Latics edged out in seven-goal thriller – Nottingham Forest 4 Wigan Athletic 3

Will Grigg Wigan Athletic

Will Grigg grabbed a brace

Thomas Lam scored a 93rd-minute winner to break Latics’ hearts at the City Ground in a rollercoaster match that featured seven-goals and a penalty save.

Britt Assombalonga opened the scoring for Forest after a poor back pass by Dan Burn had played him through, but Latics soon hit back through Michael Jacobs’ neat finish.

Oliver Burke restored Forest’s lead on 53 minutes before Wigan’s Adam Bogdan produced an excellent save to deny Apostolos Vellios penalty.

Will Grigg drew Latics level again on 65 minutes with a neat header, then Burke restored Forest’s advantage, before Grigg equalised with a well excecuted half-volley.

But ultimately Latics hopes of a point were dashed when Lam’s drive won it for Forest in added time.

Wigan made three changes from the side who drew with Birmingham City on Tuesday night. Luke Garbutt made his debut in place of the injured David Perkins and Michael Jacobs replaced Luke Burke while Shaun MacDonald made his first debut in place of Nick Powell.

Latics got off top a dreadful start and were a goal down after only six minutes. Dan Burn hit a weak back pass which allowed Britt Assombalonga to coolly slot the ball past Adam Bogdan for an easy goal.

But Wigan responded and were level after only 11 minutes. Yanic Wildschut drove forward and fed the ball to Alex Gilbey who cut it back from the by-line to Michael Jacobs who side footed home past Stephen Henderson.

Despite losing Assombalonga to injury, Forest fought back and Matty Cash’s 25 yard shot rocked Bogdan’s upright.

Forest substitute Apostolos Vellios then drew a full length save from Bogdan. Forest were streaming forward in numbers and Vellios found himself one-on-one with Bogdan but the Hungarian keeper did very well to deny him at close range.

Forest were not having it all their own way and Latics went close just before half-time, with Jacobs putting in a dangerous cross, and then MacDonald volleying straight at Henderson, but the teams went in level.

Soon after the restart Forest were ahead when Burke picked up a route one free-kick which evaded the Latics defence and he finished with comfort as Bogdan failed to challenge him.

Latics were struggling now to cope with wave after wave of Forest attacks and on 60 minutes they conceded a penalty when Craig Morgan brought down Cohen.

Bogdan produced a superb save from the spot-kick to deny Burke’s low hard drive. A big let-off for Latics.

Caldwell made changes in an attempt to stem the tide with Luke Burke coming on for Wildschut and Nick Powell for MacDonald.

On 65 minutes Latics got back on level terms with the prolific Will Grigg converting Garbutt’s cross with a clever header at the near post.

It was end-to-end stuff now as both teams upped their game.

Luke Burke almost got on to the score sheet on 68 minutes after good work by Garbutt but the young wing-back’s shot just cleared the angle of post and crossbar.

Both team’s defending was leaving a lot to be desired and it was not long before there was another goal this time to Forest. Burke picked up Cash’s through ball and he was allowed to score far too easily from a tight angle.

Caldwell threw Craig Davies into the fray with ten minutes remaining, in place of Alex Gilbey, in an attempt to get something from the game.

On 86 minutes Latics were once again level as Garbutt’s long throw was flicked on and Will Grigg showed what a great finisher he is with a neat half-volley into the back of the net.

But just when it looked like Latics had secured a hard fought point they were undone in added time.

Wigan were still pressing for the winner but Forest counter attacked and when Hildeberto Pereira was allowed to travel across the penalty area unchallenged he played in Lam who finished with aplomb.

It was a sickening blow for Caldwell and his team who had battled back on three occasions but ultimately Latics’ poor defending had let them down.

Posted in Britt Assombalonga, Championship, Michael Jacobs, Nottingham Forest, Oliver Burke, Thomas Lam, Wigan Athletic, Will Grigg | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

12th Man – Getting stronger and stronger

Jordi Gomez

Jordi returns to Wigan

Latics have got off to a satisfactory start in their Championship campaign with a narrow defeat at Bristol City followed by a comfortable victory against Blackburn Rovers and a hard fought point against Birmingham City.

The new recruits have already made a good impression with Latics’ fans; in particular young midfielder Alex Gilbey has made a good start to his Wigan career and former loanee Nick Powell has been the pick of the new signings.

The former Manchester United player has the potential to play at the top level, despite never fulfilling his promise at Old Trafford. Gary Caldwell identified Powell as his top summer transfer target and the 22-year-old’s signing could prove to be a masterstroke.

Powell made his first start of the season against Blackburn and made an immediate impact, demanding the ball from his colleagues and starting many of Latics’ best moves.

Powell scored from a superb curled free-kick and was probably Wigan’s best player on the day. He is currently working to improve his fitness levels and if he can get back to full fitness he will have a massive say in the club’s fortunes this season.

Gary Caldwell has continued to strengthen the squad this week with three new signings. Shaun MacDonald has joined from Bournemouth and will add more strength to the midfield. The Wales international comes from a team who play with a similar style to Wigan and his experience will be a bonus.

Former England U21 international Luke Garbutt has signed on loan from Everton until January. The defender has previous experience in the Championship with Fulham and should provide strong competition for the left full-back/wing-back position.

But the biggest news this week was the return of the talismanic Spaniard Jordi Gomez. The creative midfielder was part of the some of the most successful times at Wigan Athletic and his return will give the club a huge boost.

Gomez won the Latics’ Player of the Year award in 2013 and enjoyed five great seasons at the DW Stadium, including of course winning the FA Cup and playing in the Europa League.

Caldwell now has plenty of options in most areas of the pitch. He has added young players with potential and players with Championship and Premier League experience, he has also added extra creativity plus goal scoring ability.

Latics are already building on the momentum from last season and with the new signings and the probable addition of another striker they are now getting much stronger day-by-day.

This article was first published in the 12th Man column for the Wigan Evening Post on Friday 19th August 2016.

Posted in Alex Gilbey, Championship, Jordi Gomez, Luke Garbutt, Nick Powell, Shaun MacDonald, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Davies rescues a point for Latics – Wigan Athletic 1 Birmingham City 1

CraigDavies

Substitute Craig Davies grabbed a 90th minute equaliser

Substitute Craig Davies rescued a point for Wigan Athletic with a 90th minute equaliser against Birmingham City at the DW Stadium.

Latics had dominated the game and created several good chances but Birmingham had gone ahead in the first half when David Davis forced home the rebound after Adam Bogdan saved Clayton Donaldson’s penalty.

Wigan controlled much of the game and had 70 per cent of the possession and had 20 shots to Birmingham’s six, but it looked as though they would be denied until Davies turned the ball home from close range from Will Grigg’s low cross.

Caldwell named an unchanged starting eleven from the team which defeated Blackburn Rovers on Saturday, with the only change coming on the bench with new signing Shaun McDonald replacing Jack Hendry.

Latics started briskly and were moving the ball to good effect with Alex Gilbey, Nick Powell and Max Power all prominent.

However, against the run of play Birmingham had the first opportunity of the game on 15 minutes, when Clayton Donaldson hit the post after Adam Bogdan had saved David Davis’s powerful shot.

Latics responded when Grigg headed narrowly wide after meeting Nick Powell’s lofted cross.

The home team were creating chances down the wings with Yanic Wildschut and Luke Burke getting forward. However, despite enjoying plenty of possession they were unable to capitalise on their dominance and they paid the penalty just before half time.

Clayton Donaldson broke clear of the Latics defence and although it looked as though he had lost control of the ball, keeper Adam Bogdan brought him down in the area.

Bogdan saved Donaldson’s spot-kick, but David Davis reacted first to force the ball home, and send the visitors into the lead at the interval.

Gary Caldwell made an early substitution in the second half with forward Michael Jacobs replacing wing-back Luke Burke.

Latics continued to dominate possession and nearly equalised when Powell headed Alex Gilbey’s cross just wide of Kuszczak’s far post.

Birmingham counter-attacked and nearly scored when David Cotterill broke down the right and clipped the crossbar with his rising shot.

Caldwell replaced David Perkins with new signing Shaun McDonald on 60 minutes and Latics continued to press for the equaliser.

Birmingham were defending in numbers and the home team were finding it hard to make the breakthrough.

Latics probed for the all important goal and Caldwell made his final substitution on 85 minutes when Davies replaced Max Power.

They were finally rewarded for all their pressure in the 90th minute when Davies turned the ball home from close range after Will Grigg’s low cross had evaded the Birmingham defence.

It was the least Latics deserved for their dominance and it would have been a travesty of justice if Birmingham had stolen all three points.

Wigan might even have taken all three points in stoppage time but Michael Jacobs was denied by an excellent save from Kuszczak.

Birmingham had proved to be a much more difficult test than Saturday’s romp against Blackburn and Latics good performance on the night certainly augurs well for the rest of the season.

 

Posted in Birmingham City, Championship, Craig Davies, David Davis, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Latics rout ragged Rovers – Wigan Athletic 3 Blackburn Rovers 0

Will Grigg Wigan Athletic

Will Grigg opened the scoring for Latics

Wigan cruised to a comfortable 3-0 victory over local rivals Blackburn at the DW Stadium.

Former Wigan manager Owen Coyle endured a torrid afternoon as his Rovers team were thoroughly outplayed by the home team and could easily have lost more heavily.

Latics went ahead on 14 minutes when the prolific Will Grigg headed home Max Power’s mis-hit shot.

They added to their lead on 33 minutes when new signing Nick Powell superbly curled his 25 yard free-kick into the net at the near post.

Latics completed the scoring on 63 minutes when Max Power’s cross was bundled into his own net by defender Shane Duffy.

Gary Caldwell gave full home debuts to new signings Adam Bogdan, Dan Burn, Alex Gilbey and academy graduate Luke Burke, and Nick Powell and Stephen Warnock made their “second” home debuts, since joining the club permanently. Jake Buxton was unavailable due to suspension.

Latics started the game on the front foot and immediately pressed Rovers back into their own half with Yanic Wildschut making his trademark penetrative runs forward.

Powell, Gilbey and Wildschut were linking up well with some very crisp passing.

Gilbey nearly got on the score sheet on three minutes when he fired just wide of target after good work from Wildschut.

Latics were bossing possession and creating chances and they went ahead on 14 minutes through the free-scoring Will Grigg.

Max Power’s mis-hit shot found Grigg ten yards out and the striker managed to direct his header over Steele and into the bottom left hand corner of the net.

Latics nearly made it 2-0 on 26 minutes when Powell’s powerful shot was pushed into the path of Wildschut who crashed his effort against the crossbar.

Wigan were in complete control now and Grigg almost made it three just before the interval, when his low shot from a tight angle went just wide of the far post.

The Blackburn players must have been given some strong words by Coyle at half time as they started the second half in improved fashion.

Rovers almost pulled a goal back ten minutes into the second half, when Jack Byrne’s effort from 25 yards hit the crossbar before going over.

Michael Jacobs replaced the injured Nick Powell on the hour mark and it was not long before Latics were back in command.

Max Power swung in a cross from the right hand side, which evaded Jacobs at the near post but was inadvertently turned into his own net by Shane Duffy.

Gary Caldwell made a couple of substitutions as Latics eased themselves towards the final whistle with Tim Chow replacing Luke Burke and Will Grigg replaced by Craig Davies.

Wigan had won their first home game of the season in some style and with plenty to spare.

It was certainly important for Latics to get off to a winning start at the DW Stadium but they are unlikely to have an easier Championship game this season.

Rovers were desperately poor, lacking organisation and creativity and on this form will struggle to survive in the Championship.

A more meaningful indicator of Latics’ current progress will be the stiffer test against Birmingham City on Tuesday night.

Posted in Blackburn Rovers, Championship, Gary Caldwell, Nick Powell, Owen Coyle, Shane Duffy, Wigan Athletic, Will Grigg | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

12th Man – Looking for lift off

Owen Coyle

Owen Coyle returns to the DW Stadium on Saturday

Latics have had an indifferent start to this campaign which is very similar to last season’s poor start. Defeat in the opening day fixture at Bristol was followed by an early exit from the League Cup at Oldham.

Last season it was defeat at Coventry followed by another reverse to Bury in the League Cup. If the pattern continues they will draw their first home fixture against Blackburn as they did against Doncaster last season.

Latics tend to be slow starters and the constant turnover of players means that things do not normally settle down until a few weeks into the season.

For Latics’ fans the next fixture has an even greater significance because of the return of former manager Owen Coyle to the DW Stadium. Coyle left Latics under a dark cloud when he was sacked after only six months in charge in 2013.

He subsequently went on to manage Houston Dynamo in the MLS but he had another disappointing time in the United States. Houston finished eighth in the Western Conference, and finished fifteenth in the twenty-team league, and failed to make the playoffs. Coyle left the club in May 2016 by mutual consent before being appointed Rovers manager in June this year.

Coyle got off to a poor start in his first game in charge losing 4-1 at home to Norwich City and choruses of boos rang out from Ewood Park as the former Burnley and Bolton manager was the target of the fans disgruntlement.

I’m sure Latics’ fans will also give Coyle a raucous reception on Saturday afternoon and a certain dubious song about Coyle’s transit van will no doubt be given an airing.

Many believe Coyle’s time in charge set back the club’s development by several years. The signings during his time in charge were generally regarded as failures, with only Nick Powell and recent departure Chris McCann proving a success.

At the time of writing Latics were still looking to bring in more new players and the likelihood is that to finance the deals several more players will have to leave the club.

Some fans have expressed their frustration with the lack of transfer activity but ultimately Gary Caldwell is the one nearest to the players and knows their strengths and weaknesses. His judgement proved correct last season and there is no reason to doubt his judgement now.

This article was first published in the 12th Man column for the Wigan Evening Post on Friday 12th August 2016.

Posted in Blackburn Rovers, Championship, Gary Caldwell, Owen Coyle, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

When Saturday Comes Wigan Athletic season preview

CaldwellRed

Gary Caldwell

When Saturday Comes magazine asked for my views on Latics’ prospects for 2016/17 for their pre-season preview so I thought I’d also record my responses here.

1. Realistically, how will you do?

I’m positive and upbeat after last season’s progress under manager Gary Caldwell. The manager has made some good signings and there is a good feeling around the club, so I’m hoping the momentum from last season’s promotion can continue this time around. I’m expecting a top half finish but making the play-offs would be a massive bonus.

2. Which teams did you like and dislike the most last season?

Liked Barnsley for their attractive football and good-humoured fans. Disliked Millwall – a horrible football club with horrible fans – very pleased we won’t be playing them in the League this season.

3. What was the best moment of last season?

There were so many last season, but celebrating the League One title and promotion back to the Championship with a 4-0 win at Blackpool was special. Also the Will Grigg’s On Fire chant and the epic celebrations in Wigan town centre at the end of the season weren’t bad either.

4. What was the worst moment of last season?

A low point was the calamitous performance by keeper Richard O’Donnell as we were hammered 4-0 at Bury in the First Round of the FA Cup.

5. What one new piece of merchandise should your club introduce?

Caldwell as Superman inflatables would be a best seller.

6. We’d like your prediction for next season’s League table?

1. Newcastle

2. Norwich

3. Sheffield W

4. Brighton

5. Derby

6. Aston Villa

7. Ipswich

8. Wigan

9. Brentford

10. Birmingham

11. Cardiff

12. QPR

13. Wolves

14. N.Forest

15. Preston

16. Leeds

17. Huddersfield

18. Fulham

19. Bristol City

20. Barnsley

21. Rotherham

22. Blackburn

23. Reading

24. Burton

The full WSC pre-season guide for 2016/17 is now available in your local newsagents.

Posted in Championship, Gary Caldwell, When Saturday Comes, Wigan Athletic, Will Grigg | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Bristol unlock Wigan at Ashton Gate

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Blue skies over Ashton Gate

Match report by Jamie Aspinall.

Wigan were defeated once again in their opening fixture with another on loan Premier League striker proving to make the difference in front of goal.

Tammy Abraham, on loan from Chelsea, did not need long to make an impact after coming on in the 67th minute, as he was there when it mattered to kick start the Robins’ comeback in the second half before Bobby Reid sealed the victory late on to spoil Latics’ once hopeful mood.

Everything seemed to be going so well for Gary Caldwell’s side in the first half. The team including five debutants looked to have gelled well and were settled into their roles.

They soaked up the home sides early pressure before upping the tempo and using their counter-attacking qualities to convincingly take a first half lead.

The goal was assisted by Wigan’s most dangerous player Yanic Wildschut when he met a great through ball down the left and wriggled his way free of two defenders to lay off to Alex Gilbey for a sweetly struck side-footer to claim his first goal for Wigan in style.

Gilbey had set his sights earlier in the game with a similarly worked chance but couldn’t quite keep his shot down on that occasion. His shooting was not the only attribute impressing the Wigan fans, as his energetic presence and his ability on the ball really helped to keep the ball moving just as Caldwell would have instructed.

There were other impressive debuts from the likes of Adam Bogdan who looked commanding and agile, but even more so from Luke Burke who played fearlessly and with maturity beyond his years. He got stuck in with his defensive duties and also looked to advance the play with a positive approach.

The Wigan fans were in a joyous mood with the sun shining and everything going their way.

But it was of no surprise when Bristol came out fighting in the second half and gave their sixteen thousand fans something to shout about in their newly renovated stadium, and unfortunately for Wigan the onslaught turned out to be relentless.

From the beginning to the end of the second half it was pretty much all Bristol. They executed their attack well by pressing and working hard to break up any passing game Wigan were trying to continue.

Certain Latics players were tiring and the Robins cleverly exploited these areas. Burke was up against wave after wave of attack down the left hand side and had to be subbed off for Donervon Daniels after a knock to the head. Daniels struggled to contain the driving runs and Wigan were starting to appear stretched all over the pitch.

David Perkins and Dan Burn were culpable for a few loose balls and mistakes and looked to be struggling with the pace of the game. The biggest issue for Latics was that lone striker Will Grigg was suffering from what looked like cramp and there were no direct replacements on the bench.

Due to injuries there were few options for Caldwell and he had to switch Wildschut to play up top, with Jacobs replacing Grigg to try to add some attacking presence in midfield. Wildschut ran himself into the ground chasing hopeless causes and soon had to be substituted due to fatigue and replaced with the rather lightweight Ryan  Colclough.

The fact Wigan could not hold on to the ball was putting constant pressure on the midfield and defence and it was only a matter of time before the home team made their comeback.

First to strike was Abraham with a towering header from a corner in the final ten minutes of the game. This was soon followed by a scramble in the area on the 90th minute where the ball ricocheted around until it fell to O’Neil who rifled his shot into Reid who guided the deflected effort past Bogdan who had worked so bravely to protect his goal.

It was a sickener for Wigan but nothing more than was expected. A draw may have been a fair result on the balance of the full 90 minutes, but Wigan could not complain for their lack of quality and impact in the second half.

It was clear from the tired legs and the limited options available that Wigan need to make a few signings to improve the depth of the squad, especially in the forward areas.

There were some solid performances across the team from the reliable Warnock, Morgan, Buxton and Power. The foundations look strong and there are players to come back from injury, but to compete in the Championship there will need to be further additions to allow us to compete during the long season ahead.

There were certainly more positives to take out of this game than of the previous season’s opener against Coventry, and Bristol are a team that could prove to be a surprise package and challenge high in the table with the investment and signings they have made so far.

Let’s hope Caldwell can continue to strengthen for this level and build another competitive side so we can finish much stronger than we have started again!

Posted in Alex Gilbey, Bristol City, Championship, Tammy Abraham, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment