Latics grind out important win in battle for survival – Wigan Athletic 1 Millwall 0

Leon Balogun Brighton loanee Leon Balogun impressed in defence. Photo courtesy of Wigan Athletic

Wigan Athletic secured a vital three points against Millwall in their battle for Championship survival.

Anthony Pilkington’s cross was turned into his own net by Shaun Hutchinson in the 57th minute and it was enough for Latics to reduce the gap to Championship safety to just two points.

In difficult conditions Latics had the greater possession and more shots but the visitors had several presentable opportunities to gain at least a point.

Latics central defenders Leon Balogun and Cedric Kipre made goal saving blocks and the Lions striker Tom Bradshaw missed a glorious chance when keeper David Marshall dropped Jed Wallace’s cross.

Latics remain in 22nd spot but are now only two points behind 21st placed Huddersfield. Millwall meanwhile drop to 11th in the table.

Paul Cook made two changes from last Saturday’s 2-2 draw at Cardiff with Michael Jacobs and Anthony Pilkington replacing Gavin Massey and Lee Evans.

The Latics manager had been banished to the stands on his birthday after a succession of touchline bookings and had to watch the game from high up in the West Stand gantry.

In difficult conditions neither team really threatened in the early stages as they cancelled each other out.

The first major incident occurred on the half hour mark as Nathan Byrne fouled Ryan Woods on the edge of the area and despite the Millwall players appeals for a penalty referee Jeremy Simpson awarded a free kick.

Jed Wallace’s resulting effort was comfortably saved by keeper Marshall.

Both teams struggled to create chances in an uninspiring first half, all level at the interval.

Millwall had a great opportunity to go ahead early in the second-half when Marshall spilled a cross from the right and Bradshaw was on hand but he somehow failed to hit the target from close range.

At the other end Latics threatened when Pilkington’s shot was deflected narrowly wide of Bartosz Bialkowski’s right-hand post.

This was the catalyst for further Latics pressure and they went ahead on the hour mark after good play by Jamal Lowe down the right hand side, he cut the ball back to Pilkington, who saw his effort deflected into his own net by Hutchinson.

Soon afterwards Pilkington forced an excellent full-length save from Bialkowski with an audacious 35-yard free-kick. From the resulting corner Balogun volleyed just wide of the target.

The Lions tried to respond and Mahlon Romeo’s cross from the right found Bradshaw but the striker headed wide.

Latics then had a great chance to increase their lead as Pilkington found Samy Morsy in the area but the captain’s shot was just over the Millwall crossbar.

As the game moved towards the final whistle Latics retreated into defence under pressure from the visitors. Millwall substitute Mason Bennett had a great chance to level but he fired wide from the edge of the area.

On the counter-attack Moore then had a chance to seal the points but dragged his left foot effort wide of goal.

Bennett missed another opportunity just before the final whistle as Latics held on for an important three points in their battle for survival.

Latics are now showing good form with 11 points from a possible 18 in the last six games.

They look much stronger with Kipre and Balogun in the centre of defence and the midfield is as combative as any in the division.

Nigerian international Balogun has brought a calmness to Latics’ defence which augurs well for the run-in but they are the joint lowest scorers in the division and they will need the strikers to start finding the net if they are to stay up.

Posted in Championship, Leon Balogun, Millwall, Shaun Henderson, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Mighty congested at the bottom of the Championship – Cardiff City 2 Wigan Athletic 2

Kieffer Moore Kieffer Moore grabbed a brace

Latics picked up a vital point in their battle for Championship survival with a 2-2 draw against promotion chasing Cardiff City.

Goals by Wales International Kieffer Moore had twice given Latics the lead but they were pegged back by a Josh Murphy strike and a Kal Naismith own goal.

In difficult conditions both teams created plenty of chances and the hosts had a late goal ruled out for a foul on David Marshall by Lee Tomlin.

Latics remain in 22nd spot three points behind Stoke City but the results on the day meant the bottom of the Championship table is becoming congested with seven teams only separated by nine points.

Paul Cook made four changes following the 2-2 draw with Middlesbrough with Brighton loanee Leon Balogun replacing the suspended Chey Dunkley, and Lee Evans, Gavin Massey and Jamal Lowe coming into the starting 11.

In very windy conditions Latics started strongly and were ahead after only five minutes. Joe Williams played a short corner to Samy Morsy, who found Moore in the box and the big striker produced an instinctive flick past Alex Smithies for 1-0.

Cardiff responded almost immediately from a set-piece routine as Will Vaulks long throw was headed on by Sean Morrison and Josh Murphy rifled home the equaliser.

Marshall was in fine form to deny his former club making important saves from Tomlin and Vaulks free-kicks and Albert Adomah’s close range effort.

The hosts main threat though came from set-pieces and Vaulks’s throw ins and Morrison’s aerial presence proved to be a regular problem for the Latics defence.

On the stroke of half-time Latics went back in front. Morsy teed up Williams on the edge of the box and the midfielder’s strike was blocked by the arm of Curtis Nelson and referee John Brooks awarded a penalty.

Moore stepped up and confidently converted the spot kick sending Smithies the wrong way to make it 2-1.

Early in the second half Cardiff were back level. Marlon Pack’s strike from the edge of the box appeared to be going wide but Naismith couldn’t get out of the way and the ball unfortunately diverted into Latics’ net.

Cook replaced Lee Evans and Gavin Massey with  Joe Gelhardt and Anthony Pilkington on 65 minutes and they soon linked up well to create an opportunity for Naismith but the defender’s shot was denied by Smithies from a tight angle.

Cardiff continued to pump high balls into the Latics box but the defence held firm with Balogun having a steady debut ably abetted by Cedric Kipre.

With 94 minutes on the clock Latics had a huge scare however as Morrison bundled the ball over the line, for a second it looked as though the referee had awarded the goal but he actually signalled that it had been disallowed as Tomlin had fouled Marshall on the line.

A good result and performance by Latics against a Cardiff team in fine form and pushing for the play-offs.

Striker Moore is now showing his real capabilities and starting to find the net after a difficult initial period.

The Latics defence is looking more resolute and strengthened by the addition of Nigeria international Balogun and the midfield continues to be combative with the excellent Morsy in charge.

The teams below Latics in the table, Barnsley and Luton both won, but the teams above them fared less well with Stoke, Charlton and Middlesbrough all losing and Huddersfield drawing.

The battle at the bottom is getting increasingly congested and Latics will be pleased to see that more teams are now becoming embroiled in the struggle. In the unpredictable Championship the fight for survival is certainly hotting up.

Posted in Cardiff City, Championship, Josh Murphy, Kal Naismith, Kieffer Moore, Leon Balogun, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Topsy turvy ‘tics – Wigan Athletic 2 Middlesbrough 2

Samy Morsy Samy Morsy

Continue reading

Posted in Championship, Harold Moukoudi, Lewis Wing, Middlesbrough, Sam Morsy, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Latics outgunned by playoff hopefuls – Wigan Athletic 1 Preston North End 2

Chey Dunkley Chey Dunkley

Latics’ recent run of good form came to an end against playoff hopefuls Preston with a 2-1 defeat at the DW Stadium.

The visitors started brightly and were ahead after only seven minutes when Tom Barkhuizen converted Daniel Johnson’s cross.

Preston could’ve gone further in front as Sean Maguire forced a superb fingertip save from David Marshall and Scott Sinclair fired wide from a good position.

But soon after the interval the visitors doubled their lead when Barkhuizen’s cut back was turned home by Johnson.

Latics rallied when substitute Joe Gelhardt was introduced and the young England star was instrumental in Latics’ goal crossing for Chey Dunkley to force the ball home at close range.

The hosts pressed hard for the equaliser but they just didn’t have enough fire power to unlock a resolute Preston defence.

Latics remain in the bottom three and four points from safety while PNE move up to sixth in the Championship table.

Paul Cook made one change from the win against Leeds United with Jamal Lowe replacing Gavin Massey. Surprisingly Tom Pearce continued at left back and AC Milan transfer target Antonee Robinson wasn’t even on the bench. 

Latics had an early chance when Jamal Lowe got in behind the Preston defence but his effort was tipped around the post by Declan Rudd.

PNE came forward strongly and were ahead on seven minutes as Johnson crossed for Barkhuizen to finish at the back post.

The visitors could’ve doubled their lead on 14 minutes but Marshall produced a superb fingertip save from Sean Maguire’s header. Sinclair then had a glorious chance but he fired wide of the target much to Latics’ relief.

Latics tried to gain a foothold in the game and a succession of deliveries into the box presented opportunities for Dunkley and Kieffer Moore, but neither attempt troubled Rudd.

Dunkley then headed a Lee Evans cross narrowly over the bar on 21 minutes.

Moore had another chance but this time his goalbound strike deflected wide.

Latics final opportunity to level in the first half came with Joe Williams in a good position but his tame effort was easily saved by Rudd.

Latics began the second half disastrously as Lowe easily conceded possession high up the pitch and they were punished as Barkhuizen squared the ball for Johnson to convert.

An uphill struggle for Latics now, so Cook made a double change introducing Joe Gelhardt and Michael Jacobs.

Gelhardt immediately made an impact as his cross was smashed home by Dunkley at close range.

Cook’s reluctance to start Gelhardt continues to frustrate Latics’ fans as the 17 year-old striker continues to impress when he’s on the pitch and is their most dangerous attacker.

In fact it was Gelhardt who almost got a leveller when his 35-yard strike was well saved by Rudd low down at his near post.

But despite their late dominance and six minutes of added time Latics were unable to get an equaliser against a Preston team who look like a good bet for the playoffs.

Cook should rue his decision to go with three centre backs at home and to leave their most consistent player Robinson out of the team. Lowe had another frustrating game and it is remarkable that the manager continues to select him. Gelhardt’s absence from the starting eleven also continues to be a mystery.

Surely the manager will make the necessary changes for the Middlesbrough game on Tuesday night, reverting to a back four and selecting both Robinson and Gelhardt.

 

Posted in Championship, Chey Dunkley, Daniel Johnson, Joe Gelhardt, Paul Cook, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lightning strikes twice as Latics topple Leeds again – Leeds United 0 Wigan Athletic 1

Joe Williams
Joe Williams

For the second season running Latics stunned Leeds United at Elland Road in the process knocking them off the top of the table.

Latics went ahead on 59 minutes when Joe Williams corner deflected off Pablo Hernandez and looped over Kiko Casilla and into the net.

The Championship leaders dominated possession and created plenty of chances but a combination of some excellent defending and poor finishing gave Latics a vital three points in their quest for survival.

Latics remain in 22nd spot but are now just two points from safety and Leeds drop to second place in the table.

Paul Cook made four changes to the starting line up with full back Tom Pearce making his debut in the league and Chey Dunkley coming into a five man backline.

Williams replaced the injured Kieran Dowell and Gavin Massey replaced Jamal Lowe.

Leeds opened strongly and David Marshall had to deny Helder Costa’s shot after five minutes.

Latics were on the back foot and Patrick Bamford struck an effort over the bar before Jack Harrison’s low shot struck the foot of the post.

Latics weathered the early storm and gradually grew into the game.

Captain Samy Morsy nearly gave the visitors the lead when his powerful shot from distance was parried away by Casilla.

Leeds were still creating chances and Harrison had the best chance when he went around Marshall but struck the ball into the side netting.

The former Leeds defender Pearce was getting forward to good effect and when he beat Costa to the byline he was brought down just outside of the area. Williams disappointingly fired the resulting free kick into the side netting.

All level at the interval but the hosts started the second half as they had done in the first. 

Cedric Kipre continued to be outstanding in the air as Leeds bombarded the Latics defence with crosses from the wings.

Leeds attacked in waves and forced a succession of corners but Latics held firm.

The visitors determination to was to prove crucial when they went ahead in the 59th minute.

Williams’ corner deflected off Hernandez and looped over Leeds Casilla and into the net. A little lucky perhaps but no more than they deserved for their efforts.

It could have been 2-0 soon afterwards but Morsy was again denied from distance by another Casilla save.

Bielsa’s men drove forward again but Kal Naismith was on hand to deny Bamford with a vital goal line clearance.

Latics then had a glorious opportunity to double their lead. Pearce burst forward from his own half and was through on goal but was denied by a last-ditch challenge just inside the box.

Latics would have to endure a late onslaught as Leeds desperately tried to rescue the game.

Kipre was resolute and the big 23-year-old Ivorian defender won every important challenge in the box.

With Marshall beaten the former Motherwell man provided the final crucial intervention clearing off the line to ensure another remarkable result at Elland Road.

Leeds will inevitably be wondering if their season will once again end in disappointment with Latics as the catalyst for decline.

Huge celebrations at the end as Latics recorded back to back wins for the first time this season. The result will be a big confidence booster for the rest of the season.

The Championship table is looking much better for Latics who are now only two points behind 21st placed Stoke City and three points behind 20th placed Huddersfield.

Latics next face a difficult test against local rivals Preston but the fighting spirit is evident amongst the players and the prospect of survival is a real one.

Posted in Cedric Kipre, Championship, Joe Williams, Leeds United, Pedro Hernandez, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lowe’s late winner lifts Latics’ spirits – Wigan Athletic 2 Sheffield Wednesday 1

Jamal Lowe Jamal Lowe. Photo courtesy of Wigan Athletic

A rare goal by Jamal Lowe gave Latics a desperately needed victory against Sheffield Wednesday at the DW Stadium.

The visitors had gone ahead in the first half when Jacob Murphy headed home Morgan Fox’s pinpoint cross.

Kieffer Moore equalised early in the second half after a defence splitting pass from the excellent Samy Morsy.

But despite Latics’ dominance the match looked to be heading towards a draw until Lowe’s stunning winner in stoppage time.

Lowe produced a deft back header over keeper Cameron Dawson from Joe Garner’s flick-on following Joe Williams cross to lift the home team’s spirits.

Latics move up to third bottom in the Championship table, four points from safety, while Wednesday drop to 11th place.

Paul Cook made two changes to the team defeated against Swansea City with Joe Gelhardt finally getting a start and Moore coming in for Joe Williams and Joe Garner.

It was a hard fought opening period as both teams battled to take control. Latics first real opportunity came when Antonee Robinson was played into the box but fired over from a good position.

At the other end, the Owls had a chance as Murphy went in behind the Latics defence but he fired wide of the target.

Soon afterwards the visitors were ahead as Barry Bannon played a great pass to Fox on the wing and his perfect cross found Murphy on the edge of the six yard box and the Newcastle United loanee headed past David Marshall.

Latics responded and Morsy’s powerful effort from 35-yards was well pushed away by Dawson.

But the visitors were ahead at the interval and Latics would need to up their game in the second half if they were to get anything from the game.

Latics started strongly and were level on 56 minutes, Morsy played a superb through ball to Moore in the Wednesday penalty area and the big striker scored his third goal of the season.

On 66 minutes Latics suffered a big blow when Everton loanee Kieran Dowell was injured and stretchered off.

Despite the setback Latics upped their game with the diminutive Morsy driving the team forward and consistently winning challenges against the 6ft 5in Owls striker Atdhe Nuhiu.

Cedric Kipre had a great chance to put Latics ahead following a corner but he couldn’t get enough power in his shot and Dawson saved easily.

Latics pressure mounted and Jacobs had a chance from a Lowe pull back and Moore headed narrowly wide at the back post from a Lee Evans cross.

Wednesday couldn’t get out of their half as Latics went in search of the winner.

Lowe crossed again for Moore but the big Wales international couldn’t quite make it count at the back post.

Just when it looked like Latics would be thwarted in their attempts Lowe got the vital winner.

Substitute Williams launched a deep ball to fellow substitute Garner who headed onwards to Lowe who deftly guided the ball over Dawson with a back header.

It was no more than Latics deserved for their second half performance and it was a crucial result as fellow strugglers Luton and Huddersfield both won on the night.

Whether Latics have turned a corner remains to be seen. The gap between Latics and fourth bottom Charlton is now four points but they have difficult fixtures against Leeds (A) and Preston (H) upcoming.

Posted in Championship, Jacob Murphy, Jamal Lowe, Kieffer Moore, Samy Morsy, Sheffield Wednesday, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sleepwalking towards relegation – Swansea City 2 Wigan Athletic 1

Nathan Byrne

Nathan Byrne. Photo courtesy of Wigan Athletic

Latics slumped to a 2-1 defeat at Swansea City and slipped deeper into relegation trouble.

Paul Cook’s team have won only once in the last 17 games and the club seems to be sleepwalking towards League One after another toothless display.

Nathan Byrne had given Latics an early lead at the Liberty Stadium but goals from Liverpool loanee Rhian Brewster and Andre Ayew had ensured that the Swans got a deserved victory.

Latics remain second bottom in the Championship table, two points from safety, while Swansea move up to fifth.

Latics made one change from the team beaten by Bristol City with Joe Garner replacing Josh Windass. Kieffer Moore returned to the bench, but Joe Gelhardt was absent due to illness.

The hosts started the stronger but Latics had an early opportunity when Kieran Dowell crossed for Joe Williams, but the midfielder headed over the crossbar.

On 17 minutes Latics were ahead from a counter attack with Antonee Robinson combining well with Dowell, who pulled the ball back for Byrne, who slotted home past Woodman.

But the Swans were level almost immediately as Kal Naismith gave the ball away in defence and Conor Gallagher set up Brewster who finished past David Marshall.

Ten minutes later the Swans had a chance to go ahead when Connor Roberts squared for Gallagher, but the midfielder fired over the crossbar.

Early in the second half Dowell provided an opportunity for Robinson but the full back’s effort was cleared by Ben Wilmot.

Robinson then provided an inviting cross for Garner to restore Latics’ lead but the striker wasted the opportunity heading just over.

Just before half-time, the Swans nearly went in front as Bersant Celina escaped Byrne on the left and beat Marshall but Naismith was luckily on hand to clear the ball from going over the line.

Then in first half stoppage time the hosts missed another great opportunity as Ayew headed wide with the goal at his mercy.

In the second-half Latics continued to be on the back foot as the Swans threatened.

Brewster saw an effort blocked by Kipre before Kyle Naughton had an effort deflected just wide.

With just over 20 minutes remaining Swansea deservedly went ahead as Celina crossed for Ayew to convert at the near post.

Dowell was once again Latics’ most creative player and he created a chance for substitute Moore but the striker headed back across goal and the ball was cleared.

Celina then had a great chance to seal victory for the Swans but he dragged his effort wide.

In stoppage time Latics had a great chance to steal a point as Moore broke clear for a one on one with Woodman but the Wales striker’s tame effort was easily saved by the Swans keeper.

Latics dreadful run of form continues and the prospect of relegation gets ever nearer.

The Latics board should have made a change in manager prior to Christmas to address the decline but their reluctance to sack Cook has only led to further defeats.

As it now seems that Cook will be in charge for the foreseeable future, we can only hope for a radical rethink from the manager if Latics are to escape the drop.

The manager must review his current tactics, team selections and produce a strategy for survival plus the board must act ambitiously in the transfer window.

An experienced striker is a clear priority as well as additional defensive cover.

It is still possible for Latics to escape relegation but it can only come from a radical change in approach from Cook and some key additions to the team.

Posted in Andre Ayew, Championship, Nathan Byrne, Paul Cook, Rhian Brewster, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment