The League One table is looking much healthier for Latics after two very important away wins at Bradford City and Walsall. Latics have not been at their fluent best in these games but they are now showing the qualities that should get them automatic promotion.
Blackburn and Shrewsbury have been pushing Latics all the way with a consistent set of results but they are now only one point behind the Shrews and two behind Rovers with two games in hand.
At Bradford last week their character and determination were tested as they battled against adverse weather conditions and a poor pitch.
The match looked to be heading towards a disappointing draw but the players once again demonstrated their never-say-die attitude with a vital winner in added time.
On Wednesday night at Walsall they looked a little tentative in the opening minutes and it appeared that captain Sam Morsy, who was on international duty with Eqypt, would be missed.
But in a crazy nine minutes the game turned in Latics’ favour. Nick Powell produced a moment of brilliance as he used the outside of his right boot to curl an inch-perfect pass to Michael Jacobs at the far-post and Latics had made the crucial breakthrough.
They followed that up four minutes later with Jay Fulton’s first goal for the club, a powerful strike from 20-yards into the bottom corner.
Then the three points were sealed when Chey Dunkley fired home from close range following a corner and a goalmouth scramble.
Latics only had three shots on target all night but they had shown the qualities in the final third of the pitch that should get them promoted.
Paul Cook has strength in depth with plenty of options available. Defensively they have looked very strong in the last two away games but with Jamie Jones, Alex Bruce, Donervon Daniels and Reece James they also have plenty of back up available.
The manager picked Jay Fulton to fill in for Sam Morsy in midweek but he could easily have selected David Perkins, plus Shaun MacDonald played for the second team in mid-week against Mansfield so could soon be available for selection.
Going forward Cook has plenty of options to consider. Will Grigg, James Vaughan and Devante Cole are all vying for the central striker role, but if things aren’t going to plan Cook has the option go with two upfront with Vaughan, Grigg or Cole in a 4-4-2 formation as they did away at Blackburn.
Next up for Latics is another away fixture at Bury. The Shakers have had a dreadful season so far, currently rock bottom of the table and 10 points from safety. They have conceded 55 goals and only scored 31 in their 37 games.
Ryan Lowe and Ryan Kidd are currently in joint caretaker charge at Gigg Lane after both Lee Clark and Chris Lucketti had been dismissed following poor results.
Player-coach Lowe and coach Kidd have been appointed until the end of the season, which unfortunately for them looks likely to end in relegation to League Two.
Latics will be firm favourites for the three points but they mustn’t take anything for granted on what is likely to be another difficult pitch.
If they can harness the good qualities shown in the last two away games they should secure another victory in their quest for automatic promotion.
This article was first published in the Wigan Evening Post on Friday 23rd March 2018.