Latics go into the hectic Christmas period of games knowing that they must maintain their consistency if they are to gain an automatic promotion place. Paul Cook’s team will have to navigate through five league games with three away and two at home in the next 17 days.
The Christmas period is a time when squad players will inevitably come into contention as the games come in quick succession. Cook made eight changes to Latics’ line-up as they struggled to beat AFC Fylde in the FA Cup on Tuesday night and some of those squad players did not cover themselves in glory.
It was only the intervention of substitute Will Grigg, who scored two late goals that saved Latics from an embarrassing home defeat.
Latics looked disjointed and lacked creativity throughout the game despite having some experienced players on the pitch. Fylde were probably surprised by Latics’ lack of a cutting edge and they noticeably grew in confidence as the game progressed.
The experienced David Perkins had one of his poorest games for the club uncharacteristically giving the ball away too often. Max Power and Gary Roberts were also subdued and offered little going forward.
Latics’ offensive players were also disappointing on the night with Ryan Colclough and Ivan Toney failing to impress against National League opposition.
Gavin Massey is having a torrid time at the moment and is struggling to show any kind of form. The winger had such a promising opening to the season both creating and scoring goals, but he is now finding it hard to go past defenders and is low on confidence.
Reserve keeper Matija Sarkic did not instil confidence when his judgement was called into question in added time. The Montenegro Under-23 international nearly gifted Fylde an equaliser when he inexplicably held on to the ball for far too long and conceded an indirect free kick inside the penalty area.
Fortunately for Latics the resulting free kick flicked off the defensive wall and flew narrowly wide of the target – a big let-off and symptomatic of Latics’ squad players poor performance on the night.
Latics are lucky to have a big squad compared to some other clubs in League One but it is essential that these squad players pull their weight when they are called upon to come into the team.
Paul Cook’s squad have made a tremendous start to the season and lead the table by four points having scored the most goals and conceded the least in the division. But they must now maintain their high standards and avoid any complacency creeping into their game in the second half of the season.
This article was first published in the Wigan Evening Post on Friday 15th December 2017.