12th Man – Do or die

nick-powell3

Nick Powell. Photograph courtesy of Wigan Athletic.

Graham Barrow’s cunning plan to upset Brighton’s promotion party might have come off on Easter Monday if it was not for some woeful defending.

Barrow had hoped his team would keep the scores level until he could introduce the prolific Nick Powell in the last 30 minutes but Latics went behind before half time.

The goal was a route one affair converted by Glenn Murray with the Latics defence slow to react.

Solly March added the second when his shot went straight through Jakob Haugaard’s legs and the Seagulls could have had many more as the Stoke City loanee keeper made a series of mistakes by dropping crosses and fumbling shots.

In a season of self-inflicted problems Latics have dumped yet more misery upon themselves.

Experienced keeper Matt Gilks had been in good form before Haugaard surprisingly returned to the team against Rotherham and Barnsley and was very shaky to say the least.

But Haugaard’s performance against Brighton at the Amex Stadium was embarrassing and cost Latics any chance of getting a point. The Latics Board must rue signing the agreement that Haugaard play a specified number of games or pay the financial penalty.

It’s do or die now with Latics five points from safety with only three games remaining. Their relegation rivals Blackburn, Nottingham Forest and Birmingham have easier fixtures on paper, so it will require some surprise results for Latics to stay up.

A win against Cardiff City tomorrow is essential if they are to have any hope of survival and Gilks must surely return to the team if they are to have a chance.

Latics must also take a risk with Nick Powell’s fitness as they try to keep their season alive. The former Manchester United midfielder has been limited to 20 and 30 minute spells on the pitch due to his hamstring injury but I would expect him to have more game time against the Bluebirds.

Powell has now scored five goals in his last three substitute appearances with a goal on average every 16.4 minutes.

It is likely that Latics would not have been in relegation trouble if Powell had been available all season. He is a prodigious talent and can turn a game almost single-handedly.

In his last three substitute appearances he has shown Premier League quality and if he can show that kind of form in the next three games who knows what might happen.

This article was first published in the 12th Man column for the Wigan Evening Post on Friday 21st April 2017.

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Posted in Cardiff City, Championship, Graham Barrow, Jakob Haugaard, Nick Powell, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Latics fail to spoil Brighton’s promotion party – Brighton & Hove Albion 2 Wigan Athletic 1

Amex Stadium

View from the away end – Amex Stadium

Latics failed to stall Brighton’s promotion celebrations and slipped further into relegation trouble with a 2-1 defeat at the Amex Stadium.

Brighton dominated throughout but it was some woeful defending by Latics that ensured they were promoted to the Premier League with three Championship fixtures still remaining.

The home team went ahead on 37 minutes when Tomer Hemed in the box knocked down a route one ball from Lewis Dunk and Glenn Murray fired home past Haugaard.

Solly March added a second in the second half when his shot went straight through Haugaard’s legs and the Seagulls could have had many more as the Stoke City loanee keeper made a series of mistakes by dropping crosses and fumbling shots.

The Latics Board must surely be rueing signing the agreement for Haugaard to play a specified number of games or pay the financial penalty.

From a rare Latics attack substitute Nick Powell’s header gave them hope on 85 minutes but they failed to test Brighton keeper David Stockdale in the dying minutes and they are now five points from safety with only three games remaining.

Brighton need three more points from their three remaining games if they are to seal the Championship title.

Graham Barrow made two changes to the Latics line-up from the victory against Barnsley with Ryan Tunnicliffe and David Perkins replacing Callum Connolly and Sam Morsy.

In front of a bumper crowd of 29,940 and with Brighton going for promotion Latics knew they would have to be at their best to get anything from the game.

They coped well in the early minutes but some nervy goalkeeping by Haugaard wasn’t helping matters.

Anthony Knockaert’s free-kick into the box wasn’t held by Haugaard and Dunk should have scored but his effort was somehow bundled away. Dunk then got on the end of another Knockaert free-kick after 26 minutes but headed over.

The first Brighton goal was a route one affair on 37 minutes. Dunk launched a long ball from his own half, which was knocked down by Tomer Hemed in the box, and Glenn Murray fired home past Haugaard.

The Seagulls might have soon doubled their lead when Knockaert’s corner was headed in by Murray at the far post but the ball was judged to have crossed the line on its way from the corner.

David Perkins had a rare attempt at goal just before half time, but his effort was deflected for a corner.

With Latics only one goal down at the interval and with the likely introduction of Nick Powell and Ryan Colclough in the second half there was still hope that they could get something from the game.

However, the Latics keeper wasn’t inspiring any confidence in defence and he spilled Solly March’s left-wing cross and Hemed looked likely to score but Buxton managed to save Haugaard’s blushes.

Haugaard did make a good save on 52 minutes when he tipped Knockaert’s free-kick from 20 yards around his post.

Barrow made the expected change on 60 minutes replacing Ryan Tunnicliffe and Gabriel Obertan with Ryan Colclough and Nick Powell.

But before Latics could build any momentum they were 2-0 down on 65 minutes. Knockaert weaved his way past two Latics defenders and set up March who took a touch and fired through the hapless Haugaard’s legs at the near post.

Haugaard looked dreadfully uncomfortable and he flapped at an easy to catch cross which fell to Knockaert but the striker somehow failed to convert.

Barrow then introduced Sam Morsy in place of Shaun MacDonald as Latics tried to gain a foothold.

Powell had an attempt from 25 yards but Stockdale saved easily. Knockaert then had the ball in the net but was flagged offside and Murray produced a good cross which Knockaert just failed to reach.

But with 85 minutes on the clock Latics reduced the arrears through the prolific Nick Powell. The supersub met Jamie Hanson’s cross between two Brighton defenders in the six-yard box and angled his header into the corner of the net.

Powell has now scored five goals in his last three substitute appearances with a goal on average every 16.4 minutes.

Wigan now had a chance to get something out of the game. However, substitute Chuba Akpom might have increased Brighton’s lead but his shot from close range only hit the side netting.

Latics were given three minutes of added time to try and grab a point and postpone Brighton’s promotion but sadly they failed to get a shot on target. Just before the end Powell produced a mazey run beating several defenders but the last defender blocked his final shot and their last hope of a point was extinguished.

The final whistle was greeted with a massive cheer from the home fans and the inevitable mass pitch invasion to start the promotion party.

Posted in Brighton & Hove Albion, Championship, Glenn Murray, Nick Powell, Solly March, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Powell super show keeps Latics’ survival hopes alive – Wigan Athletic 3 Barnsley 2

Goalscorer Nick Powell

Nick Powell produced a virtuoso display

Supersub Nick Powell scored an 11 minute hat-trick to stun Barnsley and keep Latics’ season alive.

Barnsley had gone into a two goal lead through Adam Armstrong and Ryan Kent, but when Powell entered the fray on 66 minutes he proved to be a game changer first scoring direct from a free-kick on 71 minutes.

He added a second goal a minute later when keeper Davies was unable to hold Ryan Colclough’s drive.

Powell was at the centre of all Latics’ best moves and Barnsley could not contain the enigmatic frontman.

He sealed a miraculous turnaround by blasting home a penalty after he had been fouled by Angus MacDonald.

Wigan move above Blackburn Rovers into 22nd place but are still four points behind Bristol City who face QPR today.

Graham Barrow made three changes to the starting line-up with Sam Morsy, Jake Buxton and Callum Connolly returning in place of Alex Gilbey, Craig Morgan and Ryan Colclough.

Latics started brightly with Max Power heading over after 10 minutes, Gabriel Obertan fired wide after 20 minutes and was unable to convert another opportunity on 25 minutes.

Latics best chance fell to former Barnsley loanee Sam Morsy on 35 minutes. The Eqyptian midfielder found space in the area and hit a low drive which went through a sea of legs but keeper Davies did well to get his hand to the ball and parry it away.

Barnsley always looked dangerous on the break and they went ahead against the run of play just before the interval.

Marley Watkins crossed and Ryan Kent’s powerful effort struck the post but came straight back to Adam Armstrong who converted at the far post from six yards.

Ryan Colclough replaced Morsy at half time as Latics looked to quickly get back on level terms.

Latics had a couple of early free-kicks in dangerous positions. Power first blasted a 20 yard free-kick just wide of the post on 52 minutes and Jacobs was unable to beat the wall a couple of minutes later.

But on 59 minutes it looked as though Barnsley might have sealed the three points with a clinical breakaway.

Bradshaw broke through the centre and then fed the ball out to Kent on the right-hand side, who cut inside and fired past the despairing Jakob Haugaard.

Nick Powell replaced Gabriel Obertan as Barrow attempted to get a foothold in the game and what an amazing impact he made.

Powell almost immediately won a free-kick on the angle of the area and he stepped up to smash an unstoppable shot past Davies and into the Barnsley net.

Two minutes later keeper Davies couldn’t hold Colclough’s low drive and Powell pounced to make the scores level.

Powell was in unstoppable form and Barnsley resorted to desperate measures to try and contain him.

Fouls were plentiful around the Barnsley box and the chance of a free-kick or penalty always looked likely.

Max Power crashed a powerful shot against the crossbar with ten minutes remaining as Latics pressed for the winner.

The opportunity soon came as Jamie Hanson launched a throw in into the box and MacDonald foolishly fouled Powell in the area.

A clear penalty and it was, of course, Powell who stepped up to take it.

Powell showed no signs of nerves and smashed the ball down the centre of the goal as Davies dived to his left.

What an amazing turnaround and what a virtuoso display by Nick Powell.

Latics had to endure a late scare when Matty James bundled the ball home for Barnsley but referee Simon Hooper disallowed the goal for a foul on Haugaard

There were ecstatic scenes at the end as Latics’ players and fans celebrated an amazing comeback.

They now have a difficult fixture at Championship leaders Brighton on Easter Monday but they go into the game with renewed hope that they can pull off a great escape.

Posted in Adam Armstrong, Barnsley, Championship, Nick Powell, Ryan Kent, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Latics are still hanging on – Wigan Athletic 3 Rotherham United 2

Goalscorer Nick Powell

Nick Powell scored the late winner

A dramatic 96th winner by Nick Powell kept Wigan Athletic’s Championship survival hopes alive against bottom club Rotherham United.

A moment of madness by Rotherham keeper Lewis Price, who bizarrely attempted to first strangle and then jump on the back of Powell, gave Latics a late free-kick and Powell duly obliged with a stunning strike.

Danny Ward had given the Millers an early lead before Gabriel Obertan equalised with his first goal for Latics.

Anthony Forde restored the Millers lead on 61 minutes, but four minutes later Alex Gilbey slotted past Price to draw the teams level.

After much time wasting by Rotherham it was perhaps only fitting that Latics produced the winning goal from Powell in the sixth minute of added time.

Graham Barrow made three changes to the team defeated at Ipswich with Jakob Haugaard surprisingly replacing in-form Matt Gilks in goal, while Alex Gilbey and Gabriel Obertan replaced David Perkins and Jake Buxton.

Latics had a good shout for a penalty in the opening few minutes, when Michael Jacobs went down under a challenge from Joe Newell, but the referee Scott Duncan waved away appeals.

Rotherham then went close following a mistake by Haugaard. The Stoke City loanee keeper took far too long to control the ball on his goal line and Danny Ward dispossessed him, but with the goal at his mercy the striker somehow failed to hit the target. A big let off for Latics.

It was then Latics turn to attack and Ryan Colclough set up Max Power on the edge of the box but the midfielder’s effort went just wide of the target.

It was end-to-end stuff and Rotherham threatened with Newell firing straight at Haugaard, and they went ahead when Darnell Fisher crossed and Ward finished clinically from close range on 28 minutes.

However, the lead was to last only five minutes as Latics broke quickly through Gilbey, and Colclough was able to lay the ball off to Obertan who made no mistake from ten yards out.

Latics looked likely to add to the score sheet when Jacobs threatened but his shot was deflected for a corner and then Obertan had an effort which Price did well to save on his line.

The teams went into the interval level, but Latics would need to up their game considerably if they were going to secure the vital three points.

After an even opening to the second half the Millers regained the lead on 61 minutes following a mistake by Haugaard. The former Denmark U20 international allowed Forde’s speculative effort from 20 yards slip through his hands.

However, the Dane came to the rescue two minutes later when he produced a superb full length save to deny a header from Carlton Morris.

The save was to prove crucial as Latics broke down the other end and drew level through Alex Gilbey.

Obertan delivered the ball from the left and the unmarked Gilbey took a touch before slotting the ball past Price on 65 minutes.

Gilbey might have had a second soon afterwards but Price saved well and at the other end Haugaard made another crucial save, this time from Ward on 72 minutes.

Nick Powell came on for Gilbey with fifteen minutes remaining and his return was to prove the turning point for Latics.

Powell has great ability when he decides to show it and it is such a pity that he has been injured for most of this season.

Powell was soon in the thick of the action and his header from a Jamie Hanson free-kick was well tipped over by Price and then Dan Burn managed to get on the end of a Hanson cross in the 89th minute but the effort flew agonisingly over the bar.

Latics were given five minutes of additional time to try and extend their season and they went very close when Burn broke and set up Morsy, but the midfielder’s shot was blocked, and the subsequent follow up was cleared off the line by Fisher.

It looked as though Latics’ last chance might have gone, but they were soon given a lifeline in bizarre circumstances.

Powell stood in front of Price’s drop-kick as he cleared the ball but the keeper took objection and as Powell turned away Price incredibly tried to strangle him and then jump on his back.

After advice from the linesman and fourth official the referee awarded a direct free-kick on the edge of the Rotherham area. Both Price and Powell were awarded yellow cards but surely Price should have been dismissed for his actions.

However, justice was done as Powell stepped up and blasted his free-kick past the defensive wall and Price to give Latics a last gasp victory.

The result keeps Latics’ slim survival hopes alive but they remain seven points from safety with only five games remaining.

Posted in Alex Gilbey, Anthony Forde, Championship, Danny Ward, Gabriel Obertan, Nick Powell, Rotherham United, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

12th Man – Engineers of their own downfall

Dave Whelan

Dave Whelan

Latics reached a low point on Tuesday night when they pressed the self-destruct button in an abject 3-0 defeat at Ipswich Town. In a must win game they committed football suicide by gifting all three goals to the opposition.

Mistakes by defenders Craig Morgan, Jake Buxton and midfielder Alex Gilbey presented the Tractor Boys with an easy three points.

It’s been a dreadful season at Latics and perhaps the most disappointing aspect is that many of the problems have been self-inflicted.

Gary Caldwell was unnecessarily sacked as manager after only 14 games of the season with the team only three points from safety with two thirds of the season still remaining.

When Caldwell was appointed Chairman David Sharpe said it was “an appointment for the long-term” and spoke about having a “blueprint for the future”.

But short termism quickly returned to the club as owner Dave Whelan had a big say in the sacking and the appointment of his successor Warren Joyce.

Joyce was recommended by Whelan’s friend Alex Ferguson and what a disaster it proved to be.

Joyce was out of his depth in the Championship and he introduced a negative style of football which was not only ineffective in accruing points but also deeply unappealing to watch.

He lasted only four months in charge and left the club deeply embedded in the relegation zone. Joyce was allowed to bring in 14 players in the January transfer window and many of these were either unfit or inferior to the players already at the club.

Latics also lost their talismanic winger Yanic Wildschut to Norwich City and creative midfielder Jordi Gomez left for Rayo Vallecano.

They had also risked a big salary on former Manchester United midfielder Nick Powell but he failed to deliver and missed most of the season with injury.

Latics have now sacked five managers since the start of the 2013/14 season and few other clubs in the Premier League and Football League have a higher turnover of managers.

Dave Whelan has achieved so much for Latics during his time in charge but the club currently lacks coherent leadership.

The Championship is full of impatient owners looking for instant success and chopping and changing managers on a regular basis does not guarantee success.

It is likely that if Latics had shown some continuity and been patient with Caldwell they would probably have finished above teams like Blackburn Rovers and Bristol City who have been very poor this season.

Following Joyce’s dismissal interim manager Graham Barrow had helped to improve performances against Aston Villa and Newcastle United, but Latics plumbed new depths with a desperate display at Ipswich.

Barrow will want the players to restore some semblance of pride against bottom club Rotherham United tomorrow at the DW Stadium.

But more importantly owner Dave Whelan and Chairman David Sharpe have some very big decisions to make about how the club operates in the future as they prepare for life as a League One club.

This article was first published in the 12th Man column for the Wigan Evening Post on Friday 7th April 2017.

Posted in Championship, Dave Whelan, David Sharpe, Graham Barrow, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Defensive blunders push Latics to the brink – Ipswich Town 3 Wigan Athletic 0

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Portman Road – Panorama by Ian Hunneybell

Three defensive mistakes gifted Ipswich Town a comfortable 3-0 victory and left Wigan Athletic on the brink of relegation to League One.

Defender Craig Morgan was too easily dispossessed by Myles Kenlock who set up David McGoldrick to open the scoring on 22 minutes.

The Tractor Boys soon added a second when Jake Buxton gave the ball away in similar fashion and McGoldrick played through Freddie Sears to finish.

Ryan Colclough and Alex Gilbey forced keeper Bartosz Bialkowski into a couple of excellent saves as Latics tried to initiate a comeback, but then Gilbey dwelled too long on the ball and Sears broke clear to make the final score 3-0.

Latics remain seven points from safety with only six games remaining and the situation looks bleak.

Graham Barrow made three changes to the team beaten 2-1 at Newcastle with Ryan Colclough, David Perkins and Craig Morgan coming in for Sam Morsy, Callum Connolly and the injured Omar Bogle.

In an uneventful opening 20 minutes neither side threatened but on 22 minutes a defensive blunder by Morgan gifted the Tractor Boys the lead.

Kenlock dispossessed the overly casual Morgan and crossed the ball for McGoldrick, who finished clinically from close range.

Ipswich doubled their lead on 30 minutes following another blunder this time by Jake Buxton, who was dispossessed in his own half by McGoldrick and then fed Sears who ran clear to finish past Matt Gilks.

Latics tried to respond and had a couple of long range strikes from Max Power and Jamie Hanson just before the interval, both well saved by Bialkowski.

Alex Gilbey replaced Perkins at half time as Barrow tried to get Latics back in the game. Morgan saw a close range header saved on 50 minutes and Hanson fizzed a free-kick across the face of goal.

Colclough then saw his effort on 60 minutes superbly saved by the excellent Bialkowski.

Both keepers were on top form and Gilks saved from Grant Ward and Emyr Huws before he pulled off a double save to deny McGoldrick and the follow up from Ward.

Bialkowski then produced two top drawer saves to deny Gilbey from long-range and a point-blank effort from Jacobs.

But just when it looked like Latics might pull a goal back Ipswich broke, McGoldrick easily dispossessing Gilbey, and squaring the ball to Sears, who finished past Gilks at the second attempt.

Bialkowski made a another fine save to deny Gilbey from distance just before the final whistle but the three points had been secured for Ipswich long before then.

Posted in Championship, David McGoldrick, Freddie Sears, Ipswich Town, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Battling display isn’t quite enough for Latics – Newcastle United 2 Wigan Athletic 1

Michael Jacobs

Michael Jacobs drew Latics level

Latics produced a battling performance against Championship table-toppers Newcastle United at St James’ Park but still slipped to another damaging defeat.

They matched their expensively assembled opponents for most of the game and with a little more luck could have come away with a draw.

Neither team created any clear cut opportunities in the opening half hour but on 36 minutes the Magpies took the lead when former Latic Mohamed Diame found Dwight Gayle at the far post.

Latics lost striker Omar Bogle and midfielder Sam Morsy to injury at half time and it looked as though they would struggle without a central striker.

However, substitute Ryan Colclough and Michael Jacobs started to cause problems for the Newcastle back line and they drew level on 50 minutes through Jacobs.

Unfortunately Latics could only stay level until the 57th minute when Matt Ritche followed up a rebound off the post to head home.

Latics continued to battle for a point until the final whistle, Callum Connolly testing Darlow and Colclough firing just over the crossbar but Newcastle held on to maintain their position at the top of the table.

Interim manager Graham Barrow made three changes to the starting line up from the Aston Villa game with Captain Stephen Warnock back in place of the injured Andy Kellett, Callum Connolly was in for Craig Morgan and Max Power replaced Gabriel Obertan.

Both teams struggled to create any clear cut opportunities in an even opening half hour but Newcastle went ahead on 36 minutes after good work by Mohamed Diame. The fomer Latics midfielder found space on the right to fire across the face of goal and find Gayle at the far post to tap home.

Would the floodgates now open for Newcastle? The answer was no, and it was Latics who went closest just before the interval.

Dan Burn played through Omar Bogle into the box and Karl Darlow came scrambling off his line to deny the striker’s looped effort at close range.

Barrow was forced into making two changes at half time with the injured Bogle and Morsy being replaced by Colclough and Alex Gilbey.

Latics opened the second half brightly and they were soon on level terms.

Gilbey played the ball through to Jacobs on the edge of the area and he found his way past Laschelles before chipping over the advancing Darlow much to the delight of the travelling 1,200 Latics fans.

Latics then had two great chances to go ahead, first when Burn headed over Jacobs’ free-kick with the goal at his mercy, and secondly when Colclough broke free from his marker and fired his shot agonisingly across the face of goal.

But just when Latics looked the most likely to take the lead Newcastle went ahead when the ball fell invitingly to Ritchie inside the box. The striker’s half volley was tipped onto the post by Gilks and rebounded back to Ritchie to head home.

Despite the setback Latics continued to pose problems for the home team and Connolly forced Darlow to push over his powerful shot from the edge of the area. Burn was then unable to angle his header goalwards from another good position.

Colclough was making some good attacking runs and he fired a cracking shot just over the crossbar on 77 minutes.

Newcastle appealed for a penalty when Ritchie went down under a challenge from Jake Buxton on 83 minutes but referee David Coote waved away appeals.

Latics’ players continued to give their all until the final whistle but they were unable to create one final chance that might have gained them an important point.

The last two performances under Graham Barrow have been much improved but they are now seven points from safety with only seven games remaining and their survival prospects look slim.

Posted in Championship, Dwight Gayle, Matt Ritchie, Michael Jacobs, Newcastle United, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment