Latics confidence booster at Carrow Road – Norwich City 1 Wigan Athletic 1

Fireworks at Carrow Road

  • Wigan Athletic gained a confidence boosting point at recently relegated from the Premier League Norwich City.
  • Latics were under the cosh in the opening 20 minutes but went ahead when James McClean slotted past Tim Krul in the 29th minute.
  • In a pulsating second half the Canaries drew level when Max Aaron’s fired home in the 62nd minute.
  • Teemu Pukki hit the crossbar late on for the hosts but Latics defended the remaining minutes resolutely and hung on for a deserved point.
  • Latics remain unbeaten after two draws in the Championship and are 15th in the table. Norwich are in 21st place.

Leam Richardson made one change from last weekend’s game against Preston North End, with Jason Kerr coming into the starting line-up for the injured Jack Whatmough. 

Norwich started confidently and Latics were quickly pushed back into defence.

Dimitris Giannoulis hit a volley towards goal from just outside the penalty area, but his effort flew over the crossbar.

The hosts continued their energetic opening and Pukki nearly opened the scoring when he fired his snapshot just wide of the post.

The visitors couldn’t get out of defence and Curtis Tilt did well to divert Milot Rashica’s goal-bound effort off the line after the forward had lifted the ball over the onrushing Ben Amos.

Latics gradually found their feet and grew into the game after the first 20 minutes.

They had their first opportunity to take the lead in the 22nd minute when Will Keane found Callum Lang inside the area but the striker was denied by an excellent close range save from Tim Krul.

The Canaries Jacob Sorenson then fired an effort from 18 yards out which seemed to surprise Amos, and soon afterwards Marcelino Nunez curled an effort narrowly wide of Amos’ right hand post.

Latics shocked the home crowd five minutes later when they took the lead through McClean. Keane capitalised on a mistake, before sliding the ball across to the unmarked McClean and the Republic of Ireland international made no mistake by calmly slotting the ball past Krul.

In a highly competitive game Latics were holding their own against recent Premier League opposition and the hosts were getting increasingly frustrated.

Very early in the second half a low drive from Rashica forced a full length save from keeper Amos. 

Latics almost added to their lead in the 48th minute when Josh Magennis burst forward exchanging passes with Keane before firing a low drive at the near post but Krul pushed the ball away with his legs.

An injury to Giannoulis, after a collision with Lang, caused a long delay and immediately after the re-start the Canaries levelled the scores through Aarons. The full back’s low finish was close to Amos and might’ve been saved by the keeper on another day but it was not to be.

The Canaries now boosted by the equaliser pushed forward and Pukki flicked Sam McCallum’s left-sided cross towards goal, but Amos was able to save the improvised effort.

With eight minutes of normal time remaining Pukki, thought he’d won it for the hosts when his right footed shot from outside the box crashed against the crossbar, before falling to substitute Josh Sargent who saw his follow-up saved by Amos. 

The referee signalled 10 minutes of added time and Latics’ supporters feared the worst but with some resolute and accomplished defending they held out for a confidence boosting Championship point on the road.

Despite the absence of last season’s player of the year Jack Whatmough, central defenders Curtis Tilt and Jason Kerr had been excellent and the team overall had defended well as a unit while posing a threat on the break. 

After two consecutive draws against good quality Championship opposition Latics have made a promising start to their campaign. The prospects for the season are looking good but if they can manage to add a little more quality and depth to the squad before the transfer deadline it could be a very good season ahead.

Post match comments

Richardson praised his side’s performance afterwards.

“It was very resilient, hard-working, and hard-fought,” he said.

“It took us 15-20 minutes to adapt to their shape, and the pace of the game but once we got the distances, we were resilient in what we are doing and could always catch them on the counter.

“Before the goal, we should’ve scored but we grew in belief within the game as well. You’ve got to run to match the quality of the player – and with the five substitutes coming on, some teams are finishing with a stronger team than what they started with.

“That’s the challenge we’ve got to accept and embrace, and these lads aren’t half accepting the challenge. 

“We’ve got to get that belief and education through the week to be better and repeat that Saturday/Tuesday. It’s going to be a tough ask but these lads have certainly got the mindset and acceptance to take it in.”

A large contingent of Latics supporters made the long trip to get behind the lads at Carrow Road, and Richardson was delighted that his side’s performance will send them home in good spirits.

“The energy levels that we needed to finish that game had to come from the stands,” he said

“It was huge (to have their influence). We wish them well travelling back home and it’s some ask and shift to get there for a 12:30pm kick-off.

“I’m glad we can send them home in good sprints, fall on the right side of the result, and make them have a good weekend.”

Player ratings

Player ratings courtesy of Whoscored.com

Posted in James McClean, Leam Richardson, Max Aarons, Norwich City, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Honours even as Latics return to the Championship – Wigan Athletic 0 Preston North End 0

Ben Amos produced a magnificent double save

  • Wigan Athletic opened their Championship account with a hard-fought 0-0 draw with local rivals Preston North End at the DW Stadium.
  • Latics had good opportunities to score with Will Keane, Jack Whatmough and Callum Lang all going close.
  • Ben Amos produced a magnificent double save to deny Spurs loanee Troy Parrott and Emile Riis in the first half.
  • With 18 minutes of the second half remaining PNE substitute Ched Evans was red carded for a dangerous foul on Curtis Tilt, but despite Latics best efforts they could not make the extra man count.

Leam Richardson made three changes from the team that lifted the League One Trophy against Shrewsbury Town at the end of last season. Joe Bennett, Curtis Tilt and Josh Magennis came into the starting eleven in place of Jason Kerr, the injured Jordan Cousins and the departed loanee Kell Watts. 

Latics started strongly in front of 15,429 expectant spectators and they went close in the fourth minute.  Lang set up captain Tendayi Darikwa down the right-hand side, his cross found Will Keane but his strike was narrowly wide of the target.

Preston’s first effort came in the 11th minute when Ben Whiteman’s deflected effort, flew wide of Amos’ near post.

Latics forced a succession of corners in the 17th minute and very nearly took the lead when Max Power’s corner to the back post fell to Whatmough, whose strike drew a good save from Woodman.

From another corner Power found Naylor whose near-post header was held by Woodman at the second attempt.

The visitors then pressed to make the breakthrough with Riis going close. Andrew Hughes crossed from Latics’ right-hand side to the near post but narrowly out of Riis’ reach.

Riis then had a glorious opportunity to break the deadlock. The Danish forward was clean through on goal but he pulled his effort well wide of the far post from a great position just inside the box.

Latics suffered a big blow on 38 minutes when last season’s player of the year Jack Whatmough had to be withdrawn due to injury. 

Just before the half time break Amos kept Latics in the game with a superb double save.

A through ball found Parrott one-on-one against Amos and the Latics’ keeper dived to his left to push the ball away, Riis followed up and looked odds on to score but Amos once again saved superbly this time with his legs. Preston went close from the resulting corner but Latics goal somehow stayed intact.

It was a frantic start to the second half with Lang winning a free kick on the edge of the Preston box, but James McClean’s deep cross went out for a goal kick.

Magennis then headed down to the substitute Jason Kerr whose powerful header was deflected for a corner.

Latics pressure continued and Jordan Storey had to make an excellent block to deny Keane’s strike from just inside the box after good work from McClean.

The game continued to be closely contested but in the 65th minute Latics had another chance. Kerr started the move before Darikwa and Lang combined before the ball came to Keane who evaded his marker but could only fire the ball straight at Woodman.

The visitors then created their best chance of the half in the 71st minute. Robbie Brady’s through ball found Parrott whose snapshot was only narrowly wide of Amos’ far post.

In the 72nd minute North End were reduced to ten men when substitute Evans was shown a straight red card for a dangerous foul on Tilt.

Latics tried to make their extra man count and it looked like they might have done so when in the 89th minute Lang burst into the box, but he couldn’t keep his powerful drive down and his effort flew over the Preston crossbar.

In five minutes of added time substitute Tom Pearce tried his luck with a left-footed drive before Darikwa saw his low drive deflected for a corner.

Preston held on for a draw but Latics can be pleased with their opening performance against an established Championship team.

Overall a draw was probably a fair result on the balance of play and the chances created by both sides.

Richardson will know that Latics have big challenges ahead in the Championship and that the club must strengthen the squad before the transfer deadline on 1st September.

The manager will be disappointed to have lost central defender Whatmough to injury but early indications from the scan is that the injury is not too serious.

Post match comments

Richardson said,

“[The atmosphere and game] was as expected; kicking off in a Championship campaign against, in my opinion, a really strong football club who are going in a really strong direction and will have aspirations of getting in the top six this year.

“It was a challenge for us; we obviously got promoted last year, we have stepped up and the lads who got us promoted last year were in that starting XI today and they stood up to the task well.

“If they have aspirations individually and collectively to continue in the Championship, then we will have to pit our wits against really strong football clubs and certainly today we went toe-to-toe.

“The first-half was very even, and they possibly shaded it towards the end forcing two fantastic saves from Ben Amos before we grew into the game in the second-half.

“We were trading punches and the pace of the game was fantastic, the atmosphere from both sets of fans was brilliant and the concentration levels have to stay strong especially against teams like that so for Ben to pull that double save out towards the end of the first-half was fantastic.”

Ched Evans was given a straight red card for a mis-timed challenge on Latics defender Curtis Tilt in the second-half and though Latics had the numerical advantage, Richardson felt his side were going better before the visitors went down to ten men.

“I think them going down to ten men possibly made it more difficult for us, if truth be known,” he explained. “I felt we were imposing ourselves on the game but when they went down to ten men, they could sit ten yards deeper.

“We have to be patient and better at what we do then, but fair credit to both sets of players who entered the pitch and both sets of fans – it was a great day.”

Player ratings

Player ratings courtesy of Whoscored.com

Posted in Ben Amos, Ched Evans, Leam Richardson, Preston North End, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Wigan Athletic season preview – consolidation the aim

Leam Richardson photograph by Bernard Platt

Last season saw a truly remarkable transformation at Wigan Athletic. The club had been in administration the previous season and had only escaped relegation by one point, but under the new owners Phoenix 2021 Limited and manager Leam Richardson they secured the League One title in magnificent fashion.

Latics only had three players under contract at the start of last season but they recruited superbly and created a title winning squad without spending excessively.

The squad had only been together for a matter of months but they made huge progress in a short space of time.

Despite this success, there have been rumblings from some of the fanbase about the lack of signings in the close season.

Latics have allowed Adam Long to be sold,  Gavin Massey to be released, Jordan Jones and Luke Robinson to leave on loan. The club have not yet replaced loanees Kell Watts, Tom Bayliss and Glen Rea with Charlie Wyke, Gwion Edwards and Jordan Cousins currently out injured.

The only signing so far has been 24-year-old defender Ryan Nyambe from Blackburn Rovers. Nyambe, a Namibia international, spent 11 years with Blackburn, and played nearly 200 games for them. He has all the attributes to be an excellent addition to the squad.

However, I expect more signings in the coming weeks but not in the numbers of the previous season. The Latics recruitment team will be working hard to bring in more players before the transfer deadline on 1st September.

Richardson will know there is a need to strengthen in key positions but the club will not be panicked into buying or loaning the wrong type of players.

The possibility of loaning some young Premier League players could provide significant extra quality but the deals will have to be beneficial to both parties. During the 2018/19 season the loan of Reece James from Chelsea proved to be a masterstroke and helped Latics to stabilise in the Championship.

Richardson will want to give his League One winning team the opportunity to prove themselves at the higher level but it’s worth noting that there are quite a few players in the current squad who have Championship experience. The team spirit and camaraderie is high and the club have very experienced coaches in Richardson, Rob Kelly and James Beattie.

Promising Academy players James Carragher, Chris Sze, Scott Smith and Charlie Hughes have all featured in pre-season and could be pushing for a first team opportunity.

Latics are usually involved in promotion or relegation but this time around I’m predicting a season of consolidation and a mid-table finish.

Predicted Final Championship Table

  1. Norwich
  2. Sheffield United
  3. Middlesbrough
  4. West Brom
  5. Burnley
  6. Watford
  7. Huddersfield
  8. Coventry
  9. QPR
  10. Luton
  11. Wigan
  12. Blackburn
  13. Millwall
  14. Stoke
  15. Preston
  16. Swansea
  17. Blackpool
  18. Sunderland
  19. Rotherham
  20. Bristol C
  21. Cardiff
  22. Hull
  23. Birmingham
  24. Reading
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Summer Reading 2022 – The Best Football Books

Here’s my recommendations of the best football books of recent months for reading on the beach or by the pool. Kick off the summer with one of these great reads.

Review: Beautiful Bridesmaids Dressed in Oranje – The Unfulfilled Glory of Dutch Football by Gary Thacker

Gary Thacker’s ‘Beautiful Bridesmaids Dressed in Oranje’ provides an illuminating and in-depth analysis of the Dutch national team and their dramatic failure to win a World Cup. This is an extensive history of Dutch football, but the narrative really gathers pace with the 1970s when they reached the World Cup finals in 1974 and 1978.

Review: Deadline by Erkut Sogut

Agent Erkut Sogut uses his own experiences to delve into the murky world of football agents in the pacey crime thriller ‘Deadline’. Sogut is the founder of the Football Agent Institute, and his clients include Mesut Ozil, Kieran Gibbs and Kerem Akturkoglu.

Review: Don Revie – The Biography by Christopher Evans

When football fans talk about the greatest English managers, Don Revie is often excluded. Revie is perhaps the most controversial figure in English football and has never been forgiven for resigning as England manager and moving to the United Arab Emirates.

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

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

Review – Not for Me Clive: Stories from the Voice of Football by Clive Tyldesley

Clive Tyldesley was ITV’s senior football commentator for 22 years and his autobiography provides an entertaining insight into the life of a commentator obsessive. Tyldesley has spent time with many of the big characters of the game including Sir Alex Ferguson, Bill Shankly, Brian Clough and Sir Kenny Dalglish and his encounters are well worth the retelling.

Review: Radical Football – Jurgen Griesbeck and the Story of Football for Good by Steve Fleming

Radical Football is partly a history of the ‘Football for Good’ movement, partly a manifesto for the future of football and partly the autobiography of Jurgen Griesbeck and how he came to become one of football’s great innovators. 

Review: ’71/’72: Football’s Greatest Season? By Daniel Abrahams

Many people regard the 1971/72 football season as the greatest and Danny Abrahams’ book certainly makes a very strong case. ‘There was a season when the world’s greatest footballers were all on show at British grounds. Best, Keegan, Charlton and Moore were joined by Pele, Cruyff and Eusebio, while in the dugouts Clough, Shankly, Revie, and Allison duked it out in the closest ever championship title race.’ 

Review: The Accidental Footballer by Pat Nevin

Pat Nevin’s memoir is a tremendously entertaining read. The former Chelsea, Everton and Tranmere Rovers footballer, writer and broadcaster wasn’t the typical professional footballer – he loved playing the game – but wanted a career as a teacher and had many outside interests. His win bonuses went on records, attending gigs, theatre, movies, galleries and travelling.

 

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Review: Deadline by Erkut Sogut

Agent Erkut Sogut uses his own experiences to delve into the murky world of football agents in the pacey crime thriller ‘Deadline’.

Sogut is the founder of the Football Agent Institute, and his clients include Mesut Ozil, Kieran Gibbs and Kerem Akturkoglu. He previously wrote a book on agenting: ‘How to Become a Football Agent’ but this is his first novel.

‘Deadline’ uses transfer deadline day as the centrepiece for a story about a secret cabal of super agents called ‘The Table’ who are involved in off-pitch criminal activities.

As the deadline looms the agent Ander Anaia is pitted against another agent David Miller as they try to get their own players signed by Manchester United, but events take a more sinister turn as the characters are plunged into a dark criminal world.

There are plenty of plot twists involving Ander’s kidnapped daughter Joska, his brother the Manchester United manager Marco and David Miller is pursued by Spanish gangsters.

Sokut’s personal experiences of the football agent industry ensure the novel has a plausible feel and the themes of corruption in football, the power of agents, and nepotism are already well known within football circles.

Two investigative journalists identify the criminality within the super agents’ cabal ‘The Table’.

“There are several incidents we think we can link to their meddling. Sex scandals, failed drug tests and more worryingly there have been some instances where players have picked up injuries off the field or on the training ground. The Table manipulates the whole game – it’s not just agents playing hardball to get their commissions, we’re talking big league gambling. Millions resting on whether a player signs for this team or that…”

The agents’ dirty tricks are generously sprinkled throughout the narrative, and we are kept engaged by the contemporary football references and real-life locations.

Sogut crams plenty of action into the short chapters as the story zips along to the final dramatic conclusion. Will the Machiavellian Ander get his way, or will David Miller secure his first major transfer?

‘Deadline’ provides an entertaining insight into the world of the football agent which will keep you gripped right to the end. The inclusion of a double murder is probably where belief is most stretched but for the most part this a believable and captivating football and crime thriller.

Deadline by Erkut Sogut published by CA Publishing. Price: £12.99.

This review first appeared in the June/July 2022 edition of Late Tackle magazine.

Posted in Book Reviews, Erkut Sogut, Football Book Reviews, Late Tackle magazine, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Review: Radical Football – Jurgen Griesbeck and the Story of Football for Good by Steve Fleming

Radical Football is partly a history of the ‘Football for Good’ movement, partly a manifesto for the future of football and partly the autobiography of Jurgen Griesbeck and how he came to become one of football’s great innovators. 

The catalyst for Griesbeck’s work into ‘Football for Good’ was the murder of Colombian footballer Andres Escobar who had been murdered after scoring an own goal at the 1994 World Cup against the USA. The death of ‘the Gentleman of Football’ had shaken Griesbeck to the core but had initiated his work with gangs in Medellin, in Colombia in 1997.

Griesbeck created a methodology for the gangs to play football against each other that had unfamiliar rules such as no referees. Fouls would be called by consensus. Teams would have an equal number of males and females, and the first goal of each side could only be scored by a girl or woman. A courageous move that eventually paid dividends with a reduction in crime. 

This absorbing book traces Griesbeck’s development as an international agent for social change through a vast range of creative football schemes and projects culminating in ‘Common Goal’ in 2017. 

Members of ‘Common Goal’ pledge at least one per cent of their salary to help support good causes around the world. Juan Mata was the first to sign up and has been joined by the likes of Megan Rapinoe, Paulo Dybala, Pernille Harder, Mats Hummels, Giorgio Chiellini, Jurgen Klopp and entire clubs, companies, and competitions. So far there are over 450 members including 200 professional footballers, but the challenge is to get many more to sign up.

Griesbeck is critical of the role many football agents play in preventing professional players from getting involved but he is still hopeful that by 2030, the 100-year anniversary of the World Cup, many more professionals will have become involved and significant progress will have been made.

The attempted breakaway of the European Super League has meant that fans are questioning, more than ever, the essence of football. Griesbeck says, ‘In a world facing so many challenges, this magnificent game, which binds people together like nothing else, must realise its potential and play a bigger role in protecting and improving our collective future.’ 

There are quite a lot of administrative details about the setting up the various ‘Football for Good’ schemes, but the narrative moves along quickly towards the setting up of ‘Common Goal’ and in the third half there are contributions from a Radical XI of disruptive ‘Football for Good’ innovators.

Radical Football is recommended reading for anyone who wants to know how football can do more. Griesbeck’s thought-provoking manifesto should resonate with football fans everywhere. Football can be a power for good and through great initiatives like ‘Common Goal’ it can be a catalyst for major social change.

Radical Football: Jurgen Griesbeck and the Story of Football for Good by Steve Fleming Published by Pitch Publishing. Price £14.99.

This review first appeared in the June/July 2022 edition of Late Tackle magazine.

Posted in Book Reviews, Football Book Reviews, Football for Good, Jurgen Griesbeck, Late Tackle magazine, Radical Football, Steve Fleming, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Latics lift the League One Trophy in style – Shrewsbury Town 0 Wigan Athletic 3

League One Champions 2022

  • Wigan Athletic are the League One Champions after an accomplished 3-0 victory at Shrewsbury Town.
  • Latics went ahead just before half-time when Max Power’s free-kick came back off the post and the rebound went in via Shrewsbury midfielder Josh Vela.
  • Early in the second half the visitors doubled their lead from the penalty spot when Will Keane converted.
  • The three points and the title were confirmed on 65 minutes when James McClean’s inviting free-kick was headed home by Golden Boot winner Keane for his 26th league goal of the season.
  • Latics finished the season two points ahead of second placed Rotherham and three points ahead of third placed MK Dons who enter the play-offs.

Leam Richardson made two changes to the starting line-up from the midweek game against Ipswich, Kell Watts came back into the centre of defence for Joe Bennett whilst James McClean replaced Tom Pearce at left wing-back.

Shrewsbury started well and Daniel Udoh drove forward into the penalty and hit a low shot which was comfortably saved by Ben Amos.

Latics then went close in the 10th minute, from a short corner McClean crossed for Watts, but the Newcastle loanee headed just over the crossbar.

The visitors looked the most likely to open the scoring and in the 23rd minute Power’s swerving 30-yard free-kick was superbly turned around the post by Marko Marosi.

As half-time approached Latics were ahead through an own goal. Power’s in-swinging free-kick from the left hit the near post before rebounding onto Vela and into the back of the net.

Latics started the second half strongly and made it two from the penalty spot in the 50th minute. Power’s shot from just inside the area hit the hand of the diving Tom Flanagan and referee Steve Martin awarded the spot kick.

Keane stepped up to send Marosi the wrong way from the penalty kick and cue ecstatic scenes in the away end.

Latics effectively sealed the three points and the title in the 65th minute when they added a third and Keane’s 26th goal of the season.

McClean’s in-swinging free-kick from the left-hand side was perfect for Keane to glance into the top corner and produce more memorable scenes in the away end.

Shrewsbury defend a Latics corner

The hosts had a rare opportunity to pull a goal back with 11 minutes remaining when Ryan Bowman capitalised on an error by Kell Watts and squared the ball to Udoh, but Amos did well to gather the ball. 

Latics comfortably saw out the remaining minutes of the game to secure the League One title and their third promotion from League One as Champions in six years.

Talking to the media afterwards, Richardson dedicated the title to the staff who had been made redundant during administration.

“There were times last season when we needed everyone’s support, and we certainly got that,” he said.

“None more so than from our own fans, who were there for us when we needed them the most.

“First and foremost, I’d like to dedicate this title win to the fans, and also every single member of staff who was made redundant during the administration period.

“This club has been through such challenging times, and for us to come through it, none of it would have been possible on my own.

“It comes from the support of others – your family, friends, players and the staff – who have all played their part.

“Every single accolade we get, and I get, it’s shared among everyone.”

It has been a remarkable transformation for the club from the dark days of administration. Only an amazing crowdfunding appeal has kept the club alive. Last season Latics had only escaped relegation to League Two by just one point.

Richardson had steered the club through the crisis and when the new owners Phoenix 2021 took over they recruited superbly and have managed the club in exemplary fashion.

Richardson has achieved almost godlike status in Wigan from when he performed CPR to save the life of striker Charlie Wyke.

The modest manager has had a Stand at the DW Stadium named after him and with a quick fire promotion to the Championship he has exceeded all expectations.

The future looks very bright with Richardson and Phoenix 2021 in charge. The League One title is an incredible achievement by everyone involved with the club, but they will not rest on their laurels and the preparations for Championship success have already commenced.

Player ratings courtesy of Whoscored.com

Posted in Leam Richardson, Phoenix 2021 Limited, Shrewsbury Town, Talal Al Hammad, Wigan Athletic, Will Keane | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Latics still waiting for promotion – Portsmouth 3 Wigan Athletic 2

Will Keane added his 24th league goal
  • League One leaders Wigan Athletic surrendered a two goal lead losing 3-2 at Portsmouth and require at least a point at Shrewsbury on the last day of the season to confirm promotion.
  • Latics went in front when Tom Pearce’s superb cross was headed home at the near post by Callum Lang on 38 minutes. They doubled their lead in first half stoppage time when Pearce again supplied the cross and Will Keane finished inside the six-yard box.
  • The hosts pulled a goal back on 62 minutes when George Hirst converted Marcus Harness’ cross although Pearce appeared to be fouled in the build up. Pompey were level two minutes later when Tendayi Darikwa slipped on the edge of his own box and Hirst curled the ball into the far corner of the net.
  • Worse was to come for the visitors when the hosts substitute Aidan O’Brien made it 3-2 on 87 minutes.
  • Leaders Latics are two points ahead of second place Rotherham with the same goal difference and three points ahead of third place MK Dons but with a six goal advantage. Portsmouth are in ninth place.

Leam Richardson named an unchanged starting XI from Saturday’s draw with Plymouth. Former Latic Michael Jacobs was in the Pompey team.

Latics had an early free-kick and when Jack Whatmough’s shot was blocked in the area Jordan Cousins blazed high and wide from the rebound.

The visitors then forced a series of corners but they couldn’t make them count.

Pompey started to gain more possession as the half progressed and they had a good opportunity when Tom Naylor was dispossessed in midfield And Hirst drove forward before firing narrowly wide of the target on 36 minutes.

But against the run of play Latics went ahead when Pearce’s superb left wing cross was headed powerfully home by Lang at the near post.

Ogilvie had an opportunity to draw Pompey level soon afterwards when his side-footed effort from 8-yards out was wide of the right hand post.

Latics doubled their lead in first half stoppage time with another superb counterattack. Pearce once again the provider with a left wing cross and Keane finished inside the six-yard box for his 24th league goal of the season.

2-0 at half-time but the hosts started strongly at the start of the second half.

Darikwa had to make a great defensive header at the back post to deny the incoming Pompey forwards.

The hosts pulled a goal back on 62 minutes when Hirst converted Marcus Harness’ cutback although Pearce was clearly fouled in the build up.

Pompey were level two minutes later when Darikwa slipped on the edge of the box and Hirst curled his strike into the far corner of Amos’ net.

Hirst had an opportunity put Pompey ahead when he chased a long ball but Whatmough got back to make a superb defensive tackle to deny him.

On 84 minutes Power’s clever free-kick down the right had side of the box found Naylor in space and the former Pompey midfielder forced a good save from Gavin Bazunu at his near post.

It looked as though Latics would get at least a point to confirm their promotion but with three minutes of normal time remaining Amos could only push away a Pompey shot and as Latics defenders failed to clear substitute O’Brien produced a left foot finish to thwart them.

Latics now need to at least match MK Dons or Rotherham’s results on the final day of the season to guarantee their promotion. A victory for Latics will guarantee the League One title.

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Latics so near to something incredibly special – Wigan Athletic 1 Plymouth Argyle 1

Jack Whatmough finished with aplomb

  • Wigan Athletic all but mathematically confirmed promotion to the Championship after a 1-1 draw with play-off contenders Plymouth Argyle.
  • Latics had early chances with Tendayi Darikwa, Jordan Cousins and Callum Lang all going close.
  • They continued their dominance in the second half but with Argyle’s first shot on target in the 63rd minute Ben Amos spilled Conor Grant’s tame free-kick and Luke Jephcott finished at close range.
  • Latics surged forward for the equaliser and they were back level 10 minutes later when Jack Whatmough fired into the back of the Argyle net following Max Power’s corner.
  • Late on Dan Scarr hit the crossbar for Argyle while Latics had two penalty appeals on Lang turned down by referee Seb Stockbridge.
  • Latics need one more point from their last two games to mathematically confirm promotion while a win and draw would guarantee the title. Argyle’s play-off hopes will depend on their final game against MK Dons.

Leam Richardson made two changes from the draw with Ipswich, with Tom Pearce and Jordan Cousins replacing Kell Watts and Stephen Humphrpys in the starting line-up.

Latics started brightly and from a short corner Joe Bennett’s delivery was cleared to Darikwa on the edge of the area but his volley was well saved by keeper Michael Cooper.

The hosts threatened again in the ninth minute when Power’s cross was headed over the crossbar by Cousins.

Latics then went close twice in quick succession. First, Lang forced an excellent save from the Argyle keeper before Pearce recycled the ball to find Keane who fired over from 12 yards out.

The hosts were peppering the Argyle goal and Lang had another great opportunity to break the deadlock but his low effort from a tight angle flew just wide of the far post.

Power almost curled the ball into the top right corner from his left sided in-swinging corner.

Just before half-time Power flashed a strike just wide of the far post and Latics fans wondered how they were not ahead after creating so many chances.

They started the second half in the same manner that they finished the first. Lang’s excellent cross from the right found Power in the centre of the box but the midfielder’s header went agonisingly just wide of the post.

Against the run of play and with their first shot on target Argyle went in front.

Grant’s tame free-kick was spilled by Amos and Jephcott had the relatively easy task of finishing from close range.

The visitors almost doubled their lead when the ball was set back for Grant on the edge of the area but the midfielder blazed over the crossbar.

Latics then pressed forward for the equaliser and they restored parity in the 74th minute through Whatmough.

Power’s in-swinging corner fell into the path of the central defender at the far post, and he finished with some aplomb.

Richardson’s men went in search of the goal that would seal their return to the Championship and Lang once again went close firing a low effort across goal, but Cooper got down well to make the save.

Lang went down in the box under a risky challenge by Scarr but the referee waved away Latics’ appeals.

Lang continued to be a big threat and when Darikwa picked him out with a low cross his effort was deflected narrowly wide for a corner.

But at the other end, the visitors almost snatched all three points when Grant’s corner was headed against the crossbar by Scarr.

As the game move towards the final whistle Lang went down in the box under another challenge but referee Stockbridge once again waved away Latics’ appeals.

Latics were frustrated not to have confirmed promotion in their last home game but they require one point from their remaining two games to be mathematically certain.

They are now so near to achieving something incredibly special after last season’s horrendous period of  administration.

League One Table

Richardson said afterwards that he was pleased with his team’s performance levels, though he believed that his side possibly deserved all three points.

“I thought the performance deserved more than the point, but at this time of year, all points are really precious,” he said.

“I thought the lads were excellent both in and out of possession. I felt on Tuesday that we weren’t as good in possession but really good out of possession, and I thought we brought that into today.

“They (Plymouth) have good players and are coached very well. I thought both sets of fans were excellent today, and they needed to win themselves to stay in the Play-Offs.

“It was always going to be a real tough challenge for us but I thought we took to the challenge from minute one. I thought we were good value for our point.”

Richardson once again praised the supporters for their magnificent contributions from the stands.

“I thought they were great again today and the atmosphere was fantastic. I really enjoyed – first and foremost watching the team – and then representing them like the fans from the sidelines.

“Both sets of fans were really good and it boded for a great atmosphere. I thought both sets of players represented themselves well.”

Player ratings courtesy of Whoscored.com

Posted in Jack Whatmough, League One, Leam Richardson, Luke Jephcott, Plymouth Argyle, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Latics on the brink of promotion – Ipswich Town 2 Wigan Athletic 2

Will Keane

Will Keane grabbed a brace

  • League One leaders Wigan Athletic showed great character to draw 2-2 against Ipswich Town at Portman Road and moved to within one point of automatic promotion.
  • Latics went in front when Joe Bennett’s in-swinging corner was superbly headed home by Will Keane just before half-time.
  • Ipswich drew level on 61 minutes when Latics failed to clear a cross into the box and Conor Chaplin finished into the bottom right corner.
  • Former Latics and current Ipswich captain Samy Morsy then looked to have won it for the Tractor Boys when he volleyed home from close range on 73 minutes, but Latics were not to be beaten and Keane equalised on 86 minutes from close range.
  • Latics are now five points clear of second place Rotherham who lost at Burton and third place MK Dons who lost at Oxford. Ipswich are eleventh place in the table.

Leam Richardson made three changes to the starting line-up from Saturday’s defeat to Cambridge with Jason Kerr, Joe Bennett and Stephen Humphrys replacing Graeme Shinnie, Gwion Edwards and Josh Magennis. 

Ipswich had former Latics players Samy Morsy and Christian Walton in their starting XI.

Richardson set his team up in a 3-4-2-1 formation after Saturday’s experiment with a back four had proved disappointing.

Latics started brightly and Tendayi Darikwa forced an early save from Walton.

Ipswich gradually grew into the game and got their passing game going. On 12 minutes the hosts Matt Penny blazed wide of the left hand post from a good position.

Morsy then tried his luck from outside the box on 20 minutes and Ben Amos spilled the shot but fortunately for the Latics keeper the mistake came to nothing. 

On 32 minutes Amos then did well to save from Chaplin at close range but the referee’s assistant had signalled offside anyway.

The hosts were in the ascendancy now and Latics had to defend a series of corners as the match moved towards half-time.

Against the run of play Latics went ahead in first half stoppage time. Bennett’s excellent in-swinging corner from the the right was met by Keane at the near post and the Latics top scorer angled his header into the bottom left corner.

1-0 to Latics at the break, but Ipswich started the second half in determined mood and the visitors struggled to touch the ball as the hosts maintained possession.

Morsy fired over the crossbar from the centre of the box on 52 minutes as Ipswich continued to threaten.

Callum Lang was then unfortunate to be penalised for a foul when tracking back to win the ball and from the resulting free-kick the Tractor Boys were level on 61 minutes.

Latics failed to clear the free-kick and when the ball ricocheted to Chaplin inside the box he finished into the bottom right corner.

The visitors were under the cosh now and having to defend resolutely, but they did have a rare chance on 71 minutes when a poor back pass set up Bennett inside the area and Walton did well to save at close range.

The hosts went in front on 73 minutes when Morsy was allowed to volley home from close range. It was a frustrating moment for all Latics supporters as the former captain took great pleasure in scoring against his former club.

Richardson immediately introduced Jordan Cousins for Humphrys in an attempt to strengthen the midfield. Then on 82 minutes he made a positive double substitution with Tom Pearce and Gwion Edwards replacing Kerr and Watts as they tried to rescue the game.

Power went close from a 30-yard free-kick and Walton saved well from Keane as the visitors pressed forward.

The equaliser deservedly came on 86 minutes when Power did well to get down the right hand side and cross for Keane to score yet another important goal from inside the six-yard box. The former Ipswich striker scoring his 23rd league goal of the season for Latics. 

For all Ipswich’s possession Latics had defended resolutely and had created chances on the break. Their character and determination had got them another vital point.

With Rotherham and MK Dons both losing, one point against Plymouth on Saturday should be enough for promotion with Latics’ superior goal difference, and three points would make it mathematically certain. 

League One Table

Afterwards Richardson praised his side’s character and work rate. He was full of plaudits for his players desire to take something back to Wigan with them.

“I thought the work ethic was fantastic,” Richardson explained. “It was an intense game and our distances were a little bit off in periods but I thought we still looked a threat going forward.

“The character, work rate [was there] and I thought we worked hard enough to get that result tonight.

“We set up to come and win; the fans in the top corner were fantastic and the energy that comes from them onto the pitch is great.

“I thought every player that stepped on the pitch was excellent.”

And Richardson continued that it wasn’t lost on the players and staff how much of an effort the 402 travelling supporters had made to get to Portman Road tonight.

“Our lads are quite senior and they don’t take anything for granted,” he added. “Tendayi [Darikwa] and Max [Power] are obviously the captain and vice captain and they mention it all the time because it’s obviously not cheap, it’s a rearranged fixture on a Tuesday night and the lads are very aware of that and hopefully we represent the shirt with that work ethic and energy we put on the pitch.

“We probably weren’t as fluent as we have been this year in possession but I thought we worked as hard as anybody out of possession and now and again you can try and control games out of possession because you have to respect the team in front of you. I thought in transition and on the counter we always looked a threat.”

Richardson had made a double change at 2-1 down as Gwion Edwards and Tom Pearce replaced Jason Kerr and Kell Watts.

Richardson explained his thinking,

“Let’s have a go!,” he said. “Every point is precious at this time of year and we wanted to try and be a bit more functional in the wide areas, and we wanted to put them on the back foot a little bit – I felt with the changes we did that.

“We have got two lads with Joe Bennett and Tendayi Darikwa on the outside who are comfortable stepping in, and I felt the two lads that came off worked excellently hard.”

Will Keane headed to the top of the Sky Bet League One scoring charts with his double, his 22nd and 23rd league goals of the campaign.

On his frontman, Richardson finished:

“If Keano keeps going in them areas, he will keep getting them goals and them chances – people will get confident enough to put it in them areas because they know you will be there. When you have the quality and the calmness that Keano has got, he will continue to score important goals for us between now and the end of the season.”

Player ratings courtesy of Whoscored.com

Posted in Conor Chaplin, Ipswich Town, League One, Leam Richardson, Wigan Athletic, Will Keane | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment