It is now looking increasingly likely that the top two automatic promotion places will be decided between Latics, Shrewsbury Town and Blackburn Rovers. Fourth placed Scunthorpe United are five points behind Rovers and fifth and six placed Rotherham United and Bradford City are nine and eleven points behind them.
The race for promotion is gathering pace but who is best equipped to finish in the automatics?
On paper Latics and Blackburn have the strongest squads with many players who have played, or are capable playing at a much higher level.
Latics have probably the most influential player in the division in the £10m rated Nick Powell (12 goals), and many other of outstanding individuals including captain Sam Morsy, prolific striker Will Grigg (15 goals), and centre-back Dan Burn.
Rovers have some big names for League One with creative midfielder Bradley Dack (12 goals), striker Danny Graham (12 goals) and the versatile Charlie Mulgrew (11 goals).
Both Latics and Rovers added extra quality in the transfer window with Latics bringing in James Vaughan, Jamie Walker, Jay Fulton and Devante Cole and Rovers adding striker Adam Armstrong from Newcastle and midfielder Jack Payne from Huddersfield on loan, with left-back Amari’i Bell signing permanently from Fleetwood Town.
They have great experience on the coaching team with Tony Mowbray, Mark Venus and former Latic David Lowe, they are likely to stay the course and may just have enough to pip the Shrews for automatic promotion.
Shrewsbury have acquired many of their players from the lower leagues and even non-league, but manager Paul Hurst has managed to weld them into a stubborn outfit who are difficult to beat and have surprised everyone by maintaining a high position all season.
They are also the masters of the last ditch winner this season scoring eight times in the last five minutes of their games.
They have no big name stars in their squad but striker Stefan Payne has bagged a creditable nine league goals so far this season.
The Shrews didn’t add any high profile signings during the transfer window but they made five new additions with left-back Max Lowe signing on loan from Derby, winger Nathan Thomas on loan from Sheffield United, while right-back Luke Hendrie from Burnley, midfielder Sam Jones from Grimsby and winger Abo Eisa from Wealdstone signed permanently.
Shrewsbury may be a small unfashionable club and everybody keeps writing them off but I expect them to be there for the long haul now and they will push Latics and Blackburn all the way to the finishing line.
Paul Cook’s team travel to Southend on Saturday in confident mood and tremendous form but the Shrimpers have won their last two games under new manager Chris Powell, so they must be careful not to allow any complacency to creep into their game tomorrow or during the run in.
Latics have 18 league games left to play with 8 at home and 10 away. If they were to maintain their current form of 2.25 points per game they would get 108 points, which would surely have them promoted with a record-breaking season, well exceeding the 100 points achieved by Paul Jewell’s title winning team in 2002/03.
Latics are in the strongest position leading the table by two points, with games in hand on Rovers and Shrewsbury and I’m expecting them to maintain their current form and finish as Champions.
This article was first published in the Wigan Evening Post on Friday 9th February 2018.