Latics and Potters play out dour draw – Wigan Athletic 0 Stoke City 0

Jamie Jones

Latics’ Man of the Match Jamie Jones

On a night when there was a minute’s applause to celebrate the life of former Stoke City and England goalkeeper Gordon Banks neither side showed Banks’s quality on the pitch in a dour goalless draw.

Michael Jacobs had a couple of early chances for Latics but failed to capitalise and the Potters went close when Joe Allen had a shot deflected onto the post and a Sam Clucas free-kick forced a superb full-length save from Jamie Jones.

In the second half Reece James’ dipping drive produced a good save from Jack Butland but Stoke had plenty of chances to take all three points with Tom Ince twice and James McClean wasteful in front of goal.

Latics remain in 19 place and six points above the drop zone, Stoke remain in 17th spot and 11 points above the bottom three.

Paul Cook made two changes to the team which drew at Rotherham with captain Samy Morsy and defender Cedric Kipre coming in for Beni Baningime and the injured Danny Fox.

Latics made the early running and had a very good opportunity when Nathan Byrne crossed for Jacobs but the winger fired wide of the target from a good position.

Jacobs then broke clear of the Potters defence but was denied by keeper Jack Butland, who made a good save at his near post.

Chey Dunkley rose high above the Stoke defence from a Reece James corner but couldn’t get his header on target.

However, Stoke started to create opportunities at the other end and Jamie Jones made a superb full length save from a Clucas free-kick.

The visitors might have gone ahead before the interval when Ince broke clear and crossed for Allen but the Welsh midfielder’s shot was deflected by Cedric Kipre onto the post.

The second half was predominantly Stoke’s as the hosts were pushed back into defence.

Latics briefly threatened when James’ 25-yard dipping drive forced a good save from Butland.

Ince twice found himself in good positions but blazed off target and the best chance of the game fell to substitute McClean who was one-on-one with Jones but fired into the side netting from eight yards out.

A rare Latics attack saw a Kal Naismith’s force another good save by Butland at his near post but Stoke continued to press for the winner.

A combination of some poor Stoke finishing, good defending and a little luck had enabled Latics to hold out for a point in their quest to stay in the Championship.

Disappointingly there were only 9,914 supporters at the DW stadium last night with 1,179 Stoke fans. Previously a Championship game between these two teams would have attracted a much higher attendance but the cheaper option of watching from home is now proving to be the easy alternative to attending a live match.

Championship clubs have been offered additional cash to televise the games but it is clearly having a detrimental effect on the live atmosphere. The long-term worry is that existing supporters will no longer attend the games and we will lose future generations of fans who will prefer to watch from their homes.

The clubs now have a big decision to make about the future wellbeing of the game or short-term financial gains.

 

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Latics maintain the gap – Rotherham United 1 Wigan Athletic 1

Josh W

Josh Windass on target

Wigan Athletic maintained the six-point gap between themselves and fourth-bottom Rotherham United with a hard fought 1-1 draw at the New York Stadium.

Latics lost new signing and acting captain Danny Fox after 25 minutes with a head injury and the Millers went ahead after 28 minutes with a Clark Robertson header from a Will Vaulks’ cross.

But they soon drew level when Josh Windass was played through by Nathan Byrne and the former Rangers striker produced a quality finish.

The Millers aerial bombardment caused Latics’ defence lots of problems but the longer the game went on it looked like the visitors might snatch a rare away victory.

Latics remain in 19th spot seven-points above the Championship drop zone while Rotherham are in 21st place just one-point above the bottom three.

Manager Paul Cook had to make some late changes to his squad at the New York Stadium with midfielder Lee Evans taken ill and Nick Powell leaving to attend the birth of his second child. Chey Dunkley came in to replace Cedric Kipre in defence and Everton loanee Beni Baningime made his debut in place of Evans in midfield.

Prior to the kick off it was clear what Paul Warne’s team’s tactics would be and this was certainly evident in the early exchanges. The Millers direct approach is well known and they are hard to beat, particularly at home where have only lost four this season.

Every set-piece and throw-in is well rehearsed and the high balls into the penalty area caused Latics all sorts of defensive problems.

The visitors prospects were furthered hampered when after 25 minutes central defender Danny Fox was knocked unconscious and had to leave the field. Fox was replaced by Kipre and shortly afterwards the hosts went ahead from a cross by Vaulks which was headed home by Robertson.

But it was not long before Latics drew level when Byrne provided an incisive pass and Windass produced an excellent low finish past Marek Rodak.

Reece James curled a free-kick from 25 yards into the hands of Rodak before the Millers had a glorious opportunity to go ahead when Richard Wood headed across goal but Michael Smith somehow missed the target from six yards out.

Smith then had another opportunity with a looping header but this was well tipped over by Jamie Jones.

Latics were somewhat lucky to go into the interval level after the Millers had put them under such an aerial assault. They showed a much improved performance in the second half but not before Semi Ajayi had headed wide for the Millers from another Vaulks throw-in.

Latics had an opportunity on the hour mark when Pilkington tried to get on the end of Kal Naismith’s cross but he was denied by Joe Mattock’s challenge.

Leon Clarke forced another save from Rodak with a header from a Pilkington cross and Windass dragged a shot wide from a Kipre cross.

The Millers chances were now decreasing but Naismith had to clear an Ajayi header off the line from another Vaulks long-throw.

The visitors had chances through Kipre and Dunkley but both headed off target and a draw was probably a fair result in the end.

After an indifferent start to his Latics career Josh Windass has now scored three goals in his last three games and if he can continue to hit the back of the net he will begin to justify the £2m that the club splashed out for him in the summer.

Latics had backed up the home victory against QPR with an important away point and they will now want to maintain their good home form against Stoke City on Wednesday night.

They will also be looking to emulate their most impressive performance of the season when they defeated the Potters 3-0 at the bet365 Stadium in August.

With Nick Powell and Gavin Massey returning from injury and available for selection it will be interesting to see if they are given a starting place at the DW Stadium.

 

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An emotional week but Latics ease relegation pressure and edge past QPR – Wigan Athletic 2 – Queens Park Rangers 1

 Leon Clarke

New loan striker Leon Clarke on target for Latics

Wigan Athletic lost fans’ favourite Will Grigg late in the transfer window but moved seven points clear of the relegation zone after a hard fought victory against QPR at the DW Stadium.

Josh Windass put Latics ahead from a flick on from new loan signing Leon Clarke after eight minutes and Clarke added a second from close range early in the second half.

Rangers got back in the game with a deflected goal from Bright Osayi-Samuel with 15 minutes remaining.

The visitors nearly snatched an equaliser when Toni Leistner crashed his shot against the crossbar and they also had appeals for a penalty turned down in added time.

After a hectic transfer deadline day Paul Cook made four changes to his last line-up with  with new signings Danny Fox, Clarke and Anthony Pilkington straight into the team and Lee Evans returning in midfield.

Reece James moved into midfield for the suspended Samy Morsy and Nathan Byrne slotted in at right back in his place.

Rangers had an early chance to take the lead when Jamie Jones was unable to hold onto a long-range effort from Nahki Wells but Jones managed to save at the second attempt as Luke Freeman looked set to score.

The save proved vital as Latics went route one for the opening goal on eight minutes. Jones’ long kick was flicked on by Clarke and Windass’ low strike found the bottom corner of the net.

Rangers responded well and nearly drew level when Wells was one-on-one with Jones but the keeper produced a courageous save to deny the former Huddersfield striker.

The visitors continued to threaten and Kal Naismith headed off the line from Toni Leistner’s header.

Latics had ridden their luck and were grateful for Jones’ heroics to be ahead the interval.

Joe Lumley denied Latics a second goal early in the second half, diving to his left to keep out a low drive from Michael Jacobs.

But Latics doubled their lead on 55 minutes when Jacobs’ cross was deflected into the path of Clarke who finished from close range.

The hosts now looked comfortable and in control of the game with Man of the Match Reece James excelling in his new midfield role.

The Chelsea loanee exuded Premier League quality with his skill, strength and technique. Latics’ best piece of transfer business this season has been signing the 19-year-old England U20 international on a season long loan.

Rangers were given a lifeline with 15 minutes remaining when Osayi-Samuel’s deflected shot wrong-footed Jones.

Rangers pressed forward in search of the equaliser and Latics dropped deeper into defence.

The introduction of substitute Matt Smith was causing Latics all sorts of problems. Fox was withdrawn and replaced by the taller Chey Dunkley but the hosts just couldn’t cope with Smith’s aerial presence.

Leistner crashed a shot against the crossbar and Smith headed over from Wells’ cross as Latics were under the cosh.

In added time Ryan Manning’s shot from the edge of the area appeared to hit Jacobs’ hand but referee Scott Duncan waved away Rangers’ appeals and Latics held on for a vital three points.

It’s been a difficult week for Latics’ fans with the departure of talisman Will Grigg to Sunderland and a victory was essential to keep the fanbase on side. Latics must now show that they are making progress and address their poor away form starting at Rotherham next week.

Posted in Bright Osayi-Samuel, Championship, Josh Windass, Leon Clarke, QPR, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Huge disappointment as Grigg is allowed to leave Latics

Will Grigg Wigan Athletic

Will Grigg

Transfer deadline day left Wigan Athletic fans hugely disappointed when their talisman striker Will Grigg was sold to Sunderland for a fee in the region of £4m. 

It was surely Latics’ worst decision of recent times that they allowed their top striker to leave without a suitable replacement.

Grigg was the fans’ favourite and has been Latics’ most prolific goalscorer in recent times with 65 goals in 150 appearances. He helped the club to two promotions from League One and a famous FA Cup run last season when he scored seven goals including a match winning strike against Premier League Champions Manchester City.

The rumours that Paul Cook and the board wanted to move Grigg on have unfortunately proved to be accurate.

Cook’s reluctance to play the Irishman have resulted in the use of long ball tactics and it looks as though this approach will now continue with the signing of big target man Leon Clarke.

Clarke has been recruited on loan from Sheffield United until the end of the season despite only scoring one goal during his previous loan spell in the 2014/15 season which ended in Latics’ relegation.

Cook and the new owners the International Entertainment Corporation (IEC) are likely to face a considerable backlash from the fans’ for allowing Grigg to leave at this crucial stage in the season.

Manager Cook and Directors Darren and Joe Royle have demonstrated poor judgement and a lack of ambition. Loan players and free transfers are unlikely to advance Latics’ cause and the prospect of another relegation back to League One could now be on the cards.

It will be interesting to see if the Fans Forum scheduled for next Wednesday goes ahead and if so what the supporters reaction will be. Presumably the club will be offering replacement shirts to everyone who bought a Will Grigg shirt?

The new board has not made an auspicious start to their tenure with their limited investment and allowing the fans’ favourite to leave. It it now likely that attendances will be affected with the club perilously close to the Championship relegation zone.

It is hard not to consider the transfer of Grigg as an act of self-harm by the club and that there will be an inevitable backlash from the fanbase.

 

 

 

Posted in Anthony Pilkington, Championship, Danny Fox, International Entertainment Corporation, Leon Clarke, Paul Cook, Wigan Athletic, Will Grigg | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Fine Forest finishing condemns Latics to another away defeat – Nottingham Forest 3 Wigan Athletic 1

forest away

The City Ground

Despite matching Nottingham Forest for long periods Latics crashed to another away defeat at the City Ground.

This was an improved performance on last week’s defeat at Sheffield Wednesday but Latics’ failure to capitalise on their chances and some clinical finishing by Forest contributed to their downfall.

Forest went ahead after 19 minutes when Joe Lolley unleashed an unstoppable drive past Jamie Jones into the far corner of the net.

Latics drew level on 33 minutes when Costel Pantilimon failed to keep out Josh Windass’s 25 yard strike.

In an even second half it was the quality of Forest’s finishing that swung the game in their favour.

Matty Cash restored the hosts lead on 48 minutes when he produced a quality finish from the edge of the area and Adlene Guedioura sealed the three points with another unstoppable finish from 20 yards on 80 minutes.

Latics had created many good goalscoring opportunities during the game but their failure to be clinical was typified by substitute Joe Garner’s inability to beat Pantilimon with a late penalty kick.

Paul Cook made four changes to the team which was defeated by Sheffield Wednesday with Darron Gibson, Nathan Byrne, Michael Jacobs and James Vaughan replacing Lee Evans, Anthony Pilkington, Gary Roberts and Joe Garner.

Latics started brightly but with Forest’s first shot on target they went ahead when Lolley struck from 25 yards.

Latics were soon creating chances however and Kal Naismith had a free-kick tipped over by Costel Pantilimon and Cedric Kipre fired over Reece James’ corner.

Nathan Byrne might have done better when he headed over a Windass cross at the near post and soon afterwards Latics drew level when Windass’ strike from 25 yards evaded Pantilimon.

All square at the break but Forest went back in front early in the second half when Cash was able to turn Naismith on the corner of the 18 yard box and produce a superb strike past Jones.

Latics then had a glorious opportunity to draw level when Vaughan found himself unmarked but he somehow failed to connect cleanly with the ball and although Kipre was following up the big defender was denied at close range by Pantilimon.

The visitors continued to press forward in search of the equaliser and Jacobs curled an effort narrowly wide of the far post.

Gibson drove straight at Pantilimon from a good position and it appeared only a matter of time before they would be level.

But on 80 minutes Forest increased their lead with another clinical finish this time from Guedioura.

James then struck the angle of post and crossbar with a 25-yard free-kick before Windass was brought down in the area but Garner failed to convert the spot kick.

In added time Garner raced clear of his marker but once again failed to make the opportunity count as Pantilimon saved easily.

Yet another away defeat but it was an improved performance from the previous week. This time it was Latics’ inability to convert their chances and Forest’s clinical finishing that had been the crucial difference.

Paul Cook’s options continue to be limited by the injuries to Nick Powell, Will Grigg, Gavin Massey and Anthony Pilkington but the forthcoming transfer window could well decide the manager’s future.

Some fans are turning against Cook after a 13 game winless away run and if their most prolific goalscorer and fans favourite Will Grigg is allowed to leave the club it will be regarded as an act of self-harm and inevitably produce a backlash.

Latics need goals if they are to survive in the Championship and selling your best striker is definitely not the way to go about it.

Posted in Adlene Guedioura, Arlene Guediora, Championship, Joe Lolley, Josh Windass, Nottingham Forest, Paul Cook, Wigan Athletic, Will Grigg | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Review: Going to the Match – The Passion for Football by Duncan Hamilton

Lowry, Laurence Stephen, 1887-1976; Going to the Match

L.S. Lowry’s Going to the Match

Duncan Hamilton’s latest book is inspired by L.S. Lowry’s famously evocative painting ‘Going to the Match’. The artist painted the supporters approaching Bolton Wanderers’ Burnden Park in 1953 and Hamilton uses the painting as his starting point.

It is an enjoyable read as Hamilton travels as a fan to games throughout the 2017/18 season taking in matches from all levels of the football hierarchy across England, Scotland and Europe.

Going to watch a live football match is a common occurrence for many of us but Hamilton brings plenty of fresh observations and insights as well as reinforcing some commonly held views.

He cleverly interweaves his contemporary match day experiences with his football memories of yesteryear.

Current heroes Harry Kane, Mo Salah, Kevin De Bruyne and Paul Pogba are presented alongside footballing heroes of a bygone age, Sir Stanley Matthews, Jimmy Greaves, Bobby Charlton and Pele. He also assesses the managerial greats from Brian Clough and Jose Mourinho to Arsene Wenger and Gareth Southgate.

Hamilton has a researchers eye for the telling anecdote, for example, recounting how in 1928 the cartoonist of All Sports Weekly got it absolutely right when he predicted the ‘Armchair Football fan’.

It was an amazingly accurate stab in the dark but Hamilton says we now wait for technology to constantly amaze us, and so we are seldom thunderstruck when it does.

The author has twice won the William Hill Sports Book of the Year and spent his early years as local journalist chronicling the achievements of the European Cup winning Nottingham Forest team which provided him with the material for his memoir entitled “Provided you Don’t Kiss Me: 20 Years with Brian Clough”.

Hamilton has strong memories of his time reporting when Clough was in charge of Forest. He also notes tellingly that they have appointed 20 successors to Clough in less than 25 years with little success.

For those unaware he informs us about Goal! The official film of the 1966 World Cup is an under appreciated gem – a kind of Citizen Kane of football movies. He says it tells the story of the tournament in the same way that Dickens or Tolstoy wrote novels.

Hamilton himself constructs some superb passages, for example, describing how a small publishing industry has grown up around football tactics but that the peerless Brazil 1970 World Cup winning team transcends all that analysis.

The tactics publishing industry is compared to how some victuallers speak of wine, the language becoming eruditely elitist.

‘But sometimes you don’t want to know how a wine is made…….You just want to get it down your neck and savour the taste of it, gorgeously, on your tongue. Watching Brazil in Mexico (1970) is the equivalent of that. Who cares about formations? The team moved instinctively and seamlessly from one to another, sometimes swapping from 4-4-2 to 3-3-4 in one fluid movement just because it could. No rearguard could have stopped them unless the rival manager had sneaked a couple of extra players on the pitch. Suppose you could have scored six goals against them? Brazil would have scored eight or nine in reply….’

At the end of his journey Hamilton returns to Bolton, the site of the old Burnden Park and Lowry’s painting and to the final game of the 2017/18 Championship season at the Macron Stadium.

Incredibly Bolton manage to pull off a great escape snatching victory from the jaws of defeat against Nottingham Forest and thereby retaining their Championship status.

Going to the Match is an entertaining journey through the football landscape from an accomplished writer but it is Hamilton’s passion for his subject that makes it extra special and really worth reading.

Going to the Match – The Passion for Football by Duncan Hamilton. Published by Hodder and Stoughton. Price £25. 

This review first appeared in the January/February 2019 edition of Late Tackle magazine.

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Another dire away day for Latics – Sheffield Wednesday 1 Wigan Athletic 0

The Hillsborough Clock

The Hillsborough Clock by Daniel Bagshaw

Latics’ abysmal away form continued with a 1-0 defeat at Sheffield Wednesday. They are now winless in their last 12 away games and they never looked likely to end the run with another poor away performance at Hillsborough.

The visitors rarely threatened to score and Wednesday would have won by a much greater margin if it wasn’t for the heroics of centre backs Cedric Kipre and Chey Dunkley and goalkeeper Jamie Jones.

The hosts went ahead after 62 minutes with a superb curled strike from 25 yards by Steven Fletcher and they should have added to their lead but for some last ditch defending and profligate finishing.

Latics drop a place to 20th in the Championship table while Wednesday remain in 16th.

Paul Cook’s team were unchanged from last week’s victory against Aston Villa and there was optimism that they could improve on their poor away form.

Latics started slowly and the Owls exerted some early pressure with Fletcher seeing a shot deflected wide off Dunkley before the defender denied Adam Reach a goal-scoring opportunity.

Fletcher was causing Latics plenty of problems winning most of the aerial duals and he forced a good save from Jamie Jones with a low drive on 26 minutes.

Latics responded with Josh Windass having an effort from distance deflected wide of the target and from the resulting corner Anthony Pilkington’s flick on found Joe Garner but the striker couldn’t make a proper contact from close range.

Despite Fletcher’s aerial dominance Latics’ defensive partnership of Dunkley and Kipre were getting in some important challenges and Kipre came to the rescue with a last-ditch challenge on Fletcher just before the interval.

In the second-half the Owls gradually took control of the game as Latics looked increasingly off the pace and lacking in creativity.

Barry Bannan was starting to pull the strings for Wednesday and Fletcher continued to pose a threat. Michael Hector blazed over the crossbar from a good position and Reach saw another shot blocked by the excellent Dunkley.

But the hosts were now exerting more pressure and it was perhaps inevitable that Wednesday’s best player would give them the lead.

Fletcher was given plenty of time and space in the Latics half and he curled a superb strike from 25 yards into the bottom corner of the net.

The expected response from Latics didn’t materialise as they continued to toil with little purpose. Wednesday continued to dominate and they should have added to their lead but for some timely blocks from Latics’ back line.

It was a particularly dispiriting performance by Latics after such a positive display last week against Aston Villa. They hardly mustered a shot in the second half at Hillsborough and the manner of the defeat must be worrying for the manager.

Energy levels were low and creativity was almost non-existent. The hapless display was furthered exacerbated by ankle injuries to both Anthony Pilkington and substitute Will Grigg.

Cook quickly needs to address the away form if Latics are to maintain their Championship status and he must be desperately hoping that Nick Powell will be available for selection very soon.

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