I’m travelling down to Bristol City on Saturday for another Latics away-day but it’s more in hope than expectation. It’s a very tough fixture as the fifth-placed Robins will be desperate to consolidate their play-off place after an important mid-week victory at Middlesbrough.
Latics are just four points above the relegation zone and have a dreadful away record, unable to win in 17 Championship away games.
I keep thinking that the poor away form will come to end soon, but the miserable defeats at Reading and Blackburn do make you wonder where the next away win is going to come from.
Both those games were winnable but Latics conspired to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory at Reading when they led 2-1 with only one minute of the 90 minutes remaining.
Then at Ewood Park they had started well enough but gave away a silly penalty, the heads dropped and they went on to concede two more goals due to defensive mistakes.
Latics’ excellent home form is in stark contrast to their away form and it just shows that they are capable of competing at this level. But I think a number of factors have contributed to this terrible away sequence of results.
Firstly, the manager must take some responsibility for the away form. Cook’s team selections and desire to make too many changes to the starting line-ups has contributed to the problems.
His resort to long ball tactics has generally been ineffective and his reluctance to utilise winger Callum McManaman remains a mystery.
Secondly, the players have to take responsibility for their poor performances. They are making far too many mistakes on their travels and their heads go down far too easily if they go a goal down away from home.
Thirdly, the injuries to attacking players have certainly had a damaging effect on the results, with Nick Powell, Gavin Massey, Michael Jacobs and Will Grigg all absent for long periods of the season. Any team would struggle without their star players.
Fourthly, because the players have not won away since August they now seem to have a psychological barrier when playing away. It seems there is a lack of belief amongst the players that they can pick up three points when playing away from the DW Stadium.
Cook has recently taken the players to a Boxing Gym to toughen them up. Maybe he should also try a psychologist, or even a hypnotist to try and break the away-day hoodoo?
At least the Robins recent form has been inconsistent – two defeats, two draws and two wins in their last six games – which does offer some comfort to those travelling to Ashton Gate.