Latics rue missed chances and slip further into trouble – Wigan Athletic 0 Aston Villa 2

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Barrow’s team were much-improved

Wigan Athletic produced a much-improved performance under interim manager Graham Barrow following the departure of Warren Joyce.

Latics showed great commitment and had plenty of chances to win the game but were frustrated by Aston Villa keeper Sam Johnstone and their own wayward finishing.

James Chester headed Villa in front on 73 minutes before substitute Scott Hogan sealed the three points with another header on 84 minutes.

Latics survival chances look bleak, as they are seven points from safety with only eight games remaining. Improving Aston Villa have won five of their last six matches and remain in 12th spot in the table.

Graham Barrow made four changes to the team that was defeated by Bristol City with Andy Kellett, Craig Morgan, Sam Morsy and Shaun MacDonald replacing Alex Gilbey, David Perkins, Callum Connolly and Stephen Warnock.

Latics started more positively than in recent games and should have been ahead after 12 minutes when a poor back pass from Mile Jedinak set up Omar Bogle but the striker only hit the side netting after rounding Johnstone.

Bogle tried again on 25 minutes but his shot from 20 yards flew well wide of the target.

Gabriel Obertan then tried his luck from the edge of the area and his low drive was narrowly wide of Johnstone’s right post.

Latics were well on top and went closest from a Jacobs free-kick just before the interval.

Jacobs curled the ball around Villa’s defensive wall and just when the ball appeared to going in the bottom left hand corner Johnstone did superbly to push the ball away for a throw in.

Villa rarely threatened in the opening half as Latics enjoyed the lion’s share of possession and had created the better chances.

Early in the second half Andy Kellett limped off very distressed by what looked like a reoccurrence of his long-standing injury. Callum Connolly replaced him as left wing-back.

Wigan continued to be the team most likely to score and Bogle forced Johnstone into another save although he was adjudged to be offside.

Jacobs was having a much-improved second half and he produced a powerful run at the Villa defence before forcing Johnstone into full length save down to his left.

Ryan Colclough replaced Obertan on 61 minutes and he was quickly involved as Connolly forced Johnstone into yet another good save.

Villa managed a couple of dangerous corners, but Buxton got ahead of Jonathan Kodjia for the first and the second evaded everybody in the box and went away to safety.

Colclough then forced Johnstone into another save after 67 minutes. Shaun MacDonald saw his drive deflected for a corner off Jerdinak before Kodjia cleared Colclough’s goal bound effort.

Surely Latics would capitalise on all their chances, but against the run of play Villa went ahead.

Hourihane crossed following a short corner and Gilks wasn’t able to punch clear and the ball fell to James Chester who was able to guide it into the corner of the net.

Bogle looked to have drawn Latics level on 75 minutes when his shot from a tight angle seemed to have beaten Johnstone but the keeper managed get a vital touch to deflect it away.

Latics were throwing players forward as they attempted to draw level and suffered a sucker punch on 81 minutes when Villa scored a second.

Substitute Scott Hogan scoring his first goal for Villa when he headed home Albert Adomah’s right wing cross to seal the three points.

Latics had been on top for most of the game but they had failed to capitalise on all their chances.

They looked much better in a formation that had been successful under Roberto Martinez, but Barrow and his new coaching team must work hard with the players on their finishing during the international break if they are to have any chance of survival.

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Posted in Wigan Athletic, Aston Villa, Championship, Graham Barrow, Scott Hogan, James Chester | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

12th Man – Players must respond if tactics are right

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Interim manager Graham Barrow

The inevitable happened this week when Warren Joyce was dismissed as Latics manager. The former Manchester United reserve manager had struggled to come to terms with the challenges of Championship football and his negative tactics had alienated the Latics fan base.

Some people outside Wigan might think it was a harsh decision to sack Joyce after only four months but the Latics fans had had to endure some dreadful performances and the club was drifting towards relegation with him in charge.

Latics owner Dave Whelan and Chairman David Sharpe made the right decision to part company with Joyce and have sensibly appointed Graham Barrow as interim manager for the rest of the season.

The board must now think carefully before appointing a new manager after a series of ill-advised managerial appointments over the last few years. The board need to adopt a thorough recruitment process and ensure that they do due diligence on the new manager.

In the meantime Graham Barrow has a massive task to keep Latics in the Championship. They are now five points away from safety with only nine games left to play. It would be one of the greatest of great escapes if they were to stay up but it is not impossible.

Fourth bottom Blackburn Rovers are unbeaten since Tony Mowbray took over as manager and have taken 10 points from his 6 games in charge. Latics will be hoping that Barrow can inspire a similar revival for Latics starting tomorrow against Aston Villa.

Barrow must quickly establish a new positive mentality amongst the players and give them the freedom to get forward. Under Joyce the players looked fearful and even the strikers seemed preoccupied with their defensive duties.

Barrow must set his team up to attack from the kick off. He must be prepared to select more players in attacking positions and encourage them to get into the penalty area.

Latics have lacked width under Joyce and he has often played wingers such as Gabriel Obertan in central positions. Barrow must correct this and ensure that they are attacking down both flanks.

They need crosses into the penalty area from wide areas and they need more midfield players to gamble to get on the score sheet.

The attitude of all the players has to be right – the defenders have shown great commitment – the rest of the players must now show a similar level of commitment if they are to stay up.

Barrow will know the players and the ones who are up for fight. He needs to select a team with the highest commitment but also with the creativity and attacking ability to get the victories.

The feeling of hopelessness, which pervaded under Joyce, has now gone. It’s a tall order to survive but it is now up to the players to show that they deserve to be in the Championship.

This article was first published in the 12th Man column for the Wigan Evening Post on Friday 17th March 2017.

Posted in Aston Villa, Championship, Graham Barrow, Warren Joyce, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Joyce leaves Latics after traumatic period in charge

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Latics have parted company with Warren Joyce

Latics have sacked manager Warren Joyce after a torrid four and half months in charge at the DW Stadium. The former Manchester United reserve manager struggled to come to terms with the challenges of Championship football and was relieved of his duties by Chairman David Sharpe today.

Graham Barrow has been made interim manager until the end of the season.

Latics have won only five of Joyce’s 22 Championship games and are four points away from safety with nine games left to play.

David Sharpe commented:

“It is unfortunate that we have made this decision but with the team in such a perilous position in the league, we need to act now because we cannot afford to fall any further behind.

“Warren was appointed with the future in mind in terms of developing players but preserving our Championship status is the absolute priority and we have a duty to do whatever gives us the best chance of doing that.

“Results and performances have simply not been up to standard often enough in recent matches and although we acknowledge the difficulties faced in managing a team in a league where we are competing against clubs with much larger budgets, the nature of some of our recent defeats, especially against close rivals, has fallen short in terms of what we as a club, and all our supporters, expect.”

Consensus amongst supporters groups and websites was that Joyce should go and it was only a matter of time before he would leave after a series of poor results against teams around them in the table.

The club also confirmed that Head of First Team Coaching Andy Welsh has left with immediate effect.

Owner Dave Whelan and Chairman David Sharpe must now think carefully before appointing a new manager after a series of ill-advised managerial appointments over the last few years.

Early contenders for the role include recently sacked Derby County manager Steve McClaren, former Rangers manager Mark Warburton and Latics current captain Stephen Warnock.

Posted in Championship, Warren Joyce, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Wrong man for the job – Wigan Athletic 0 Bristol City 1

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Warren Joyce’s tactics have left the club on the verge of relegation

It was another desperately disappointing performance by Warren Joyce’s team as they lost 1-0 to Bristol City in a relegation six-pointer.

As the game moved towards the final whistle only one team looked likely to win it and Aden Flint duly scored for the Robins on 87 minutes.

In a must win game for Latics, Joyce failed to set his team up to attack with Omar Bogle once again designated as the lone striker.

Latics were bereft of ideas, creativity and the belief to take the game to a Bristol City team who had won only 2 of their previous 22 matches.

The home team had a couple of opportunities in the first half when David Perkins hit the crossbar and Bogle forced a good save from Frank Fielding but overall they failed to impose themselves against a team low on confidence.

Latics have won only five of Joyce’s 22 Championship games and they look destined for League One.

They remain in 23rd spot in the table four points away from safety with nine games left to play. Bristol move out of the bottom three and into 21st place.

There was one change to the starting line up from the Birmingham game with Perkins replacing the injured Max Power. Shaun MacDonald returned on the bench but Will Grigg was still unavailable due to injury.

Bristol started the game briskly and had a couple of speculative efforts from ex-Latic David Cotterill and Chelsea loanee Tammy Abraham.

Latics’ best effort came on 23 minutes when Michael Jacobs’ corner wasn’t cleared and Jake Buxton teed up Perkins, whose shot from the edge of the box beat Fielding but hit the top of the crossbar and went over.

Soon afterwards a good pass from Jacobs set up Bogle in the box and the striker’s shot from a narrow angle was well saved by Fieding at his near post.

The Robins’ best effort came just before the break when Lee Tomlin set up Abraham in the box and Matt Gilks did well to block the prolific striker’s drive at close range.

Latics had failed to offer much going forward in the opening half and it was hoped that Joyce would change his approach for the second half.

Unfortunately the manager persisted with one striker, Bogle and winger Gabriel Obertan playing in a central position just behind him.

There was limited threat down the flanks as the Wigan players were instructed to track back to cover the opposition rather than get forward.

Obertan was showing glimpses of creativity and he tried a clever through ball to Bogle but Flint made a great interception to deny him.

Bogle forced a good save from Fielding at his near post but Latics’ threat was limited.

James Weir replaced Obertan on 68 minutes, then Mikael Mandron came on for Alex Gilbey but Latics continued to huff and puff and Bristol grew in confidence.

The Robins had a great chance on 80 minutes when substitute Josh Brownhill fired a low shot across a crowded box, then substitute Callum O’Dowda was denied when Gilks saved bravely with Abraham ready to pounce.

Only one team looked likely to take all three points and Bristol duly obliged when Tomlin’s corner wasn’t cleared and Aden Flint poked home from close range.

It was another abject performance by Latics who have only scored three goals in their last seven games and none from open play.

Joyce’s tactics and style of play have taken the club backwards since the departure of Gary Caldwell and unless there is a change in manager the future looks bleak.

Owner Dave Whelan and Chairman David Sharpe must be sorely regretting Alex Ferguson’s advice in appointing a man who had not managed in senior football for eight years.

Whether Whelan and Sharpe will accept their mistake and make a change is open to conjecture but the fans have already decided that Joyce’s time should be up.

Posted in Aden Flint, Bristol City, Championship, Warren Joyce, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

12th Man – Lack of goals could prove costly

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Omar Bogle has been left isolated as the lone striker

Latics centre-back Dan Burn secured an essential three points for Latics at Birmingham on Tuesday night and the result keeps them in touch with the teams above them.

It was a hard-fought if unspectacular victory which will relieve some of the pressure on Warren Joyce. Disappointing displays against Nottingham Forest and Blackburn Rovers had made Joyce’s position tenuous but the win at St Andrews was a lifeline for the beleaguered manager.

However, Saturday’s must win game at home to Bristol City could decide the manager’s fate. The Robins are just one point ahead of Latics with ten games still to play and they have been on a dreadful run of form losing 14 of their last 21 matches.

Latics last six games have yielded two wins, two draws and two defeats and those games have generally been against teams around them in the table. But they will have to face some tough fixtures against teams in the top half of the table in the final run in.

The most worrying statistic about the last six games has been the lack of goals from open play.

Latics have only scored three goals in those six games and they have all come from set pieces, with Dan Burn and Jake Buxton scoring from corners at Birmingham and Wolves and Omar Bogle from the penalty spot at QPR.

If this trend continues the lack of goals is likely to cost Latics their Championship status.

It is beneficial that they have started to score goals from set pieces but they also need to create more opportunities from open play.

Joyce has a defensive mindset and is preoccupied with stopping the opposition rather than attacking and this fear factor means his teams are unlikely to be successful in the long term.

Unless the manager is prepared to select more players in attacking positions and encourage them to get into the penalty area then they are unlikely to score enough goals to win enough games.

The manager once again used Omar Bogle as the lone striker against Birmingham and he was isolated for long periods of the game. Bogle needs support through the middle and either Grigg, if fit, or Mandron should play alongside him against Bristol.

Latics also need width and they need to select players who can go past defenders, there is no point in selecting players in wide positions if they cannot go past their opponent. Both Obertan and Jacobs can fulfil the wide roles, and get crosses into the box, if the manager gives them the license to do so.

Joyce should go for a 3-5-2 or 4-4-2 formation if he wants to win the game, as surely goals have to be the priority from now on.

This article was first published in the 12th Man column for the Wigan Evening Post on Friday 10th March 2017.

Posted in Bristol City, Championship, Omar Bogle, Warren Joyce, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Dan keeps Latics survival hopes alive – Birmingham City 0 Wigan Athletic 1

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Dan Burn scored the vital winner

Latics’ centre-back Dan Burn kept their survival hopes alive by scoring the only goal in the 1-0 victory at St Andrews.

The 6ft 7in defender was in the right place to poke home at close range in the 19th minute and was once again outstanding in Latics defensive rearguard.

Latics created the better chances in the first half and probably should have added to their lead following a series of set pieces.

However, Birmingham made it harder in the second half following the introduction of substitute striker Lukas Jutkiewicz and winger Kerim Frei. But Latics back line defended stubbornly and deserved to pick up the three points.

Latics remain in 23rd place, two points behind 21st place Wolves who have two games in hand. Birmingham remain in 17th place in the Championship table.

Warren Joyce made three changes to the team beaten 1-0 at Blackburn with the suspended Sam Morsy and the injured Shaun MacDonald and Ryan Tunnicliffe being replaced by Max Power, Alex Gilbey and Gabriel Obertan.

The manager once again used Omar Bogle as the lone striker but at least there was some width with Gabriel Obertan and Michael Jacobs in the team.

Craig Gardner had an early shot saved by Matt Gilks, but Latics started brightly and might have gone ahead on 18 minutes when a Michael Jacobs free-kick found Jake Buxton and the defender’s header was goal bound until Che Adams deflected it away.

But from the resulting corner Latics went ahead. Jamie Hanson crossed and Gabriel Obertan headed on before Dan Burn poked the ball past Tomasz Kuszczak at close range.

Latics might have added to their lead when Obertan and Bogle had shots blocked from the edge of the area and Hanson and Jacobs both wasted good free-kick opportunities.

Birmingham rarely threatened, although David Davies did connect with Cheike Keita’s left wing cross on 25 minutes but Gilks saved comfortably.

Birmingham manager Gianfranco Zola cut a frustrated figure and he made two changes at the interval in an attempt to make a breakthrough, with Jutkiewicz and Frei replacing Kieftenbeld and Dacres-Cogley.

Latics were under pressure at the beginning of the half as Zola’s substitutions seemed to be having an impact. The home team were launching long balls to Jutkiewicz who was proving to be a handful but Burn and Jake Buxton managed to contain Birmingham’s top scorer.

Josh Laurent made his Latics debut on 73 minutes replacing Obertan, then James Weir replaced Gilbey on 76 minutes.

Frei fired a free-kick over the crossbar on 79 minutes but Latics were still limiting the home team’s chances.

Birmingham lacked the creativity to breakthrough and the closest they got was when Frei blasted a shot over the crossbar from 20 yards on 89 minutes.

Despite three minutes of added time Latics survived relatively untroubled and they secured an essential victory which keeps them in touch with the teams above them.

Posted in Birmingham City, Championship, Dan Burn, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Joyce must take blame for latest defeat – Blackburn Rovers 1 Wigan Athletic 0

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Warren Joyce – out of his depth in the Championship

Latics slumped to a disappointing 1-0 defeat to Blackburn Rovers in a relegation six-pointer at Ewood Park.

Manager Warren Joyce selected another defensive line-up with five players across midfield with just one lone striker Omar Bogle and his tactics proved costly as Latics were on the back foot for most of the game.

Rovers controlled the opening half and then went ahead on 58 minutes when Marvin Emnes fired past Matt Gilks at the near post.

Latics showed some attacking intent following a double substitution on 70 minutes when Michael Jacobs and Callum Connolly were replaced by Gabriel Obertan and Will Grigg.

But they were unable to capitalise on some late pressure with Jamie Hanson slicing wide from a good position in added time.

Latics remain in 23rd position in the table, four points behind 21st placed Wolves who have two games in hand. Rovers move out of the bottom three and are now in 20th place.

Joyce made two changes to the starting line-up with Michael Jacobs returned to the team in place of Mikael Mandron and Callum Connolly replacing Max Power with Jamie Hanson moving into midfield.

Latics suffered a major setback in the first 10 minutes when Shaun MacDonald was stretchered off following a collision with Rovers Sam Gallagher.

The away team offered little going forward and seemed to be content to sit back and allow Rovers to control possession.

They did have an opportunity on 21 minutes when Michael Jacobs won the ball on the halfway line and ran at the Rovers defence but his shot went wide of the target.

Sam Morsy then had an attempt which deflected off Darragh Lenihan and went narrowly wide of Jason Steele’s right hand post.

For the most part Rovers were also limited to shots from distance until Dan Burn made a superb interception to deny an effort from Marvin Emnes.

The teams went into the interval level. Rovers were building momentum but Latics had been toothless with Bogle isolated and little support down the flanks.

Surely Joyce would make some changes at half time to rectify the obvious lack of an attacking threat?

No changes for Latics at half time and Rovers immediately threatened with a Feeney shot and a Leniham header. Connolly had a shot on 55 minutes but Steele saved and Rovers broke up the other end and went ahead through Emnes.

Emnes cutting inside, while Connolly was still trying to get back into defence, and firing past Gilks at the near post from the edge of the area.

Substitute Mahoney might have added to the lead on 63 minutes but still no changes from Joyce.

The Wigan manager recovering following an eye operation and sitting in the stand, finally came down to the technical area on 70 minutes to make a double substitution and what a farcical affair it was.

Latics had won a free-kick on the edge of the Rovers area and Bogle was about to take the free-kick but Joyce decided to substitute him at that moment.

The bemused striker ran over to the touchline but the Latics fans showed their displeasure with a cacophony of boos. Joyce changed the substitution and said he wanted to withdraw Ryan Tunnicliffe instead.

The Fulham loanee Tunnicliffe went over to the touchline but he too wasn’t withdrawn, instead it was Michael Jacobs and Callum Connolly who were replaced by Gabriel Obertan and Will Grigg. What a fiasco!

Latics started to look like an attacking force for the first time in the game. Burn had a header just wide from Jamie Hanson’s corner on 77 minutes.

Obertan was providing Latics with much needed width and the winger created a couple of good opportunities which unfortunately came to nothing.

Latics threw bodies forward, Bogle headed just over and then in the 92nd minute Hanson found space to shoot in the box but he sliced his shot well wide from a good position.

It was all too little too late. Joyce’s decision-making had once again been found wanting. The wrong team selection, tactics and farcical late substitutions had contributed to the defeat. If they continue in this way they will go down with a whimper.

It is now time for owner Dave Whelan and Chairman David Sharpe to admit that they made the wrong appointment and make a change in manager. Blackburn have given themselves a chance of survival by changing their manager and appointing Tony Mowbray.

I would not normally call for the sacking of a manager but it is evident to most Latics fans that Joyce is out of his depth at this level and it would be best for the future of the club for him to leave.

Posted in Wigan Athletic, Blackburn Rovers, Championship, Warren Joyce, Marvin Emnes | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments