Latics experienced the first significant setback of the Championship campaign last Saturday when they lost 1-0 to Queens Park Rangers who I expect to be amongst this season’s relegation candidates. Latics were the better team at Loftus Road, but they were treated harshly by referee Steve Martin who made several game changing decisions in Rangers’ favour.
Following a corner the referee allowed a blatant push on Chey Dunkley to go unpunished and Tomer Hemed was allowed to score what proved to be the winning goal. Despite being informed by his assistants of the foul the referee ignored their advice and bizarrely awarded the goal.
Latics had several good shouts for penalties in the second half when they pressed for the equaliser but the referee just wasn’t going to give them any of the big decisions on the day. It was an especially frustrating result because if they had secured the three points they would now be third in the table.
Paul Cook was clearly upset by the referee’s performance but he will want his players to manage the disappointment and channel their anger and frustration by getting the three points against Rotherham United tomorrow.
Wise leaders, like Cook, will channel energy toward useful behaviours, like working on an improved performance rather than the destructive feelings about the referee.
As well as preparing his team, Cook may have to make changes to his preferred starting eleven tomorrow. Injuries to Michael Jacobs and Gavin Massey may rule them both out and Latics are already without Darron Gibson and Dan Burn who have longer-term injuries.
Rotherham manager and former Latics striker Paul Warne has done a very good job since taking over the hot seat at the New York Stadium gaining promotion via the play-offs in his first full season in charge.
The Millers have six points from their opening five Championship fixtures with two victories against Ipswich Town and Millwall and three defeats against Brentford, Leeds United and Hull City.
Rotherham lost 3-1 at Everton in the Carabao Cup 2nd Round on Wednesday night and Cook will be hoping that with Latics having no midweek game that this can work to their advantage, although the Millers did rest eight players from their last Championship starting line-up.
Warne’s team are likely to pose a big threat at set-pieces and Latics fledgling centre-back partnership of Dunkley and Cipre could have a busy afternoon at the DW Stadium.
However, Latics have had more shots than any other team in the Championship so far this season and if Nick Powell can continue to dictate the play, I expect them to get back to winning ways tomorrow.
This article was first published in the Wigan Evening Post on Friday 31st August 2018.