12th Man – The race to the top

James Vaughan

James Vaughan. Photograph courtesy of Wigan Athletic

The battle between the League One title favourites ended all square on Sunday at Ewood Park but with Latics coming out of the game with a significant psychological advantage. They were 2-0 down at half-time and some Rovers’ fans were prematurely celebrating the League One title.

But Latics showed great grit and determination in the second-half, dominating proceedings and coming back to draw 2-2 and they could so easily have secured all three points.

A defeat would have been a setback for Latics but they are now in the best position in the race for the League One title with four games in hand and only six points behind Rovers.

Some pundits have suggested that Latics have too many games still to play, but fixture congestion has always been a problem for the teams who are successful in both league and cup and it is not an insurmountable problem.

The current positive vibe around the club and the winning mentality can only be beneficial to Latics’ chances of success as the momentum builds towards the business end of the season.

They have already shown that they have a strong squad with quality in depth, winning important games against Bournemouth in the FA Cup replay and Rochdale in the league with wholesale changes to the starting eleven.

Latics currently have available at least two capable players in every position on the field and all the players are very comfortable with the system that Paul Cook has put in place.

It is another exciting week ahead as they face fifth placed Scunthorpe United at the DW Stadium tomorrow before Bradford City away on Wednesday and then an FA Cup quarter-final at home to Premier League Southampton next Sunday.

The whole squad is focused on being successful and they will want to be in the team against Southampton when the national media will be in town.

Scunthorpe have won just twice in 2018 and have only gained three points from the last five games but they are still in the play-off places and will be desperate to get back to winning ways.

The Iron are struggling with injuries recently and former Latics loan striker Ivan Toney, who surprisingly left the club in January, may be one of the absentees due to a groin injury.

Bradford City have slipped down to ninth place in the table but they are only three points off a play-off place and will be hoping to regain their early season form. Under former manager Stuart McCall they produced one of their best performances of the season winning 2-1 at the DW Stadium in November.

New manager Simon Grayson has only been in charge for two games drawing 1-1 with Charlton and losing 1-0 to Plymouth so the Bantams will be something of an unknown quantity under the former Preston and Leeds manager.

It was interesting to see Latics adopt a two-pronged attack in the second-half against Blackburn with James Vaughan joining Will Grigg in an effective central strikeforce.

Cook is unlikely to start with both players against Scunthorpe and Bradford but the manager has the option to go more direct when the pitch or circumstances dictate it. It is an important tactical option especially at a time when the final result is more important than the performance.

This article was first published in the Wigan Evening Post on Friday 9th March 2018.

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About ianhaspinall

Communications specialist, Wigan Athletic fan & blogger, interested in music, arts & culture.
This entry was posted in Blackburn Rovers, Bradford City, James Vaughan, League One, Scunthorpe United, Southampton, Wigan Athletic, Will Grigg and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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