Cook’s tactics secure point but will it prove to be enough in the long run? Wigan Athletic 0 Middlesbrough 0

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Paul Cook 

Was this a point gained or an opportunity lost for Wigan Athletic?

Latics set up to frustrate promotion chasing Middlesbrough at the DW Stadium and secured one point in their fight for Championship survival.

The hosts rode their luck with Boro wasting two glorious opportunities to take the lead through Britt Assombalonga and Ashley Fletcher before Samy Morsy forced a good save from Darren Randolph.

Neither side showed much quality in the final third in the second half as Leon Clarke wasted a couple of good chances for Latics and Fletcher two for Boro.

The draw means Boro remain in fifth spot and nine points off the automatic promotion places while Latics remain in 19th place just three points above the relegation zone.

Paul Cook’s intentions were clear from his team selection and change of shape – no Nick Powell, Callum McManaman or Michael Jacobs – three centre backs in a back five and a 5-3-2 formation. Two defensive players Cedric Kipre and Nathan Byrne coming into the team to replace forwards Michael Jacobs and Anthony Pilkington.

This strategy to stop Boro proved effective but it also meant Latics posed little threat going forward.

Powell was reportedly unwell but McManaman was somewhat bizarrely not included in the 18 man squad after an impressive substitute performance last Saturday against Ipswich.

Middlesbrough pressed from the kick off and Chey Dunkley did well to block Ashley Fletcher’s early effort. But they should have taken the lead after only nine minutes when Jonny Howson’s shot flew across goal and Britt Assombalonga was perfectly placed to score but he somehow failed to hit the target from close range.

Latics’ best opportunity of the first-half fell to captain Morsy but he was quickly closed down by Randolph who made a good save at close range.

Boro always looked the more likely to break the deadlock and George Saville shot narrowly wide from a free-kick.

Just before the interval Mo Besic’s shot from distance forced a good save from Jamie Jones.

Latics had the first opening of the second-half when Evans crossed from the right and Clarke’s header almost found the top corner but the ball flew past the angle of post and crossbar.

Cook replaced Kal Naismith with Jacobs on 62 minutes and Latics did offer more of a threat down the left hand side.

But Boro should have gone ahead on 70 minutes when Fletcher was in the clear and rounded Jones but he only managed to hit the side-netting.

Substitute Pilkington had an effort from distance saved on 82 minutes, but neither team created a clear-cut opportunity in the remaining minutes and both teams had to settle for a draw.

Cook’s tactics had managed to secure a point but will it prove to be enough in the long run?

With both Rotherham and Reading winning their games the gap to the bottom three has now been reduced to only three points. Latics are anxiously looking over their shoulders.

It is fair to say that playing for a point at home is unlikely to secure Championship survival as Latics’ away form has been abysmal.

They now face a crucial run of away fixtures against Derby, Reading and Blackburn before they play Bolton and Brentford at home.

Surely they will need to set up more positively to attack the opposition if they are to escape the drop zone. Powell, McManaman, Jacobs and Massey must all have a bigger say in the remaining games.

Latics must start to pick up away wins but the signs are particularly worrying if Cook’s tactics and team selections are to set up defensively in home fixtures.

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About ianhaspinall

Communications specialist, Wigan Athletic fan & blogger, interested in music, arts & culture.
This entry was posted in Championship, Middlesbrough, Paul Cook, Wigan Athletic and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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