Latics stun Black Cats and move out of the drop zone – Wigan Athletic 2 Sunderland 1

Will Keane

Will Keane drew Latics level

* Wigan Athletic produced a superb performance to stun promotion-chasing Sunderland 2-1 at the DW Stadium and move out of the League One relegation zone.

* The visitors went ahead on 32 minutes when Aidan McGeady’s cross found the unmarked Charlie Wyke who had an easy task to finish from close range.

* The hosts drew level on 42 minutes when Lee Evans’ corner reached Joe Dodoo at the back post and the Ghanaian striker cut the ball back to Will Keane who volleyed into the net from close range.

* From another Evans corner Latics deservedly took the lead in the 58th minute. Curtis Tilt flicked the ball over his head to Dodoo and the striker crossed for Callum Lang to score from close range

* The Black Cats manager Lee Johnson made a quadruple substitution to try to stem the tide on 64 minutes but it was to no avail as Latics had further chances to increase their lead and Jamie Jones had a relatively untroubled time between the sticks.

* Latics move up to 20th place and are one point above the relegation zone. Sunderland remain in third spot and are five points behind second placed Peterborough.

Leam Richardson made one change to the starting eleven from the 4-1 victory at Doncaster with Callum Lang replacing Thelo Aasgaard who dropped to the bench. Sunderland had former Latic Max Power captaining Lee Johnson’s team.

The game started in bright sunshine and Latics had two early chances. First, an Evans corner was headed on by Lang and George Johnston’s header forced a save from Lee Burge on three minutes and then on six minutes Keane had a strike from the centre of the box saved by the Black Cats keeper.

The high-flying visitors gradually started to assert themselves and they forced a succession of corners and free kicks during a 20 minute period.

McGeady’s 25-yard strike was well saved by Jones diving low to his right on 16 minutes and then on 32 minutes the Republic of Ireland international crossed for the unmarked Wyke to give the visitors the advantage.

But Latics were resilient and pressed for the equaliser with Viv Solomon-Otabor creating a chance for Funso Ojo but the Aberdeen loanee headed straight at Burge.

Lang forced a finger tip save from Burge on 42 minutes and from the resulting corner Latics were level. Evans’ delivery found Dodoo at the back post and the striker cut the ball back to Will Keane who showed great composure before volleying into the net from close range.

Just before the interval Solomon-Otabor created another good chance for Keane but the former Manchester United striker miscued his shot and the chance went begging.

A fairly even first half with Sunderland pressing high but Latics looking dangerous on the counter attack.

Latics made a positive opening to the second half and Lang fired wide after being set up by Keane on the edge of the area but Latics were ahead on on 58 minutes from Evans’ corner.

Curtis Tilt flicked the ball over his head to Dodoo and the striker crossed for Callum Lang to score from close range.

The Black Cats manager made a quadruple substitution on 64 minutes with Ross Stewart, Callum McFadzean, Lynden Gooch and Grant Leadbitter replacing Max Power, Jack Diamond, Jordan Jones and Denver Hume.

But Latics were looking the most likely to add to their lead and after some superb work by Lang driving towards the Black Cats goal he played in Keane but the striker disappointingly blazed wide of the target.

At the other end Tilt made an important clearance to deny Stewart who was well positioned inside the six-yard box.

On 79 minutes Keane had another great chance to add to the lead after being set up by Ojo but he once again failed to hit the target.

Corey Whelan replaced Solomon-Otabor on 82 minutes, Aasgaard replaced Keane on 86 minutes and Jamie Proctor replaced Dodoo on 94 minutes as Latics ran down the clock.

Despite five minutes of added time Latics held out comfortably as the visitors failed to create any real goalscoring opportunities.

This had been a superb performance against a team who have been on a tremendous winning run and are challenging for the automatic promotion places.

Latics had created the better chances, they had been resolute in defence, hardworking and creative in midfield and had throughly deserved the three points.

The team are fighting for their lives and this result will have given everyone a fantastic boost going into the remaining five games of the season.

League One Table

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Big win for Latics in battle for survival – Doncaster Rovers 1 Wigan Athletic 4

Joe Dodoo

Joe Dodoo opened the scoring for Latics

* Wigan Athletic produced an emphatic 4-1 victory at play-off chasing Doncaster Rovers to move within one point of safety in the League One relegation zone.

* Latics went ahead after only three minutes when Joe Dodoo’s first time strike from 12 yards flew past Ellery Balcombe. Thelo Aasgaard doubled Latics’ lead on on 15 minutes when he followed up Curtis Tilt’s deflected header inside the box.

* The visitors increased their advantage on 33 minutes with a flowing move with Will Keane setting up Viv Solomon-Otabor who slotted the ball home for 3-0.

* Doncaster got a foothold on the stroke of half time when substitute Taylor Richards curled the ball into the top corner from the edge of the box.

* Jamie Jones had to make an important save in a one-v-one with Jason Lokilo before Latics sealed the three points when Dodoo’s cutback was turned home by Keane inside the six-yard box on 81 minutes.

* Latics move up to 23rd in the table and are now one point from safety with six games remaining. Doncaster are in 11th place and six points off the play-off spots.

Leam Richardson made two changes to his starting eleven with Joe Dodoo and Will Keane starting. Callum Lang was unavailable due to a head injury and Jamie Proctor dropped to the bench.

The promotion chasing hosts had former Latics players Reece James and Omar Bogle in the starting line-up.

Latics were quick out of the traps and were ahead after only three minutes. Lee Evans’ cross into the box was brought down by Aasgaard and Dodoo’s first time strike flew into the Doncaster net.

The visitors continued to exert pressure and from Evans’ corner Tilt rose unchallenged in the centre of the goal and his header hit a defender before falling to Aasgaard who lashed the ball home from inside the box.

Doncaster looked shellshocked and Keane forced an excellent save from Balcombe low down to his right on 28 minutes.

Worse was to come for the hosts however and on 33 minutes Keane turned smartly in midfield before driving into the box and then setting up Solomon-Otabor who finished with some aplomb.

Rovers manager Andy Butler made a double change on 37 minutes with John Bostock and Taylor Richards replacing Branden Horton and Scott Robertson.

Richards quickly made an impact curling his shot from outside the box into the top corner and reducing the deficit to 3-1 at half time.

Latics would need to be resolute in the second half and not allow the hosts back in the game.

Keane blazed over from 25 yards on 50 minutes before Jones made an important save denying Lokilo in a one-v-one on 55 minutes.

The hosts were now enjoying more possession but it was Latics who looked the more likely to increase their lead as first Solomon-Otabor and then Aasgaard twice had goalbound shots deflected for corners.

Dan Gardner replaced Solomon-Otabor on 79 minutes and soon afterwards Gardner’s superb forward pass found Dodoo in space and he set up Keane but the former Manchester United youth striker fired narrowly wide.

But two minutes later Dodoo drove forward into the box before cutting the ball back to Keane who finished from close range to make it 4-1 and seal the three points.

Latics have produced some battling performances recently but they had failed to be clinical in front of goal. Today they clicked in the final third with Dodoo, Keane, Solomon-Otabor and Aasgaard having their best games for the club. If they can maintain that kind of performance they will have a fighting chance of survival.

The six teams at the bottom of the table are closely grouped and it appears that fine margins will decide who will stay and who will go.

League One Table

League One Table

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Latics slip deeper into trouble – Wigan Athletic 0 Portsmouth 1

Curtis Tilt

Curtis Tilt went close for Latics

* Wigan Athletic slipped to second bottom in the League One table as they lost 1-0 to promotion chasing Portsmouth at the DW Stadium.

* Latics enjoyed the greater possession and had more shots than Pompey but they failed to make their dominance count.

* Substitute Andy Cannon’s excellent 25-yard strike on 46 minutes was the difference between the two teams.

* Curtis Tilt went closest for the hosts when his goalbound strike was cleared off the line in the first half but Latics failed to test Pompey keeper Craig MacGillivray throughout.

* Latics drop to 23rd place and are now three points from safety. Portsmouth are in fourth spot in the table.

Latics were unchanged from the 1-0 defeat at Gillingham on Wednesday. Pompey were also unchanged from their last game a 2-1 victory against Rochdale on Friday. Former Latic midfielder Michael Jacobs started for the visitors.

The hosts made a good start despite the windy and difficult conditions and they pushed the visitors back into defence.

Latics were dominating possession and created a sustained period of pressure around the 20 minute mark.

Lee Evans free kick from the left ricocheted off a Pompey defender and the ball fell to Tilt in a central position in the box but the centre half’s shot was cleared off the line to safety.

Despite their greater possession the hosts were unable to make their territorial pressure count as the final cross or shot just wasn’t good enough.

Just before the break the visitors might’ve taken the lead when Marcus Harness’ cutback set up Ryan Williams’ strike from the edge of the box which was brilliantly saved by Jamie Jones diving low to his left.

All level at half time but Latics had a rude awakening at the start of the second half.

Andy Cannon replaced Michael Jacobs at the interval and the substitute made an immediate impact when he drove forward unchallenged before unleashing an unstoppable strike from 25-yards into the top right corner.

Latics tried to respond and Viv Solomon-Otabor fired over the crossbar on 48 minutes and then Thelo Aasgaard did well to get to the byeline and cut the ball back, with MacGIllivray slow to react, but no Latics player could capitalise in the box.

Callum Lang’s shot from the edge of the area was then deflected wide of the far post for a corner, but Latics continued to fail to hit the target and Evans’ delivery from set pieces was very poor.

At the other end Jones was called upon to make an important save from a rare Pompey attack when Cannon found Williams at the back post and Jones clawed the ball away from a tight angle.

Will Keane replaced Aasgaard on 67 minutes but Latics were ponderous in their build up play and set piece opportunities were wasted.

The hosts had to play across the pitch too often and they were unable to break through the banks of Pompey defenders. 

Dan Gardner replaced Solomon-Otabor on 78 minutes and Lang had to be withdrawn with a head injury on 83 minutes and replaced by Joe Dodoo.

Jamie Proctor appeared to be held in the box on 85 minutes as he went for Evans’ through ball but referee Tom Nield waved away Latics’ penalty appeals. 

Despite creating intense pressure and seven minutes of added time Latics were unable create a decent goalscoring opportunity and Pompey stood resolute. 

Another frustrating result for Latics after they had been the dominant outfit against promotion chasing Pompey.

Danny Cowley’s team had defended well and had created chances on the break, but Latics’ failure to trouble the visitors keeper throughout proved to be the difference.

Latics have now gone three consecutive games without a goal and their lack of cutting edge has been their downfall.

The head injury to striker Lang is a big worry and may rule him out for a while. But if Latics don’t rediscover their scoring boots soon they will surely be destined for League Two.

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Latics frustrated by route one Gills – Gillingham 1 Wigan Athletic 0

Leam Richardson

Leam Richardson left frustrated at Priestfields

* Despite creating the better chances Wigan Athletic slipped to a narrow 1-0 defeat at the Priestfield Stadium and remain in the relegation zone. 

* Play-off chasing Gillingham relied on their long ball game and their prolific striker Vadaine Oliver’s ninth goal in nine games proved decisive. 

* Latics’ failure to be clinical proved costly as Jamie Proctor, Callum Lang and substitute Dan Gardner all wasted good opportunities. 

* The hosts route one tactics made for an unpleasant watch but Latics were left frustrated and remain one point from safety. 

* Gillingham move into the play-off places in sixth position in the table.

The takeover of Latics by the Phoenix 2021 consortium was completed yesterday and the team played their first game under the new ownership.

Leam Richardson made one change from Saturday’s draw at home to Ipswich Town with Jamie Proctor replacing Will Keane.

The Gills bombarded the Latics defence with high balls into the box and the hosts forced several early corners.

Latics struggled to get into their normal rhythm as the physicality of the hosts prevented them from getting their normal passing game going.

The visitors first chance came on 13 minutes when Tendayi Darikwa’s right wing cross found Lang and the striker’s shot was deflected into the path of the Gills keeper Jack Bonham.

Latics’ next opportunity came on 26 minutes when Curtis Tilt’s first time strike from Thelo Aasgaard’s cross flew narrowly over the angle of post and crossbar.

Soon afterwards Aasgaard’s diving header from Lee Evans free kick was saved by Bonham.

At the other end George Johnston’s poor back pass nearly resulted in the Gills taking the lead but Jamie Jones saved well from Oliver.

Lang then dragged his shot from the edge of the area wide of the target and the Gills Alexander MacDonald’s strike was easily saved by Jones.

The first half ended goal less but Latics had enjoyed the greater possession and were starting to look more of a threat as the half had progressed.

The second half continued in similar vein with the Gills launching long balls and utilising long throws and set pieces into the box.

The Boorish Gills manager Steve Evans was booked for berating the fourth official on 53 minutes. Evans’ constant harassment of officials over a number of years has been a disgrace and the football authorities really should deal with him more severely.

Latics continued to create the better chances with Darikwa’s cross from the right spilled by Bonham and Proctor volleyed the rebound over the crossbar.

Lang then turned well inside the box and drove his shot narrowly wide of the far post from a tight angle.

Lang was proving to be handful and his delicate chipped cross from the right found Proctor in a central position but the former Rotherham striker couldn’t get enough power in his header to trouble Bonham.

Latics’ top scorer Lang then did superbly to win the ball and dribble past several defenders before setting up Proctor who looked odds on to score but curled his effort over the crossbar from ten-yards out.

The Gills Steve Evans route one tactics are reminiscent of John Beck’s type of football when he managed Cambridge United and Preston North End in the 1990’s.

It’s not pleasant to watch and it will not bring the Gills long-term success but on this occasion it proved effective as they converted one of their few real opportunities.

The prolific Oliver rose high above Johnston and headed decisively past Jones from Ryan Jackson’s cross.

Joe Dodoo replaced Proctor on 76 minutes, Will Keane replaced Aasgaard on 78 minutes and Dan Gardner replaced Viv Solomon-Otabor on 80 minutes as Richardson looked to freshen up the attack.

Lang looped a header onto the crossbar and then Gardner wasted a great opportunity when he blazed over the crossbar from inside the box after being well set up by Keane.

The Gills substitute Dominic Samuel was lucky to escape with just a yellow card after he charged into Jones with his foot high on 85 minutes.

As Latics went in search of the equaliser Oliver nearly added to the Gills lead but his header was well pushed around the post by Jones.

Latics just couldn’t create another opportunity as the Gills ran down the clock making three substitutions in five minutes of added time.

It was a frustrating night for Latics whose performance deserved a least a point. Fine margins had decided the three points and Latics’ failure to be clinical in front of goal had proved to be the difference.

Tough games are coming up against promotion chasing teams and they will have to be at their best if they are to have any chance of escaping the drop.

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Cook and Richardson in stalemate – Wigan Athletic 0 Ipswich Town 0

Leam Richardson and Paul Cook

Leam Richardson and Paul Cook

  • Former Wigan Athletic manager Paul Cook returned to the DW Stadium with Ipswich Town and his team fought out a dour 0-0 draw with Leam Richardson’s Latics.
  • Both teams needed the three points with Ipswich trying to get into the play-off places and Latics looking to escape the relegation zone but neither team looked convincing in the final third.
  • The Tractor Boys best chance came when Jamie Jones misjudged a long ball down the middle and collided with James Norwood but the striker’s header was wide of the target.
  • The hosts best opportunity fell to Funso Ojo after an excellent first time pass from Will Keane but the on-loan Aberdeen midfielder placed his shot wide of the far post from a great position inside the box.
  • Callum Lang appeared to be fouled inside the penalty area in the 89th minute but referee James Bell failed to award the spot kick and the points had to be shared.
  • Richardson’s Latics remain in the bottom four and are one point from safety with nine games remaining. Cook’s Ipswich are in 11th place and two points from a play-off spot.

Richardson made three changes from the defeat against Accrington with Viv Solomon-Otabor, Thelo Aasgaard and Will Keane starting. Scott Wootton and Jamie Proctor were unavailable due to injury.

Norwood had the first chance of the game after only three minutes when he fired straight at Jones from 25-yards.

Both teams struggled to find any cohesion in the early stages but the visitors had a great opportunity on 24 minutes when Jones raced out of his goal and was beaten to the ball outside the area by Norwood but the striker’s header was wide of the target.

At the other end Lang and Keane combined inside the area on 28 minutes and Keane’s goal bound strike was well blocked by a defender. Four minutes later Lang fired high and wide from the edge of the box.

The game descended into a scrappy affair as the half progressed with both teams giving the ball away far too easily.

Early in the second half Lang did well down the right hand side and his shot from very close range was blocked by Tomas Holy.

Soon afterwards a Lee Evans corner found Ojo at the back post but his header was saved by Holy.

Latics best chance came when Keane’s first time pass put Ojo in the clear but the midfielder failed to hit the target from close range.

In the 62nd minute Ojo had another half chance when his header inside the box was saved by Holy with Keane ready to pounce.

Aasgaard was replaced by Dan Gardner on 67 minutes and Lang moved into a more central attacking position.

Ipswich had a rare opportunity on 78 minutes when Norwood’s shot from a tight angle was saved by Jones’ legs.

Lang was posing Latics’ biggest threat and he again did well down the right hand side before forcing a save from Holy at this near post on 82 minutes.

Zach Clough replaced Solomon-Otabor on 83 minutes and Joe Dodoo replaced Keane on 87 minutes.

Latics were controversially denied a penalty in the 89th minute when Lang appeared to be pushed in the area but referee Bell waved away the appeals.

Six minutes of added time but despite Latics’ best efforts they could not force the winner.

Both teams desperately needed the three points for different reasons but in truth a draw was a fair result on the balance of the play.

Latics face a tough trip to play-off chasing Gillingham on Wednesday and they will have to improve in all departments if they are to get anything from the game.

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Lethargic Latics drop back into trouble – Accrington Stanley 3 Wigan Athletic 1

Callum Lang gave Latics an early lead

  • Wigan Athletic slipped back into the relegation zone after a lethargic performance at mid-table Accrington Stanley.
  • In a frantic opening Latics were ahead after only 40 seconds when Callum Lang capitalised on Dan Gardner’s through ball.
  • Accrington were level two minutes later as Sean McConville’s free kick found the unmarked Cameron Burgess who headed into the top right corner and they were ahead on 15 minutes as Latics failed to defend another set piece and Michael Nottingham tapped the ball home from close range.
  • Tendayi Darikwa recklessly brought down McConville in the area on the hour mark and Dion Charles converted the spot kick to make it 3-1 to the hosts.
  • Latics drop into the relegation places in 21st place on goal difference behind Bristol Rovers. Accrington move up to 12th in the table.

Latics made three changes from Tuesday’s draw at AFC Wimbledon with Callum Lang, Dan Gardner and Joe Dodoo starting. Gavin Massey and VIv Solomon-Otabor were both missing due to injury.

It was the visitors first ever Football League visit to the Wham Stadium and it was a game with plenty of connections between the two clubs. Latics Acting Manager Leam was a former Accrington player and manager and Accrington First Team Coach John Doolan was a former Latics player.

The game started in frantic style with Latics going ahead after only 40 seconds. Gardner’s Iong ball through the middle found Lang who evaded two defenders before calmly finishing past Toby Savin.

But Accrington were level two minutes later as the Latics defensive allowed the unmarked Burgess to head home from eight yards out.

The game continued at a frantic pace and Lang might’ve restored Latics’ lead on four minutes but his right foot shot from inside the box was narrowly wide of the target.

McConville looped a shot onto the crossbar with Jamie Jones rooted to the spot on 12 minutes and soon afterwards the hosts went in front as Latics defence was all at sea from another set piece. McConville floated a free kick from the left and Jones failed to clear with his boot and Nottingham tapped the ball over the line from close range.

Both teams continued to bypass midfield with long balls forward and both teams struggled to defend convincingly. Latics were unable to get their usual game going with many passes going astray. Lee Evans in particular was having a torrid time. 

2-1 at the interval and Latics would have to improve considerably if they were to get anything from the game.

Ben Barkley’s snapshot early in the second half nearly increased the hosts lead but it was inches wide of the post.

The visitors continued to struggle defensively, they were losing out in aerial battles and in forward positions they were caught offside far too often.

Luke Robinson did go close on 56 minutes following a short corner routine and Darikwa blazed over soon afterwards. But Latics remained unconvincing and worse was to come as Darikwa needlessly brought down McConville to concede a penalty which Charles duly converted.

Jamie Proctor replaced Gardner on 63 minutes as Latics looked for more of a presence in the forward line but they still struggled to penetrate the Accrington defence.

Darikwa fired over the angle of the post and crossbar on 75 minutes from the edge of the box and Lang drove wide of the target a minute later. There was a scramble in the Accrington box  on 82 minutes and the resulting shot from close range was well saved by Savin.

At the other end Jones made a great one-handed save to deny Morgan after more sloppy play by Evans on the edge of his own area and McConville’s strike from the edge of the box went just over as Latics lived dangerously.

Four minutes of added time but the visitors just couldn’t find a way through the resolute Accrington defensive line.

This was a very disappointing display by Latics especially after their recent good form. Many of the players had fallen way below their high standards with only Lang emerging with much credit. Latics were without Solomon-Otabor and Massey but too many players had an off day.

A big improvement will be required if they are to get anything from the next fixture against Paul Cook’s new team Ipswich Town. With ten games remaining there is still time to escape the drop but the standards must not fall as low as they did today. 

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Latics edge out of the drop zone – AFC Wimbledon 1 Wigan Athletic 1

Jamie Proctor put Latics ahead

Wigan Athletic moved out of the relegation zone after a hard fought 1-1 draw with fellow strugglers AFC Wimbledon.

The visitors took a deserved 58th minute lead following a flowing attacking move. Viv Solomon-Otabor’s excellent right wing cross found substitute Dan Gardner in the box and he set the ball back to Jamie Proctor who produced a composed finish into the bottom left corner of the net.

The hosts pressed for the equaliser as Latics were forced deeper and it came on 79 minutes when Ryan Longman’s inviting cross from the right was headed into the bottom left corner by George Dobson.

Late in the game Latics keeper Jamie Jones came to the rescue with a clearing header from Curtis Tilt’s risky back pass and the points were shared.

Latics move above Northampton into 20th place while the Dons climb to 22nd place and are two points from safety with a game in hand.

Leam Richardson made one change from the starting eleven with Scott Wootton returning after being unavailable for the win at Plymouth. Callum Lang missed out due to a groin injury.

Prior to this battle of the basement Latics had been boosted by the news 24 hours earlier that the takeover by the Bahraini consortium was almost complete.

Latics started brightly and forced a couple of early corners in their first visit to the new Plough Lane Stadium.

The hosts went close on 11 minutes when Joe Pigott curled his shot from the edge of the box narrowly wide of the target.

As the half progressed both teams struggled to create any clear-cut chances in windy conditions.

Latics lost Gavin Massey to a hamstring injury on 40 minutes, his replacement Gardner started on the left with Viv Solomon-Otabor moving over to the right wing.

0-0 at the interval after a cagey first 45 minutes. Both teams had been limited in the final third and it was noticeable that Latics were missing Lang’s energy and goal threat.

The second half was a much livelier affair and Latics started to threaten.

First Tendayi Darikwa’s dangerous cross was well cut out by the Dons keeper Nik Tzanev with Proctor ready to pounce.

Soon afterwards Lee Evans audacious free kick from an acute angle forced another excellent save from the New Zealand international and a couple of minutes later he saved low down to his left from Proctor.

At the other end Longman’s effort from the edge of the box was straight at Jones and a minute later he fired wide when the Dons broke quickly out of defence.

Latics went ahead in the 58th minute with a well worked move. Solomon-Otabor crossed from the right and Gardner set the ball back to Proctor who showed great composure before placing the ball into the bottom left corner of the net.

The Dons responded and went close when Pigott’s near post header from a corner went narrowly wide.

Joe Dodoo replaced Proctor as the lone striker on 73 minutes.

The Dons drew level on 79 minutes when Longman’s excellent cross from the right was headed into the bottom left corner by Dobson.

Luke O’Neill’s left footed shot from outside the box was easily saved by Jones on 83 minutes but soon afterwards the Latics keeper came to the rescue when he headed clear Tilt’s risky back pass.

Gardner blazed over the crossbar from the edge of the area on 86 minutes and in added time Evans’ 35-yard free kick caused havoc in the Dons box but a Latics player was ruled offside and the points had to be shared.

Despite being held it has still been a great period for Latics’ supporters with seven points from the last three games and news that the takeover by Phoenix 2021 Ltd should be completed by the end of the month.

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Review: Thou Shall Not Pass – The Anatomy of Football’s Centre-Half by Leo Moynihan

Thou Shall Not Pass cover

Leo Moynihan’s ‘Thou Shall Not Pass’ is a wide-ranging exploration of football’s centre-half position. I have personally always preferred the role of striker and the glory of scoring goals but this story of centre-halves provides a welcome insight into their vital role in any team.

Centre-halves are often overlooked and misunderstood and Moynihan’s book explores the mindset of the traditionally bruising hard man, determined on destroying the opposition’s attacks.

Thou Shall Not Pass (from a command England captain Terry Butcher shouted before every match) celebrates the football position where brutal characters are loved for their hard-hitting tackles and bruising mentality, and yet laughed at for their apparent lack of skill.

Butcher used to shout, “Fix bayonets, Lads”, when they were under pressure. ‘Bayonets, digging in, being in the trenches; there is a certain militaristic tilt that occurs when discussing defending in this country….’

But this is not just a story of big brutes and dogged defending but of the evolution of the position through the decades incorporating European and South American influences and how modern players such as Virgil van Dijk can combine both the physical with the erudite. 

When the continental style was taking off in the 1960’s Bill Shankly was the first to bring two centre-halves to Anfield in 1964 and the central defensive partnership soon became the accepted formation.

The England 1966 World Cup winning central defensive partnership of Bobby Moore and Jack Charlton were complete opposites. 

Moore said of Charlton, “ A big man and a big character. Some days we’d be going out and I’d look at him and wonder how the hell this giraffe played football. But he was tremendously effective. We used to argue black and blue because I wanted to get the ball down and play the game and he wanted to hoof it away to safety. But we made a pair.”

Moore was the consummate central defender of his generation and his tackle against Jairzinho in the 1970 World Cup remains as brave a defensive moment as it is iconic.

“What he would do was when people ran him, he would bide his time,” says Harry Redknapp. “ Jairzinho has ripped everyone to bits in Mexico, but not Bobby. That tackle is great. But the whole game, Bobby waited and ran him to the corner or timed a perfect tackle. He did that to me every day in training. Fantastic.”

Despite their evolution Moynihan states that centre-halves are still something of an enigma. Put simply, they are a complex and mixed bunch, some who can play and some who still prefer the big boot.

It is an enjoyable read which includes interviews with many well-known centre-halves and plenty of entertaining anecdotes but, for some reason, it never quite soars to the heights of the centre-half who rises majestically to head away the danger.

Thou Shall Not Pass – The Anatomy of Football’s Centre-Half by Leo Moynihan. Published by Bloomsbury Sport. Price £16.99.

This review first appeared in the March/April edition of Late Tackle magazine.

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Latics move on up – Plymouth Argyle 0 Wigan Athletic 2

Viv Solomon-Otabor scored his first goal for Latics

Wigan Athletic moved out of the League One relegation zone with an impressive 2-0 away victory at mid-table Plymouth Argyle.

In an open first half with plenty of chances Latics went ahead on 13 minutes when Viv Solomon-Otabor lashed the ball home from Gavin Massey’s right wing cross.

Plymouth hit the post and bar but Curtis Tilt consolidated Latics lead on 32 minutes when he superbly steered his near post header past Michael Cooper from Tendayi Darikwa’s right wing cross.

The second half had less opportunities for either side but with 20 minutes remaining Jamie Jones made two excellent saves in quick succession to keep out the Pilgrims and enable Latics to move on up the table.

Latics are now in 20th place and one point above the drop zone. Plymouth slip to 15th in the table.

Leam Richardson made two changes to the starting eleven from Saturday’s 3-0 win against MK Dons with Lee Evans returning from a long injury in midfield and Jamie Proctor upfront in place of Joe Dodoo. Scott Wootton was unavailable due to the conditions of his loan from Plymouth.

Darikwa made a risky challenge in the area after only seven minutes but referee Gavin Ward made the correct decision and awarded a goal kick.

A minute later Callum Lang picked up a poor back pass and volleyed wide of the target from a good position on the edge of the box.

Lang was a constant threat and his good work resulted in the visitors going ahead on 13 minutes. Lang won the ball and fed Massey whose cross from the right found Solomon-Otabor in the centre and the Nigerian international lashed the ball home for his first goal for Latics.

Lang was in the thick of the action and he nearly doubled Latics lead on 17 minutes but his low strike was saved by Cooper’s legs and Solomon-Otabor blazed over from a good position.

At the other end Luke Jephcott volleyed against the crossbar from eight yards out before Solomon-Otabor drove his shot narrowly wide of the near post on 20 minutes.

The hosts then had a good spell of pressure and Latics survived a scare when Connor Grant’s strike was deflected onto the post by Tilt and Jones did well to save another goal-bound effort soon afterwards.

Latics were always a threat on the break however and they added to their lead on 32 minutes when Darikwa’s teasing cross from the right was firmly headed home by Tilt at the near post.

Just before half time Evans’ free kick from the left found Proctor in the box but the striker’s header was well saved by Cooper and the referee adjudged the former Rotherham player to have fouled his marker.

Lang and Solomon-Otabor had proved to be a real handful in the first half and Latics led 2-0 at half time.

Neil Ennis had the first real chance of the second half on 57 minutes when he turned well in the box but Tilt did very well to get in a block and deny him.

Latics were maintaining a good defensive shape now and goalscoring opportunities were less frequent.

Proctor and Lang were replaced by Dodoo and Will Keane on 66 minutes as Richardson looked to refresh his strike force.

The hosts best opportunities to reduce the deficit came on 72 minutes when Ryan Hardie’s left foot strike was well saved by Jones and seconds later the Latics keeper made a vital save to keep out Danny Mayor’s goal-bound effort.

Substitute Adam Lewis curled a free kick around the Latics defensive wall on 77 minutes as the hosts hit the woodwork for the third time.

Corey Whelan replaced Lee Evans on 87 minutes and in four minutes of added time Thelo Aasgaard and Dan Gardner replaced Solomon-Otabor and Massey.

Latics stood firm and saw out the final stages to secure a vital three points in their quest for League One survival.

It was a massive result for the club which has suffered the extreme consequences of a long period of administration and which will hopefully come to a positive conclusion very soon.

Latics have no game on Saturday due to Sunderland’s appearance in the Papa John’s Trophy Final but they face fellow strugglers AFC Wimbledon next Tuesday in another critical game at the bottom of the table.

If they can maintain the momentum of their last two performances against MK Dons and Plymouth they will have an opportunity to pull away from the bottom end of the table.

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Posted in Curtis Tilt, League One, Plymouth Argyle, Viv Solomon-Otabor, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Latics boost their survival hopes – Wigan Athletic 3 Milton Keynes Dons 0

Joe Dodoo scored his first goal for Latics

Wigan Athletic overcame MK Dons possession-based football with an emphatic 3-0 victory at the DW Stadium.

The visitors enjoyed the lion’s share of possession but Latics created the better chances and went ahead through George Johnston’s header from Viv Solomon-Otabor’s left wing cross in the 23rd minute.

The hosts increased their lead in the 64th minute when Gavin Massey’s right wing cross was headed home by Callum Lang and they sealed the vital three points in their relegation battle when Solomon-Otabor set up Joe Dodoo for his first Latics goal on 70 minutes.

MK Dons pressed for a consolation but Latics managed to keep them at bay and were able to keep their first clean sheet in six matches.

Latics move off the bottom of the table and are now only one point from safety with 13 games remaining. MK Dons drop to 16th place.

Leam Richardson made two changes to the starting eleven from the defeat against Charlton with Callum Lang and George Johnston replacing Thelo Aasgaard and Alex Perry. MK Dons had former Latics favourite Will Grigg in the starting line-up and former Latics keeper Lee Nicholls and midfielder Josh McEachron on the bench.

Latics had a great opportunity in only the third minute when Lang and Massey combined with a quick one-two and Lang was through on goal but his strike was well saved by Dons keeper Andy Fisher.

The visitors were starting to enjoy plenty of possession in the early stages but it was Latics who went ahead when Solomon-Otabor’s deflected cross from the left was headed home by Johnston with a well executed header from 12 yards out.

The visitors were playing a dangerous game playing out very slowly from the back and they were lucky not to be punished by Latics attackers who were pressing high.

The Dons manager Russell Martin was clearly unhappy with how it was going and made a double substitution on 31 minutes with Andrew Surman and Zak Jules replacing Daniel Harvie and Jordan Houghton.

Latics had another great chance to increase their lead on 35 minutes as Massey combined with Darikwa and the winger’s side-footed shot from inside the box was well saved by Fisher in the centre of the goal.

At the other end Ethan Laird found space on the edge of the 18-yard box before forcing Jamie Jones to tip his effort over the crossbar.

Harry Darling then tried his luck from 30-yards and his swerving strike crashed against the post with Jones beaten on 42 minutes.

Latics were under some pressure at the end of the first half but the visitors were unable to create any clear-cut chances with Grigg well marshalled by Curtis Tilt and Scott Wootton.

Early in the second half Joe Mason’s strike was wide of the target from Laird’s cutback as the visitors continued to dominate possession.

Darling was posing a threat as he began to stride forward for the visitors and as Latics retreated into defence.

But when Latics did finally break out of defence they consolidated their lead on 64 minutes. Dodoo won the ball back and found Massey whose right wing cross was headed home by Lang for his sixth goal of the season.

Ten minutes later and Latics sealed the three points when Dodoo and Solomon-Otabor combined and Dodoo had the relatively easy opportunity to finish from eight yards out in the centre of the box.

Jamie Proctor replaced the injured Dodoo on 75 minutes as Latics looked to see out the final 15 minutes.

The visitors continued to have plenty of possession but Latics were able to keep them at a safe distance. When they did manage to get a shot on target it was either well blocked by the defence or Jones was alert to the threat.

With five minutes remaining Dan Gardner replaced Solomon-Otabor and Aasgaard replaced Lang. In the four minutes of added time Alex Perry and Zach Clough replaced Funso Ojo and Massey as Latics saw out the final minutes relatively untroubled.

The visitors may have dominated possession but Latics had defended well, been more clinical in the final third and deserved the three points.

This was a morale boosting performance by Latics but they now have three difficult away games at Plymouth Argyle, AFC Wimbledon and Accrington Stanley. They must try to ensure that they continue to make progress and cut out the defensive mistakes that have plagued their season.

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