It was hugely disappointing to be pegged back from 3-0 up against Sheffield United on Tuesday night, but hopefully Gary Caldwell will have learned some important lessons about his players.
A number of factors contributed to Latics’ collapse against the Blades. At 3-0 they looked confident to push on and score more goals but they were perhaps too confident.
Committing too many men forward at a time when they risked being hit on the counter attack was dangerous. They often had four or five players in advanced positions and the shape of the team was affected.
Latics right hand side was particularly vulnerable as Donervon Daniels pushed too far forward and neglected his defensive duties and Leon Barnett had another out of sorts performance in the centre of defence.
Latics certainly became complacent after going 3-0 up. They should have closed the game down by retaining possession and controlling the midfield, and they neglected their defensive duties.
An angry Gary Caldwell commented after the game,
“We stopped working, we stopped running, we stopped heading it, we stopped tracking people. If you do that, you’re going to get punished – and we got punished. “
It should not be forgotten that Sheffield United are a decent team who could be involved in the play-offs at the end of the season. The Blades looked good going forward and they have good strikers in Matt Done and Billy Sharp who have scored 18 goals between them.
But perhaps the most significant factor was the forced substitution of David Perkins due to an ankle injury.
The combative midfielder has been a key player in Latics’ successes this season. Perkins does a lot of the hard work in midfield breaking up opposition attacks, winning the ball and setting up play.
It was no coincidence that with Perkins’ departure on 65 minutes and the introduction of Don Cowie that the midfield lost it’s grip and the Blades fightback got going.
Caldwell will no doubt make some strategic changes to his starting line-up after a poor last 20 minutes and he will also expect a swift response from his players.
But the manager will not panic; he knows that Latics have good quality in the squad and that they are still within striking distance of the automatic promotion places with 20 games remaining.
This article was first published in the 12th Man column for the Wigan Evening Post on Friday 15th January 2016.