Latics slipped to third place in the League One table after a disappointing 2-1 defeat at Portsmouth on Easter Monday. Despite the poor conditions and some debatable refereeing decisions, which went against Latics, it was still a below par performance from some of the players.
Tackles were mistimed, passes went astray and chances weren’t converted, it wasn’t as though Portsmouth had outplayed them, but several of Latics’ players seemed out of sorts and failed to reach the usual standards that they have achieved this season.
They may just have had an off-day, it may have been fatigue, it may have been the conditions but let’s hope it’s not a loss of form as they go into the final eight games of the season with promotion at stake.
It is always easy in retrospect to suggest changes but if Ryan Colclough and Will Grigg had been introduced sooner, then Latics might have been able to come away from Fratton Park with at least a draw. I would expect them both to start against their former club MK Dons tomorrow.
At least Paul Cook has plenty of strength in depth and quality players who can come into the team and make a difference.
The quality of the manager and the team were recognised this week when Cook was named Manager of the Month and Chey Dunkley Player of the Month and four players were named in the League One team of the season, Nathan Byrne, Dan Burn, Samy Morsy and Nick Powell.
Goalkeeper Christian Walton would probably have also featured but he was ineligible for selection as he is on-loan from Brighton.
With eight games remaining Latics have a balanced four at home and four away. Unfortunately most of the teams they will be facing have something to play for and are involved in the race for promotion or are fighting against relegation so it wont be an easy run-in.
Latics next two opponents MK Dons (H) and Rochdale (A) are both involved in relegation battles and will be desperate for the points to stay in the division.
MK Dons have recently had a mini-revival under former England Under-16 manager Dan Micciche with three wins, one draw and two defeats in their last six games.
Former Latics midfielder Alex Gilbey will be missing from the team after undergoing knee surgery in February and will miss the rest of the season. Another former player, reserve keeper Lee Nicholls is however, likely to feature as MK Dons try to move out of the bottom four.
Rochdale are also experiencing something of a late revival winning two, drawing three and losing one of their last six fixtures. They have also recently defeated our promotion rivals Shrewsbury, so it could prove to be a tricky fixture at Spotland.
Despite the setback against Portsmouth I’m backing Latics to quickly return to winning form. They still have the advantage of two games in hand on Shrewsbury and one on Blackburn and a superior goal difference, which should help them to get over the line for automatic promotion.
This article was first published in the Wigan Evening Post on Friday 6th April 2018.