Away day heartache for Latics – Derby County 1 Wigan Athletic 0

Paul Cook

Football can be such a cruel game and Wigan Athletic’s manager, players and fans know it only too well after another away defeat at Derby County.

Latics produced one of their best away performances in a very long time at Pride Park. They created numerous chances and looked the most likely to get the three points but with 92 minutes on the clock Graeme Shinnie broke Latics’ hearts with a stunning strike.

Derby move up to 14th in the Championship table while Latics drop to 19th just four points above the relegation zone.

Latics made two changes to the starting line up from Sunday’s 1-0 victory against Nottingham Forest, with Dujon Sterling and Samy Morsy replacing Nathan Byrne and Michael Jacobs.

The hosts made a bright start and David Marshall made a good early save from Tom Lawrence before Antonee Robinson blocked an effort from Jamie Paterson.

But as the minutes progressed the visitors grew into the game and Gavin Massey fired narrowly wide and afterwards curled another effort over the crossbar from the edge of the area.

Captain Morsy had a great opportunity after working his way past a couple of defenders in the area but instead of shooting he pulled the ball back towards Kieffer Moore and the danger was cleared by a defender.

Early in the second half Moore headed wide of the target from a Joe Williams cross.

Marshall denied Derby substitute Chris Martin on 50 minutes but it was Latics who had the better chances to go ahead.

Moore saw his shot from inside the area blocked by Curtis Davies before Williams saw his shot saved by Derby goalkeeper Kelle Roos.

Lowe then had the best opportunity of the game when he was clean through on goal but  he was denied by Roos.

Massey then fired another effort narrowly wide from 25 yards, before Derby threatened and Marshall saved well from a drive from Lawrence.

But Latics continued to create the better chances and the excellent Massey won the ball in midfield and exchanged passes with Williams before seeing his shot deflected wide. From the corner, Dunkley headed just over the crossbar from a Williams delivery.

Latics lost Charlie Mulgrew to a head injury on 63 minutes and Cedric Kipre slotted into the defence.

The visitors had another great chance when Williams found Lowe who turned well in the area and the striker’s effort was saved by Roos with his legs.

As the match moved towards added time Martin saw a header towards goal put over by his own player Joe Marriott and it appeared as though Latics would get at least a point.

But with 92 minutes on the clock Martin knocked the ball to Shinnie on the edge of the area and the former Aberdeen midfielder struck to condemn Latics to another away defeat.

This was an undeserved defeat for Latics but goals win games and they are struggling for them at the moment.

Strikers Moore, Lowe and Massey have only scored one goal between them and the team as a whole have only scored 10 goals in 13 games. It is obvious were Paul Cook’s team need to improve.

Latics lack a cutting edge in the final third but the manager has been reluctant to give 17-year-old goalscorer Joe Gelhardt a starting place. Gelhardt has already shown his ability with a superb strike as a substitute against Hull City, surely now is the time to give him his chance.

Latics are looking much improved in defence with the steadying influence of Mulgrew and last night’s midfield trio of Morsy, Williams and Lewis MacLeod were impressive. The next stage of Latics’ improvement is to get the strikers firing.

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Latics extinguish the Forest fire – Wigan Athletic 1 Nottingham Forest 0

Jamal Lowe Jamal Lowe scored his first goal since joining from Portsmouth.

Wigan Athletic maintained their excellent home record with a hard-fought 1-0 victory against high-fliers Nottingham Forest at the DW Stadium.

Latics rode their luck at times but battled hard for a deserved three points against a Forest team who were aiming to go to the top of the Championship table.

Forest had two penalty appeals when Antonee Robinson pulled Sammy Ameobi’s shirt and Joe Williams’ made contact with Yuri Ribeiro, but on both occasions the offences took place outside the box.

Big striker Kieffer Moore and midfielder Joe Williams typified the battling spirit in a committed and hard working performance by the hosts.

Jamal Lowe’s first goal of the season was enough to end Forest’s unbeaten away record and move Latics up to 14th in the table.

Paul Cook made three changes from his team that lost at Sheffield Wednesday with Michael Jacobs, Lewis Macleod and Kieffer Moore coming into the team. Josh Windass and Joe Garner dropped to the bench with captain Samy Morsy suspended.

Latics started brightly and went close when Joe Williams played in Lowe but the striker’s effort was saved low down by Forest goalkeeper Brice Samba.

Chey Dunkley then headed a Jacobs corner wide but Forest started to create chances at the other end. Yuri Ribeiro wasted a glorious opportunity to open the scoring and Rafael Mir then headed a Joe Lolley cross off target from another good position.

But it was Latics who went ahead on 35 minutes when they broke quickly and Gavin  Massey pulled the ball back to Lowe who forced the ball over the line from close range.

The hosts nearly doubled their lead five minutes later when acting captain Charlie Mulgrew’s excellent curled free-kick from 25-yards evaded the Forest keeper and struck the base of the right-hand post.

Latics survived some Forest pressure at the end of the first half and went into the interval 1-0 up.

Early in the second half Massey had a great opportunity when he broke clear of the Forest defence but his tame effort allowed Samba to push the ball away to safety.

Forest started to enjoy plenty of possession and had two great opportunities first Mir was played in by John Bostock but he fired wide of the target and then substitute Lewis Grabban had probably the best chance of the match but he headed straight at David Marshall when it looked easier to score.

Latics then had the chances to put the game to bed with substitute Kal Naismith’s strike from the centre of the box well saved by Samba and then later another powerful drive by Naismith was denied by the Forest keeper.

This was an important three points for Latics against Sabri Lamouchi’s team who are likely to be challenging for promotion.

Latics continue to be hard to beat at home and impressively this was the 15th home clean sheet since the start of last season.

If only Latics could repeat the clean sheets on their travels they would rapidly rise up the table.

The next challenge is an away trip to Derby County on Wednesday night. Suspended captain Samy Morsy is likely to return at Pride Park but Nathan Byrne will be suspended after picking up a booking and is likely to be replaced by Chelsea loanee Dujon Sterling.

The task facing manager Cook and his coaching staff is to find the magic formula to win away from the DW Stadium, a task that has so far eluded them this season.

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‘If he’s good enough, he’s old enough’ – time to give talented young striker Joe Gelhardt his chance at Wigan Athletic

Joe Gelhardt

Joe Gelhardt

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No sign of relief from the away-day blues – Sheffield Wednesday 1 Wigan Athletic 0

The Hillsborough Clock The Hillsborough Clock by Daniel Bagshaw

Almost inevitably Wigan Athletic lost away at Sheffield Wednesday.

Paul Cook’s team have now won only once in 27 away fixtures and it was another performance lacking in quality from the visitors at Hillsborough.

Massimo Luongo’s smart finish on 57 minutes from Adam Reach’s cutback was enough to seal the three points for Gary Monk’s team.

Latics did almost draw level when substitute Kieffer Moore’s header was tipped onto the crossbar by Keiren Westwood.

Wednesday nearly made the game safe on 74 minutes but Steven Fletcher’s close range finish was ruled out for offside after David Marshall had kept out Reach’s initial volley.

Latics remain in 19th place in the Championship table while Wednesday climb to eighth place.

Paul Cook made one change from the side which had defeated Birmingham City at the DW Stadium with Joe Garner replacing Moore.

The Owls started brightly with Luongo firing wide from a Kadeem Harris cross before Steven Fletcher shot wide from 25 yards.

The visitors best opportunity of the first-half came when Josh Windass broke with pace on the left and crossed with both Gavin Massey and Jamal Lowe denied at close range first by Westwood and secondly by an Owls defender before Massey fired wide of the target.

The hosts came closest to taking the lead in the first half when Barry Bannan expertly curled an effort against the post from 25 yards.

Wednesday continued to press early in the second half and it was no surprise when they went ahead on 57 minutes when Reach’s pull back from the left found Luongo who finished well from 15 yards.

Latics’ best opportunity for an equaliser came when Moore headed a Charlie Mulgrew set-piece towards goal but Westwood superbly tipped the striker’s header onto the crossbar.

Talented youngster Joe Gelhardt replaced Lowe on 78 minutes but Latics couldn’t build any momentum and Wednesday comfortably rode out the remaining minutes.

It was another disappointing afternoon for the small band of Latics supporters who made the journey to Sheffield as the team continues to struggle away from the DW Stadium.

The manager’s excuses about fine margins in the Championship cannot mask the terrible away form and the club will be locked in another relegation battle unless the away form is rectified.

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Camp mistake gifts Latics the points – Wigan Athletic 1 Birmingham City 0

Anthony Pilkington

Anthony Pilkington

A goalkeeping mistake by Lee Camp enabled Wigan Athletic to secure all three points against mid-table Birmingham City at the DW Stadium.

With 15 minutes remaining of an evenly matched encounter Latics substitute Anthony Pilkington tried a speculative 25-yard strike and the Blues keeper Camp somehow allowed the ball to squirm under his body and over the line.

Josh Windass had had three good chances to put Latics ahead but failed to convert and it looked as though the game was heading for stalemate until Pilkington’s late intervention and Camp’s blunder.

Latics move up to 17th and Birmingham drop down to 14th before Wednesday’s games.

Paul Cook made two changes from the starting eleven which was defeated at Fulham with Gavin Massey and Windass replacing Michael Jacobs and Lee Evans.

Latics made a positive opening with Kieffer Moore having an early effort well blocked by Harlee Dean in the penalty area.

Windass tried his luck from distance and Camp made a good save low down at his near post before Birmingham’s Dan Crowley fired wide from the edge of the area.

Lukas Jutkiewicz couldn’t quite get on the end of a knock down from Dean in the area as the visitors threatened to snatch the lead.

Windass had another opportunity to put Latics ahead before half-time but Camp was able to save comfortably this time.

The hosts best chance came early in the second half when Jamal Lowe got behind the visitors defence and crossed for Windass at the near post but the striker was unable to make it count.

Latics were producing a workmanlike performance with Charlie Mulgrew and Chey Dunkley strong in defence and captain Samy Morsy and Joe Williams combative in midfield but Latics strikers were lacking a cutting edge in the final third.

The match looked to be heading towards a draw until Pilkington replaced Lowe on 69 minutes, and six minutes later tried his luck from distance and keeper Camp allowed the ball to go under his body and roll over the line.

Latics might have added a second late on as substitute Evans headed over a Pilkington free-kick at the near post.

Birmingham offered little threat in the dying minutes and Cook’s men held on for a somewhat fortuitous three points.

Under pressure manager Cook will have been relieved to have seen his charges take all three points but the result should not be allowed to mask the team’s deficiencies and Cook’s ineffective long ball tactics.

Latics forward players are struggling to make an impact with new signings Kieffer Moore and Jamal Lowe yet to score. Going forward the manager persists with instructing his team to pump it long to Moore which invariably results in them losing possession.

A change in approach is required if Latics are to make real progress up the table. The long ball can’t be the main form of attack if they are to have any long-term success.

Joe Gelhardt is deserving of more game time and he is also the type of player who could benefit from playing alongside Moore.

Latics also desperately need to address their appalling away form starting at Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday, another defeat at Hillsborough and they will be back at square one.

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Fulham quality too much for predictable Latics – Fulham 2 Wigan Athletic 0

Craven Cottage Craven Cottage

Championship promotion favourites Fulham demonstrated plenty of Premiership quality to comfortably overcome Wigan Athletic 2-0 at Craven Cottage.

The hosts had enjoyed 62 per cent possession in the first half and would’ve been in front if it had not been for Latics’ keeper David Marshall who made two excellent saves to deny Aleksander Mitrovic and Antony Knockaert.

But Fulham went ahead early in the second half from Joe Bryan’s strike on the rebound from inside the area.

Latics did rally and briefly threatened through a couple Lee Evans strikes from distance but the Cottagers sealed all three points with Tom Cairney’s curled finish on 83 minutes.

Fulham move up to seventh in the Championship table while Latics remain in 19th spot prior to Saturday’s fixtures.

Paul Cook made one change to the starting line up that had defeated Charlton with Lee Evans replacing Gavin Massey.

Latics started strongly with Nathan Byrne getting forward to provide a dangerous cross for Kieffer Moore but the cross was cut out by keeper Marcus Bettinelli.

But the hosts soon started to assert themselves with Aflie Mawson going close following a corner.

Despite the combative efforts of captain Samy Morsy and Joe Williams Fulham started to dictate the play and control possession.

Latics main strategy was reverting to the unsuccessful long ball tactics of early season with Marshall’s goalkicks directed towards Moore usually resulting in the loss of possession.

Before the interval Marshall came to Latics’ rescue first denying Mitrovic’s flick and then making an instinctive save from Knockaert.

But within two minutes of the restart Fulham were ahead after Bryan’s initial effort was blocked the left back was able to curl home the rebound.

Latics best effort came from Evans strike from 25 yards on 52 minutes which narrowly cleared the top corner.

Knockaert forced another good save from Marshall as Fulham continued to create chances.

Antonee Robinson was one of the few stand out performers for Latics against quality opposition, breaking forward and creating opportunities for his team mates.

But as Latics pressed for an unlikely equaliser Evans misplaced pass didn’t find Robinson in a forward position and the hosts broke quickly with Cairney finishing with some aplomb from outside the area.

Overall the gulf in quality was evident with Fulham likely to be challenging at the top of the Championship and Latics likely to be at the other end of the table.

Latics dreadful away form continues and they have now won only once in their last 26 away games under manager Cook.

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Improving Latics ease past Addicks – Wigan Athletic 2 Charlton Athletic 0

Chey Dunkley Chey Dunkley

Wigan Athletic produced a much improved performance to comfortably defeat high-flying Charlton Athletic 2-0 at the DW Stadium.

Centre-back Chey Dunkley scored from two set-pieces to give the hosts an important victory against the recently promoted Addicks.

Latics had opportunities to win by a bigger margin with Jamal Lowe and Charlie Mulgrew going close although keeper David Marshall was called upon late on deny the visitors with a superb Gordon Banks like save from Josh Cullen’s header.

Wigan move up to 19th in the Championship table while Charlton drop down to seventh.

Paul Cook’s team were unchanged from last week’s 2-2 draw at Hull City with 17-year-old starlet Joe Gelhardt remaining on the bench. The Addicks were missing top scorer Lyle Taylor due to injury.

In an even opening spell it was the Addicks who were the first to threaten as Tomer Hemed blazed an effort off target from Deji Oshilaja’s cross.

Latics responded and Lowe linked up with Kieffer Moore before driving an effort straight at Dillon Phillips in the Charlton goal.

But on 22 minutes Latics went ahead as Dunkley got in front of his markers on the edge of the six yard box to convert a Mulgrew corner.

There’s has been a marked improvement in Latics’ set-pieces since the Scottish International Mulgrew came into the team.

Darren Pratley was lucky to remain on the pitch after grappling Joe Williams around the neck but the referee didn’t even give the Charlton captain a yellow card.

The hosts might have had a penalty when the excellent Antonee Robinson ran the full length of the pitch before going down in the penalty area under the challenge of Ben Purrington, but the referee Andy Davies waved away appeals.

Charlton had a shout for a penalty when Naby Sarr appeared to be pulled back in the area by Dunkley but the referee once again waved away all appeals.

Charlton made a bright start to the second half and Dunkley made a superb block to deny Hemed before Tom Lockyer wasted a golden opportunity from the resulting corner.

Latics grew into the half and Lowe went close before Mulgrew almost scored when he was on the end of a Jacobs corner, seeing his effort unluckily strike the post.

On 70 minutes Latics consolidated their lead with another set-piece as Dunkley headed home a Jacobs corner in powerful fashion.

Charlton had late chances to reduce the deficit and Marshall produced a superb save to deny Cullen when he looked odds on to score.

But Latics held on for a deserved three points which moved them away from the relegation zone.

Increased defensive resilience and good set-pieces are edging Latics up the table but there is still plenty of room for improvement.

In particular, Latics forward players have been well below par and have failed to hit the net since the first day of the season.

The absence of injured forwards Anthony Pilkington and Josh Windass is not helping matters but Moore, Lowe, Jacobs and Gavin Massey are all struggling to make a real impact in the final third.

Cook is relying less on the long ball but there is still a tendency to hoof the ball forward to target man Moore rather than building through midfield.

Moore will be a bigger threat if Latics can play through midfield and get the ball to the wide players to cross for the big striker.

Cook’s team this season are still a work in progress and have yet to deal with a dreadful away record. They will now face a tough fixture at promotion favourites Fulham on Friday night.

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