s incisive run and clinical finish in the 86th minute enabled Wigan Athletic to take the three points against Oxford United in a topsy-turvy game at the Kassam Stadium.
  • Latics were deservedly ahead after only eight minutes when Will Keane headed home from close range after Jack Whatmough headed across goal.
  • Max Power doubled Latics’ lead with a fine strike from 20-yards but the hosts immediately pulled a goal back through Ryan Williams.
  • Oxford drew level in the 57th minute when Matty Taylor converted a cross from Anthony Forde at the back post.
  • Gavin Massey missed a great opportunity to restore Latics lead before McClean’s magnificent winner sealed the three points.
  • Latics remain in second place in the League One table two points behind leaders Rotherham but with a game in hand. Oxford are in sixth place.

Kick off at the Kassam Stadium

Leam Richardson made two changes to the starting line up from the draw against  Ipswich Town with Joe Bennett and  Massey replacing Tom Pearce and Gwion Edwards.

In a frenetic opening period there were plenty of chances at both ends.

Oxford had a couple of opportunities to open the scoring, first Mark Sykes saw an effort deflected wide by Curtis Tilt before Gavin Whyte fired wide.

Latics had a great opportunity when Lang headed a Power corner over from very close range but they went ahead when Power’s corner to the back post was headed back across goal by Whatmough and Keane headed home at close range.

The visitors then had a couple of chances to consolidate their advantage, first Lang’s strike was deflected behind for a corner and then he headed Power’s cross just over as Latics continued to threaten.

The hosts missed a glorious opportunity to draw level as Taylor fired against the crossbar from close range after Whyte had cut the ball back.

It was thrilling end to end stuff and Power doubled Latics’s lead with a fine strike from 20-yards which flew into the bottom corner of the net.

The hosts reduced the deficit almost immediately as Williams fired past Ben Amos from the left side of the box.

2-1 to Latics at half time but Oxford pressed for the equaliser at the beginning of the second half.

They were level in the 57th minute when Taylor finished at the back post following a cross from the right from Anthony Forde after Bennett had slipped in the build up.

Latics should’ve been back in front when Keane found Massey in the centre of the penalty area, but the winger produced an air shot and failed to trouble Simon Eastwood in the Oxford goal.

Lang then had another chance at the back post but Eastwood blocked his effort at close range.

Both teams pushed for the winner, but it was a moment of great quality from McClean which sent the three points back to Wigan.

With four minutes of the 90 remaining the Republic of Ireland winger drove forwards down the left and jinked inside the full back before drilling the ball into the far corner of the net.

It was a sublime piece of skill to decide a thrilling game and send the travelling fans into raptures.

Latics excellent run of form continues and they are now unbeaten in 12 matches in all competitions.

Richardson has instilled a never say die attitude in the squad which has meant they have accumulated a significant number of points in the final stages of games. This along with their sheer ability, team spirit and squad depth should stand them in good stead for the promotion run in.

Latics’ manager was full of praise for his players after the game.

Richardson said:

“Credit has to go to the players because they kept going.

“We knew before the game the challenges we would face within Oxford; they have a really good depth and quality of player, they have been together a while now and have the same manager and same group of players.

“I thought they probably shaded it in the middle parts of the pitch and were a little bit better, but both teams were outstanding out of possession and I thought within both boxes we looked a threat all afternoon.

“Credit goes to the players; I thought the fitness levels, the organisation that they carried today [were good], if you don’t play well, make sure your morale, your organisation gets you through them games and gets you a result.

“These lads will run for each other and that’s important in any team; if you have your teammate who wants to run for you then you’ll normally get the right side of the result and the lads are doing that at the minute.”

And Richardson highlighted the importance of Latics having quality players within their ranks.

“If you’re building as a football club, then it’s down to your players and the quality of player that you carry,” Richardson added. “If you have good players who make good decisions, i.e. James McClean this afternoon, then you normally get on the right end of the result.”

Player ratings courtesy of Whoscored.com

Posted in James McClean, League One, Leam Richardson, Matty Taylor, Max Power, Oxford United, Ryan Williams, Wigan Athletic, Will Keane | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Latics left frustrated by Ipswich draw – Wigan Athletic 1 Ipswich Town 1

Callum Lang

Callum Lang scored his seventh goal in eight games

  • Wigan Athletic were the dominant outfit against Ipswich Town and went ahead on 22 minutes through Callum Lang’s close range finish.
  • The visitors were lucky not to have Conor Chaplin red carded for a stamp on Tom Pearce on the half hour mark.
  • Will Keane appeared to have doubled Latics’ advantage on 70 minutes but the goal was controversially ruled offside by the officials.
  • Ipswich then stunned the hosts when substitute James Norwood equalised following a free-kick in the 77th minute.
  • But the hosts could’ve won the game in the 84th minute but Keane headed wide from a great position following a Max Power free-kick.
  • Latics were left wondering how they did not collect all three points but they remain second in the table, two points behind Rotherham with a game in hand. Ipswich drop to 12th spot.

Leam Richardson made three changes to the starting eleven that defeated Shrewsbury Town in midweek with Tom Pearce, Gwion Edwards and Max Power returning to the starting line-up in place of Joe Bennett, Jordan Cousins and Gavin Massey. Former Latics players Christian Walton, Lee Evans and Samy Morsy all started for the visitors.

It would be interesting to see how Latics would fare against a team who had three ex-players in the line-up and had recently sacked their former boss Paul Cook.

Latics had an early opening when James McClean put an excellent cross into the box but Janoi Donacien was able to head away with Edwards in a good position.

On 20 minutes Pearce galloped forward down the left and raced into box before unleashing a rising drive which Walton did well to tip over at the near post.

Latics were ahead two minutes later when McClean’s corner was glanced on by Edwards, and although Walton got a hand to it, Lang was able to convert at the back post.

There was a flashpoint on the half hour mark as Chaplin tripped Pearce and in the resulting melee he appeared to stamp on Pearce. The Ipswich forward was very lucky to remain on the pitch.

Ben Amos made a good save from a downward header by Macauley Bonne from Lee Evans’ free-kick delivery.

Early in the second half Latics came close to doubling their lead after Power curled a free-kick just over the top of the crossbar before Keane fired wide of the target.

Keane then appeared to have doubled Latics’ advantage on 70 minutes but the goal was controversially ruled offside by the officials.

Ipswich then stunned the hosts when substitute James Norwood equalised following a free-kick in the 77th minute.

Latics failed to deal with the cross and the ball ricocheted off Tom Naylor and Norwood was allowed to convert from close range.

The hosts were unlucky not to go back in front when Power’s excellent free-kick from the left was headed narrowly wide by Keane with the goal at his mercy.

Richardson brought on Stephen Humphrys in added time, but Latics just couldn’t restore their advantage and they were left frustrated that they had allowed the three points to slip from their grasp.

Speaking to the media after the game Richardson was critical of the match officials,

“On big chances created, I thought it fell to us,” Richardson explained.

“The officials have got a load of decisions to make around the pitch and we’ve got to respect that. It’s a tough job – I certainly wouldn’t do it – but today they possibly missed big moments.

“Will Keane’s goal is onside and on the far side when the lad stomped on Tom (Pearce), he should leave the field. 

“It’s an easy decision but if you take that away, I thought in the first half we controlled large parts and we were quite fluent although not so much in the second half. I still felt we were a threat on the counter-attack and you’ve got to respect every team and their players.

“If we’re not going to win today, we certainly don’t lose and I never thought we were in danger of losing the game.”

Latics are unbeaten in eleven games in all competitions and have now scored in a record breaking 27 successive league games.

They are still in the Papa John’s Trophy and in the FA Cup and are very well positioned in the League One table.

It’s a remarkable contrast to the dark days of last season’s administration and a relegation battle. The club is now being well managed by Phoenix 2021, the team is in fine form and the prospects for the rest of the season look very bright.

Player ratings courtesy of Whoscored.com

Posted in Callum Lang, Ipswich Town, James Norwood, League One, Leam Richardson, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Aasgaard’s ace shatters Shrewsbury’s resolve – Wigan Athletic 2 Shrewsbury Town 1

Thelo Aasgaard

  • Thelo Aasgaard’s superb stoppage time winner enabled Wigan Athletic to move back to the top of the League One table.
  • Tendayi Darikwa had given Latics an early lead but Shrewsbury drew level on 39 minutes when Daniel Udoh’s shot was finished by Ryan Bowman.
  • Latics couldn’t break the deadlock and the visitors always looked dangerous on the break, but with 92 minutes on the clock Aasgaard’s ace shattered Shrewsbury’s resolve.

Leam Richardson made six changes to the team which defeated Colchester United in the FA Cup with Ben Amos, Tendayi Darikwa, Curtis Tilt, Tom Naylor and James McClean all returning to the side, while Joe Bennett made his league debut for Latics.

Latics were quickly out of the blocks and Darikwa gave his side the lead after just two minutes. Gavin Massey found McClean, whose cross into the box fell to the Zimbabwean international and he finished for his second goal of the season.

Shrewsbury responded and had the chance to draw level when a corner was headed towards goal by Joshua Daniels but McClean was on the goal line to head the ball to safety.

Latics then broke forward and when Jordan Cousins played through McClean on the left side, he fired a shot straight at Shrews goalkeeper Marko Marosi.  

McClean had another opportunity when Callum Lang crossed from the right and the Republic of Ireland international forced a good save from Marosi.

The visitors were working hard and Latics were struggling to get their usual flowing game going and in the 39th minute they were level.

Tom Bloxham found Daniel Udoh who shot across goal with Bowman at the back post to nudge the ball over the line. Bowman appeared to be in an offside position but the goal was allowed to stand by referee David Rock.

Richardson would have had words with his players at half time for the somewhat lethargic display and they came out much brighter in the second half.

In the 53rd minute McClean’s corner was headed towards goal by Jack Whatmough but the Shrews were able to get the ball clear.

Lang forced an excellent save from Marosi, before at the other end Bloxham fired high and wide for the visitors.

Latics continued to press for the breakthrough but Shrewsbury were well organised and resolute. The visitors also posed a threat on the counter attack and the hosts had to be careful not to get caught out.

Latics continued to be kept at arms length as both Lang and McClean tried shots from distance. 

But with 92 minutes on the clock Aasgaard struck from distance and found the bottom right corner with a superb swerving drive from 25-yards.

It was hard on the visitors who had matched Latics for long periods but Latics had once again showed great character and quality to secure another important three points in their quest for promotion. 

Latics are now unbeaten in ten games in all competitions and they move level on points with Rotherham at the top of League One with a game in hand on the South Yorkshire club.

In his post match comments Richardson praised Aasgaard’s quality:

“It was a great finish to the game and a great start to the game. I didn’t think we were great in the first half; we weren’t able to force Shrewsbury into a negative shape because we kept turning the ball over.

“I thought we came out for the second half and controlled large parts of it and with good habits you will get them moments where your flair players need to produce and thankfully tonight young Thelo Aasgaard has produced.”

Player ratings courtesy of Whoscored.com

Posted in League One, Leam Richardson, Ryan Bowman, Shrewsbury Town, Tendayi Darikwa, Thelo Aasgaard, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Review: More Than a Game – Saving Football from Itself by Mark Gregory

Formerly Ernst & Young’s Chief Economist and Stoke City supporter Mark Gregory has produced a timely and in-depth analysis of why the English game requires radical reform and how it can be changed for the better.

He was recently called as an expert to give evidence on economics and regulation to the Fan-led Review of Football Governance.

Gregory traces the growth of the Premier League and identifies that, despite its commercial successes it has had a disruptive and damaging impact on the overall English game. 

A small group of elite clubs have an unhealthy dominance of the Premier League and domestic trophies; it is estimated that more than two thirds of the country’s 92 professional clubs are loss-making; payments to agents each year regularly total more than the combined income of all 44 clubs in League 1 and 2; supporters have been squeezed to the limit; grassroots facilities are in a dreadful state; and failed World Cup bids have severely weakened England’s standing in the global game.

Gregory sees now as a watershed moment, post Covid 19 and after the failed Project Big Picture and European Super League and at a time of the fan-led review of football’s governance.

He emphasizes that we are now at a critical point, a once-in-a-generation opportunity to re-balance the game. The choices we make in future could have similar or greater consequences than those made in the last four decades. He explains:

“Despite world leading revenue generation, the Premier League has been loss-making throughout most of its existence and the rest of the English football pyramid is extremely challenged financially. We should not be surprised. A hands-off approach to regulation in an environment where some owners faced by talent with significant market power are willing to spend whatever it takes, only ends in one way.”

Gregory has produced a very strong case for change and has put together an excellent list of reforms which would restore some sanity into the English game.

He believes that an integrated strategy is required, and any reform proposals must aim to generate the maximum revenues possible consistent with the competitive balance we desire, while reducing expenditure, especially wages and transfer fees.

He wants a more balanced, open, and sustainable pyramid that offers a realistic possibility of more clubs of promotion, and then a fighting chance of surviving at a higher level.

At the centre of the proposed reforms is an independent regulator, a new governance structure and a redistribution of revenues throughout the pyramid.

Cynics will say that the big problem with these proposals is that positive change is unlikely to happen because the elite clubs and their owners will not act in the best interests of the game overall.

I hope they are wrong and for the sake of the English game that Gregory’s considered reforms can be implemented.

More Than a Game – Saving Football from Itself by Mark Gregory, published by Yellow Jersey, Price £16.99. 

This review first appeared in the December/January 2021/22 edition of Late Tackle magazine.

Posted in Book Reviews, Football Book Reviews, Late Tackle magazine, Mark Gregory, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Tics progress to the FA Cup third round – Colchester United 1 Wigan Athletic 2 

Callum Lang celebrating his second goal with Charle Wyke’s shirt

  • Wigan Athletic progressed into the FA Cup Third Round with hard-fought 2-1 victory at Colchester United.
  • Callum Lang opened the scoring after good work by Gavin Massey in the 24th minute but the hosts drew level on the stroke of half time when Freddie Sears fired home via the post.
  • Will Keane wasted a good opportunity to restore the visitors lead before Lang produced a deserved winner in the 75th minute.

Leam Richardson made six changes from the side which defeated Accrington Stanley on penalties in the Papa John’s Trophy with Jack Whatmough, Tom Pearce, Max Power, Callum Lang, Will Keane and Jordan Cousins all coming back into the starting eleven.

Latics started confidently and moved the ball to good effect but it was the League Two outfit who had the first two chances.

First, Noah Chilvers blazed over from the edge of the area and then Sears should’ve done better but his effort flew over the crossbar from 12-yards out.

But Latics were the first to make the breakthrough in the 24th minute with a flowing counter attack.

Power found Gavin Massey down the right with a pinpoint pass, and the wingback delivered a superb cross to the back post and Lang finished well from close-range.

The U’s responded well and Cameron Coxe was through on goal but Kell Watts made a superb last-ditch tackle to deny an equaliser.

At the other end, Latics had a huge chance when Lang sent Keane through on goal but the former Manchester United youth striker couldn’t beat keeper Jake Turner who saved well with his leg.

It was end-to-end now and Latics keeper Jamie Jones made an outstanding save to deny Sylvester Jasper and tip the ball over the crossbar. 

But frustratingly for Latics and Jones the hosts drew level two minutes later when Sears fired into the corner from the edge of the area.

Early in the second half Colchester went close when Chilvers volley went just over the angle of post and crossbar.

Latics responded and Massey fired an effort just over the crossbar.

Massey and Lang then combined well down the right and Lang’s back-heel found Massey but he drove his effort narrowly wide.

Latics pushed for what proved to be the decisive goal in the 75th minute.

Substitute Tom Naylor played an excellent through ball to Lang, who showed great composure and finished with some aplomb into the bottom corner. 

The hosts continued to battle to get back on level terms and they wasted a great opportunity in the 89th minute when Sears set up substitute Chay Cooper but he blazed his effort high over the crossbar from a great position. 

As in the previous FA Cup game at Solihull Latics didn’t manage the final minutes very well. Colchester goalkeeper Turner headed over from good positions from two corners in the dying moments but Latics held on to progress to the third round.

Great credit must go to the 179 hardy travelling Latics supporters who made the long journey to Essex for a 12.30 kick off on a Sunday. 

Richardson commented afterwards:

“No matter what tie it is – you saw the results yesterday going different ways – and the main thing is that we found a way to win and we’re in the hat,” he said.

“It’s 12:30pm on a Sunday in December and it was never going to be easy. Fair credit to the players who found a way to win and get to the next round.

“They (Colchester) have some good players and good coaching staff. You’ve got to be respectful and meet those challenges, and I thought we did in large parts.”

Colchester goalkeeper Jake Turner punches away a Latics corner.

Posted in Callum Lang, FA Cup, Freddie Sears, Leam Richardson, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Latics’ away day success dedicated to Charlie Wyke – Plymouth Argyle 1 Wigan Athletic 2

Charlie Wyke shirt

Latics players dedicated the victory to Charlie Wyke – photograph courtesy of Wigan Athletic

  • Wigan Athletic moved up to second place in the League One table with a 2-1 victory at Plymouth Argyle.
  • Callum Lang’s 90th minute strike ensured Latics secured an important three points at fourth placed Plymouth.
  • The visitors had taken the lead in the 36th minute after Thelo Aasgaard had set up Will Keane but the hosts drew level from a Danny Mayor strike in the 43rd minute.
  • The game ebbed and flowed with chances at both ends before Lang’s cool finish from Keane’s through ball sent the visiting supporters into raptures.
  • The Latics players dedicated the victory to striker Charlie Wyke who had collapsed in training this week.

Leam Richardson made four changes to the team which had drawn at Cambridge on Tuesday night with Tendayi Darikwa, Jason Kerr, Tom Naylor, and Thelo Aasgaard replacing Gavin Massey, Tom Pearce, Tom Bayliss and Gwion Edwards. 

Latics made a positive start at Home Park in very windy conditions, with Aasgaard blazing wide after 11 minutes.

James McClean forced a save from Michael Cooper on 22 minutes before the hosts forced a succession of corners between the 22nd and 25th minutes.

The teams alternated control as Latics pressure then resulted in a series of corners at the other end.

Latics went in front on 35 minutes when Aasgaard chased a ball near the touchline before cutting it back to Keane who brought the ball under control and then turned it home from close range.

Latics’ players immediately went to the dugout to celebrate the goal with Charle Wyke’s number nine shirt held aloft.

The hosts responded to Keane’s goal with a spell of pressure and Max Power made a superb block to deny Connor Grant an equaliser.

But on 43 minutes Argyle were level when McClean lost possession and Mayor’s strike from inside the box beat keeper Ben Amos.

All level at the interval with both teams looking dangerous going forward.  

Latics were quick out of the blocks at the start of the second half and McClean’s cross nearly found Lang in the box, before Naylor’s strike went wide of the target from outside the box.

Argyle responded and forced a series of corners at the other end but Latics were resolute in defence with Jason Kerr in particular having an outstanding game.

It looked as though Latics had restored their lead around the hour mark with Keane and McClean both having opportunities but Cooper somehow clawed the ball off the line to save Argyle.

When the hosts pressed forward they were unable to really test Amos and their shots either flew high or wide of the target.

Darikwa tried his luck from outside the box on 61 minutes and his strike was only narrowly wide of Cooper’s left hand post.

At the other end Panutche Camara had a shot deflected wide by a Latics defender as the game continued to ebb and flow.

Stephen Humphrys replaced Aasgaard on 67 minutes and he was soon in the thick of the action forcing an excellent save from Cooper after good work by McClean and Max Power.

In the 88th minute Latics went close with Lang at the back post but he couldn’t quite convert and was flagged offside.

But two minutes later Lang produced a composed finish into the bottom corner from Keane’s through ball to send the 700 travelling Latics supporters into raptures. 

Afterwards Manager Leam Richardson commented on an emotional week for the club.

“That’s the toughest week I’ve ever had in football, and as a football club I’m so proud of the way we’ve come through it.

“To win it that late, in the 90th minute, to keep going the way we did, showed the character we have in the group.

“Obviously Charlie is constantly in our thoughts, constantly in our conversations, and he’s in the best place he could possibly be now.

“Fingers crossed, he’s been improving every day, and hopefully he’ll be back fit and healthy before too long.”

Player ratings courtesy of Whoscored.com

Posted in Callum Lang, Charlie Wyke, League One, Leam Richardson, Plymouth Argyle, Wigan Athletic, Will Keane | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Latics’ late show rescues a point – Cambridge United 2 Wigan Athletic 2

  • Wigan Athletic came back from two goals down to secure a point at the Abbey Stadium.
  • Despite dominating the first half Latics went behind when Joe Ironside was allowed to turn in the box and volley home on 44 minutes.
  • The hosts increased their lead on 53 minutes when Adam May fired into the bottom corner from the edge of the box.
  • With six minutes of normal time remaining Latics rallied and Will Keane fired home on 84 minutes and Callum Lang finished from close range on 86 minutes.
  • Latics drop to fourth place in the table but are only two points off the top. Cambridge are in 15th place.


Leam Richardson made five changes from the side which defeated Solihull in the FA cup with Keane, Ben Amos, Jack Whatmough, Curtis Tilt and James McClean returning. Tendayi Darikwa was suspended and Charlie Wyke missed out due to illness.

Latics pressed forward from the kick off and went close when McClean’s excellent delivery to the back post was nearly converted by Whatmough.

The visitors forced a series of corners and threatened from crosses and from one cross Tom Pearce found Keane who finished well but his effort was disallowed for offside.

Latics continued to dominate proceedings but couldn’t make the breakthrough. 

Just after the half hour the visitors were denied by a super save from Cambridge keeper Dimi Mitov. From Pearce’s cross the ball was diverted by Lang and seemed destined for the bottom corner but Mitov got down superbly to his left to deny him.

At the other end the hosts first strike on goal by George Williams was well saved by Amos low down to his left.

But with their second attempt on goal they went ahead on 44 minutes when Ironside was allowed time to bring the ball down inside the box and finish from eight yards out.

Latics started the second-half strongly but suffered a sucker punch when Ironside set up May on the edge of the box and the midfielder fired into the corner of the net.

Latics now had a mountain to climb and they struggled to regain their early cohesion. 

They were dominating possession but couldn’t penetrate the Cambridge defence until with six minutes remaining they finally made the vital breakthrough. 

Keane turned on the edge of the area and fired decisively into the corner of the Cambridge net.

The visitors were in the ascendancy and quickly drew level when Power’s cross from the right found Lang at close range who finished past Mitov.

Latics pushed for the winner and were unlucky when another Lang effort from close range was disallowed for offside. 

Overall it had been an erratic display by Latics but they had shown great character and commitment to retrieve a point from a losing position.

Manager Richardson was critical of Latics’ lapses but praised the character of his team.

“At half time, it was more of the same, and two goals in our box probably were their only threat, but we’ve got to respect teams when they play like that because they are good at it. You’ve got to respect that and defend resolutely and properly but fair credit to the lads, they kept going until the end and I thought we might have nicked it as well.

“You’re got to give the lads credit because they were 2-0 down on the road again and they never gave up. I thought we knocked on the door long enough to get a goal and I thought we deserved the result.’

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