Latics stun unhappy Hammers – Wigan Athletic 2 West Ham United 0


Will Grigg Wigan Athletic

Will Grigg’s on fire!

Latics recorded a famous FA Cup fourth-round victory as they completely outplayed Premier League West Ham at the DW Stadium.

The injury-hit Hammers posed little threat throughout as Latics ran out comfortable 2-0 winners with a brace from top scorer Will Grigg.

Grigg opened the scoring after only seven minutes when he powerfully headed Nathan Byrne’s superb cross past England keeper Joe Hart.

The Hammers misery was further compounded when Arthur Masuaku was sent off for spitting at Nick Powell just after half time.

Fomer Latics loanee Reece Burke handled the ball in the area after 62 minutes and Grigg confidently drove his penalty kick down the centre of the goal as Hart dived to his left.

The Hammers could have few complaints about the result as Latics looked more like the Premier League team and progressed into the fifth round for only the fourth time in their history.

Paul Cook made one change from the team which defeated Plymouth Argyle 3-1 last weekend, with Callum Elder replacing Reece James at left back.

Latics were at their best right from the kick off pressing high up the pitch and giving the Hammers little time on the ball.

They went ahead on seven minutes with a superb attacking move. Max Power fed Byrne out wide on the right and the wing-back produced a pinpoint cross to Grigg whose perfectly placed header found the top corner of the net.

Latics were in the ascendancy and they nearly went two up when Chey Dunkley headed home from close range, but the linesman flagged for offside.

It was one-way traffic as Powell fired just over the crossbar from the edge of the box and Jacobs tried his luck from distance but Hart saved low down to his right.

The Hammers had a rare foray forward just before half time and Latics captain Sam Morsy had to block a couple of shots before Reece Oxford blazed high over the crossbar.

West Ham started the second half with more intent, probably after a verbal blasting from David Moyes, but all his work was undone on 49 minutes when Masuaku was sent off for spitting at Powell.

Latics were in complete control now and they increased their lead on 62 minutes when Grigg scored his second from the penalty spot after Burke had handled in the area.

Powell might have added a third on 75 minutes when he nearly got on the end of Byrne’s excellent low cross but Latics still ran out comfortable 2-0 winners.

Questions have to be asked about the West Ham players’ attitudes but we should not take anything away from Latics who were absolutely magnificent from minute 1 to minute 95.

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12th Man – Cook’s special treats


Paul Cook has a recipe for success

It was a very pleasing result at Plymouth as Latics came through one of their toughest tests of the season. The large Home Park crowd had come with high expectations as their team were unbeaten in eight games and they wanted to see the league leaders toppled.

In an exciting end-to-end game both teams produced high quality attacking play, but it was Latics who were the more clinical and secured the three-points to extend their unbeaten league run to ten games and move five-points clear at the top of the table.

It is no overstatement to say that Latics’ away form under manager Paul Cook has been nothing short of phenomenal. Since the start of the season they have won 10, drawn 1 and lost 2, scoring 32 and conceding only 9.

After the Plymouth victory BBC journalist Paul Rowley tweeted that Latics’ fans who had seen the club’s record-breaking six successive away wins had each travelled 1,859 miles to watch the team. They have also seen an incredible 21 goals scored with just 3 conceded.

Luckily I’ve been able to attend all those away games and it’s been a privilege to watch Latics in such stunning form. They have been great away days and I would encourage all our supporters to get to as many away games as possible before the end of the season, so that they can experience some brilliant attacking football at first hand.

Latics next away day is on Tuesday night at Rochdale and I would hope as many fans as possible make the short trip to Spotland or the Crown Oil Arena as it’s now called. If it’s like any of the last six away games you are in for a real treat.

First though we have a small matter of an FA Cup fourth-round home tie against Premier League West Ham United. The national media spotlight will be on the game and Latics are certainly capable of causing another upset.

The unhappy Hammers have struggled this season under Slaven Bilic and they recently appointed David Moyes as manager in an attempt to keep them in the Premier League. Moyes has made an initial impact by stabilising their position but they are still only four points above the drop zone.

West Ham are also in the throes of an injury crisis and could be without up to 11 players for the game. Several of their top players are in the treatment room, including forwards Andy Carroll £10m, Manuel Lanzini £15m and Marko Arnautovic £20m.

Former Latics loanee Reece Burke saved the Hammers from a penalty shoot out against League One opposition in the last round when he scored in the second half of extra time as they edged out Shrewsbury.

The Premier League team will still be favourites to go through but David Moyes knows only too well that being favourites doesn’t necessarily equate into winning. His Everton team were expected to progress against Latics in the FA Cup quarter-final in 2013, and we all know how that ended.

This article was first published in the Wigan Evening Post on Friday 26th January 2018.

Posted in David Moyes, FA Cup, Paul Cook, Plymouth Argyle, West Ham United, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Latics survive one of their sternest tests – Plymouth Argyle 1 Wigan Athletic 3


Plymouth clear a Wigan attack

Wigan Athletic came through one of their sternest away tests when they recorded a hard-fought 3-1 victory at in-form Plymouth Argyle.

In an exciting end-to-end game both teams produced high quality attacking play, but it was Latics who secured the three-points to extend their unbeaten league run to ten  games and move five-points clear at the top of the table.

The Pilgrims, who had been on an eight game unbeaten run, went ahead on 27 minutes when Chey Dunkley brought down Graham Carey, and the midfielder got up to convert the penalty.

But Latics were level almost immediately when Nick Powell played an accurate ball with the outside of his right boot to find Will Grigg and the striker got the slightest of touches to deflect the ball past Remi Matthews.

In a wide open game both teams continued to create chances but it was Latics who went ahead in first half stoppage time. Max Power burst into the Pilgrims half and his defence splitting pass found Gavin Massey who finished well into the bottom corner.

Plymouth made it difficult for Latics at the beginning of the second half winning many of the midfield battles and putting pressure on the defence.

But Latics extinguished much of the Pilgrims fire when on 69 minutes Power’s corner was headed home by Man of the Match Dan Burn, his header taking a deflection off a defender before hitting the back of the net.

Paul Cook retained the same starting line up from last Saturday’s 0-0 draw with Peterborough United. New signing James Vaughan was on the bench.

Will Grigg had an early chance for Latics when a Plymouth defender played the ball across his own area, but the striker was unable to capitalise.

Argyle applied some early pressure but it was not long before Latics were creating chances at the other end.

Chey Dunkley almost put Latics in front but his header cleared the crossbar from close range after a good delivery by Power.

Plymouth’s most creative player Carey was causing problems for Latics, and after getting the best of Dunkley in the area he was brought down from behind by the defender.

The midfielder stepped up and comfortably beat Christian Walton from the penalty spot to deny Latics a record levelling eighth clean sheet in a row.

At least Latics were soon level when Powell played a deceptive low cross with the outside of his right boot and Grigg deflected the delivery past Matthews.

Powell tried his luck soon afterwards with a snap shot from a neat pull back by Nathan Byrne but Matthews made the save low down to his right.

Then in added time in the first half Latics went ahead with a superb counter-attack.  Powell won the ball on the halfway line and fed Power who burst forward before playing a defence splitting pass to Massey and the winger finished low into the corner of the Argyle net.

Argyle started aggressively at the beginning of the second half and were winning many of the midfield battles.

Walton made a good save low down from a Carey free-kick as the pressure on Latics’ defence mounted.

The wind was causing problems for both teams as it swirled around Home Park.

Argyle defender Gary Sawyer almost put through his own net with an ill-considered back pass but although the ball looped over his own keeper, it fortunately bounced in the six yard box and over the crossbar.

Antoni Sarcevic then blazed over the crossbar for Plymouth from a good central position.

But the three points were secured for Latics on 69 minutes when Power’s well hit corner was headed home by Burn, although it took a deflection off Zak Vyner before hitting the back of the net.

Plymouth’s heads noticeably dropped after the third goal and although they had plenty of possession in the final quarter of the game they rarely troubled keeper Walton.

It was a very important away win for Latics in their pursuit of the League One title against a strong and in-form Argyle team.

The 459 visiting fans who made the pilgrimage to Home Park were superbly rewarded with an entertaining game and a great result which strengthens Latics’ position at the top.

Posted in Dan Burn, Gavin Massey, Graham Carey, League One, Plymouth Argyle, Wigan Athletic, Will Grigg | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

12th Man – Strength in depth is a big bonus

Ryan Colclough

Ryan Colclough had one of his best games for Latics

Latics celebrated a fantastic FA Cup victory against Premier League Bournemouth on Wednesday night. It was an exhilarating performance by a mixture of fringe players and first team regulars.

Prior to the game it looked as though Paul Cook was prioritising the league games over the FA Cup with six players rested from last Saturday’s draw with Peterborough.

Regulars Christian Walton, Dan Burn, Nathan Byrne, Reece James and Nick Powell were all rested or on the bench, and fringe players Jamie Jones, Alex Bruce, Callum Elder, David Perkins, Gary Roberts and Ryan Colclough all made rare starting appearances.

A few weeks ago I wrote a 12th Man piece suggesting that Latics’ squad players would have to step up to the mark if the club was to be successful in the second half of the season and they certainly did that to great effect on Wednesday night.

Cook’s team adopted a high-pressing game with Will Grigg, Gavin Massey, Colclough and Roberts all pushed well up the pitch.

The work rate by the forwards and midfield players in particular was phenomenal as they ran and harried their Premier league opponents into submission.

Winger Colclough was instrumental in the first goal and had one of his best games in a Latics shirt. Roberts and Perkins worked tirelessly throughout, Elder got on the score sheet with a pinpoint header and substitute Noel Hunt provided the flicked header for Burn’s second goal.

It was an exemplary effort by Latics’ fringe players and Cook rightly praised the work rate, effort and commitment of the players after the game. The manager went on to say,

“It’s always nice when you win a game like that. It was great for some of the lads who haven’t been playing recently to get minutes and to a man they were excellent, so great credit to them. The other lads who played as well were brilliant.”

The squad really showed their metal on the night and they have now gone 13 league and cup games unbeaten but they will have to be at their best when they make the long trip to Plymouth Argyle tomorrow.

They could be severely tested by an in-form Plymouth who have moved into mid-table following a meteoric rise from the relegation zone.

Derek Adams team are on a seven game unbeaten run and have only two defeats in the last 16 matches. They are now only eight points off a play-off spot with 18 games still to play.

Unfortunately striker Will Grigg limped off against Bournemouth and could be a doubt for the game tomorrow, but at least they will have new signing James Vaughan available as Latics seek to consolidate their lead at the top of the table.

This article was first published in the Wigan Evening Post on Friday 19th January 2018.

Posted in Alex Bruce, Bournemouth, Callum Elder, Dan Burn, David Perkins, Gary Roberts, Jamie Jones, Noel Hunt, Plymouth Argyle, Ryan Colclough, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Latics on the Wembley trail again – Wigan Athletic 3 AFC Bournemouth 0

FA Cup

The FA Cup

Latics produced a famous FA Cup third-round victory when they knocked out Premier League Bournemouth 3-0 at the DW Stadium.

The home team went ahead after only nine minutes through captain Sam Morsy after great play by Ryan Colclough and they continued to dominate the Cherries throughout the first half.

Bournemouth responded after the interval creating several good chances but they were profligate in front of goal, with striker Benik Afobe in particular missing some great opportunities to get them back into the game.

Latics always looked dangerous on the break and they went two up on 73 minutes when substitute Dan Burn got on the end of a Noel Hunt flick from Max Power’s excellent cross.

The result was then sealed on 76 minutes when Callum Elder produced a pinpoint header into the far corner past Artur Boruc from another superb Max Power cross.

Latics now have a fourth-round tie against West Ham at the DW Stadium on 27th January and on this form they will stand a very good chance of causing another upset.

Paul Cook surprisingly made six changes to the starting line-up from Saturday’s draw with Peterborough, with Jamie Jones, Alex Bruce, Callum Elder, David Perkins, Gary Roberts and Ryan Colclough all making rare appearances.

Latics’ first attempt came on six minutes when Gavin Massey forced Boruc into a smart save.

It was not long after that they went ahead following some great work by Colclough.

The winger beat several Bournemouth defenders before producing a low cross into Will Grigg, the striker’s initial effort was pushed away by Boruc, but on the follow up it was converted by Morsy.

The Cherries responded with a Ryan Fraser free kick which narrowly cleared the crossbar, a deflected effort by Lys Mousset, and an Afobe header which was well saved by Jones.

But Latics always looked a threat on the counter and Colclough blazed wide after creating a good shooting opportunity for himself.

The League One team were ahead at half time, but as expected the Premier League team rallied after the interval. Fraser forcing Jones into a good save at his near post and Perkins blocking well from Connor Mahoney.

Latics continued to pose a threat though and Colclough fired another effort narrowly wide of the target.

Afobe then had a golden opportunity to draw the Cherries level when he was through on goal but he somehow contrived to miss the target.

The Cherries were to rue the miss as substitute Dan Burn made it 2-0, only two minutes after coming onto the pitch.

The big centre-back finishing superbly as he got on the end of a Noel Hunt flick from Max Power’s excellent cross.

Latics third goal came three minutes later as another superb cross from Power found Elder at the back post and the full back’s pinpoint header beat Boruc.

It was a tremendous display by Latics against a strong Bournemouth team and they thoroughly deserved to progress into the fourth-round. Four years after winning the famous trophy they are once again causing a stir in the FA Cup.

Posted in Bournemouth, Callum Elder, Dan Burn, FA Cup, Sam Morsy, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Latics and Posh fail to fire – Wigan Athletic 0 Peterborough United 0


Dan Burn helped Latics to their seventh clean sheet

Two of League One’s highest scorers played out a surprising goalless draw at the DW Stadium. League leaders Latics failed to hit the net for the third home game in a row as their strikers had another off day.

They did have several good opportunities to break the deadlock and League One Player of the Month Dan Burn might have got on the score sheet after a rare sortie forward but his final shot was well blocked.

The Posh matched Latics for possession in an even encounter and might have won it at the death but Jack Marriott’s effort was ruled out for offside.

Despite the draw Latics extended their lead at the top of the table to three points after second placed Shrewsbury lost 3-1 at third place Blackburn.

Paul Cook kept the same starting line-up that had done so well at AFC Bournemouth in the FA Cup, with new signing James Vaughan on the bench.

Michael Jacobs was involved in several chances as Latics made the early running.

But the match only fitfully sprang into life as neither team created a clear cut opening.

Jacobs did force a good save from Posh keeper Jonathan Bond with his 20-yard drive on the half hour mark.

It looked likely that Posh would be dangerous from counter-attacks but it was just before half time before they threatened through an acrobatic Marcus Maddison volley.

Early in the second half centre-back Dan Burn made a surging run towards the Peterborough box and just when the DW Stadium was about to rise to applaud the fans’ favourite, his goal bound strike was well blocked by a defender.

Posh then threatened through the prolific Marriott but his low drive from distance was well saved by Christian Walton.

Gavin Massey then went close for Latics forcing a good save from Bond low down at his near post.

James Vaughan and Ryan Colclough replaced Will Grigg and Massey as Latics looked to unlock the Posh defence.

Colclough missed a golden opportunity when he completely missed his kick when inside the penalty area, before Nick Powell’s rising drive which was destined for the top corner was headed away for a corner.

Latics just couldn’t make the breakthrough and the visitors nearly claimed the three points when Marriott followed up a long range effort but the flag was raised for offside.

Despite Latics’ failure to score the team had extended their lead at the top, they are now 11 games unbeaten having secured their seventh league clean sheet in a row.

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12th Man – Posh will be no pushover

It’s been a very eventful week at Wigan Athletic with FA Cup drama, transfer activity, a tragic death and the prospect of a difficult game against Peterborough United.

After a great performance at Premier League Bournemouth the team were only denied progress into the FA Cup fourth round by a 92nd minute equaliser.

In what was a very entertaining game, Latics had taken a two-goal lead through Will Grigg and a deflected Nick Powell free kick before the Cherries pegged them back through French striker Lys Mousset.

With the game moving into added time Latics should have had a penalty when Ivan Toney was pushed in the back by defender Adam Smith. Having watched the video replay back numerous times I’m convinced that Toney was pushed in the area.

The decision was doubly cruel as Bournemouth went up the other end and equalised through Steve Cook.

After the game news emerged that loanee midfielder Lee Evans would be moving to Sheffield United from parent club Wolves for £750,000.

Evans has been integral to Latics’ success this season forming a great partnership with Sam Morsy in front of the back four. He has also scored two cracking goals against Bury and Crawley.

He will clearly be missed but Latics will be hoping that the in-form Max Power and the returning Shaun MacDonald can fill the gap.

Next to leave was another loanee Ivan Toney who returned to his parent club Newcastle United. The striker scored six goals as understudy to the now fit again Will Grigg.

The likelihood is that Toney will be replaced in the near future, possibly with another loan signing or Sunderland striker James Vaughan who has been in negotiations with Latics.

The first of several expected signings arrived this week when Hearts Jamie Walker joined the club for a fee in the region of £300,000 on a two-and-a-half-year deal.

The 24-year-old can play on either wing or just behind the main striker, but the challenge now is to see if he can make the transition to English football.

There was very sad news on Tuesday when it emerged that the former Latics player and Honduras international Juan Carlos Garcia’s had died from Leukemia aged just 29.

The defender joined Latics in 2013 from Honduran club Olimpia and played his only game in a League Cup tie at the Etihad Stadium against Manchester City in September of that year.

A minute’s silence will be held in honour of Juan Carlos ahead of tomorrow’s match against Peterborough.

I’m expecting the Posh to provide a stern test at the DW. They are currently in ninth place in the table with 39 points but will still be hoping to make the play-offs.

They defeated Latics 3-2 at the Abax Stadium back in September and they knocked Aston Villa out of the FA Cup last Saturday with top scorer Jack Marriott twice on target.

The prolific Marriott has scored 23 goals in all competitions this season and he will pose a big threat to Latics’ defence.

The Posh are a strong counter-attacking team and have some dangerous forwards alongside Marriott with Danny Lloyd (nine goals) and Marcus Maddison (seven goals).

Defensively they also concede plenty of goals, 37 so far this season, so I’m going to stick my neck out and predict a high scoring game with Latics coming out on top.

This article was first published in the Wigan Evening Post on Friday 12th January 2018.

Posted in Bournemouth, FA Cup, Ivan Toney, Jamie Walker, League One, Lee Evans, Peterborough United, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment