Paul Cook’s job is surely on the line after another dispiriting performance in the 0-0 draw with fellow strugglers Barnsley at the DW Stadium. Latics have not won in five games and the manager’s tactics mean that they are unlikely to win in the near future.
Latics used to be known as a good passing team but Cook’s long ball tactics have stunted their progress this season and it’s unlikely to improve as long as he persists with his hoof ball approach.
Goalkeeper David Marshall was the villain at QPR last week and the hero this week with a series of excellent saves to deny Barnsley all three points. The Scottish Number One first tipped over a 30-yard free-kick from Mamadou Thiam and in the second half was at full stretch to deny Mike Bahre before producing a superb reaction save at close range from Luke Thomas.
Cook made four changes from last Saturday’s defeat at Queens Park Rangers, with Kieffer Moore, Charlie Mulgrew, Joe Williams and Gavin Massey coming into the starting eleven.
Latics began positively with Moore heading over a Michael Jacobs corner before a Nathan Byrne effort came back off the crossbar.
But the visitors quickly grew into the game and Marshall had to be at his best to deny Mamadou Thiam’s 30-yard free-kick which was destined for the top corner.
At the other end a Mulgrew free-kick forced Brad Collins into another excellent save with the ball headed for the top corner.
As the match progressed Latics offered little threat in open-play, Cook’s tactic of kicking it long to the big striker Moore and later substitute Joe Garner proving ineffective.
Latics played very little through midfield preferring to launch it long in the hope of getting a flick on. This style of football is painful to watch and won’t be encouraging supporters to return to the DW in the near future.
As the game moved into the final third it was Barnsley’s injury-hit youngsters who looked the most likely to take all three points but fortunately keeper Marshall came to the rescue. First he was at full stretch to deny a low drive from Bahre and moments later he produced a superb reaction save at close range to deny Thomas.
Latics did have a late spell of pressure with a Massey strike diverted wide off Morsy and Davies saved a header at point-blank range from Dunkley but it was all too little too late.
In the dying minutes, a reckless late challenge from Ben Williams earned him a straight red card for a foul on substitute Lee Evans.
The draw may have preserved Cook in post for a little longer but the manager is running out of ideas and his long ball tactics are likely to leave Latics mired in a relegation battle.
Owners the International Entertainment Corporation have invested nearly £10m in players and will not be expecting a relegation struggle.
They will inevitably lose patience with a manager who isn’t getting results and could be taking the club back to League One.