Wigan Athletic season preview – consolidation the aim

Leam Richardson photograph by Bernard Platt

Last season saw a truly remarkable transformation at Wigan Athletic. The club had been in administration the previous season and had only escaped relegation by one point, but under the new owners Phoenix 2021 Limited and manager Leam Richardson they secured the League One title in magnificent fashion.

Latics only had three players under contract at the start of last season but they recruited superbly and created a title winning squad without spending excessively.

The squad had only been together for a matter of months but they made huge progress in a short space of time.

Despite this success, there have been rumblings from some of the fanbase about the lack of signings in the close season.

Latics have allowed Adam Long to be sold,  Gavin Massey to be released, Jordan Jones and Luke Robinson to leave on loan. The club have not yet replaced loanees Kell Watts, Tom Bayliss and Glen Rea with Charlie Wyke, Gwion Edwards and Jordan Cousins currently out injured.

The only signing so far has been 24-year-old defender Ryan Nyambe from Blackburn Rovers. Nyambe, a Namibia international, spent 11 years with Blackburn, and played nearly 200 games for them. He has all the attributes to be an excellent addition to the squad.

However, I expect more signings in the coming weeks but not in the numbers of the previous season. The Latics recruitment team will be working hard to bring in more players before the transfer deadline on 1st September.

Richardson will know there is a need to strengthen in key positions but the club will not be panicked into buying or loaning the wrong type of players.

The possibility of loaning some young Premier League players could provide significant extra quality but the deals will have to be beneficial to both parties. During the 2018/19 season the loan of Reece James from Chelsea proved to be a masterstroke and helped Latics to stabilise in the Championship.

Richardson will want to give his League One winning team the opportunity to prove themselves at the higher level but it’s worth noting that there are quite a few players in the current squad who have Championship experience. The team spirit and camaraderie is high and the club have very experienced coaches in Richardson, Rob Kelly and James Beattie.

Promising Academy players James Carragher, Chris Sze, Scott Smith and Charlie Hughes have all featured in pre-season and could be pushing for a first team opportunity.

Latics are usually involved in promotion or relegation but this time around I’m predicting a season of consolidation and a mid-table finish.

Predicted Final Championship Table

  1. Norwich
  2. Sheffield United
  3. Middlesbrough
  4. West Brom
  5. Burnley
  6. Watford
  7. Huddersfield
  8. Coventry
  9. QPR
  10. Luton
  11. Wigan
  12. Blackburn
  13. Millwall
  14. Stoke
  15. Preston
  16. Swansea
  17. Blackpool
  18. Sunderland
  19. Rotherham
  20. Bristol C
  21. Cardiff
  22. Hull
  23. Birmingham
  24. Reading
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Summer Reading 2022 – The Best Football Books

Here’s my recommendations of the best football books of recent months for reading on the beach or by the pool. Kick off the summer with one of these great reads.

Review: Beautiful Bridesmaids Dressed in Oranje – The Unfulfilled Glory of Dutch Football by Gary Thacker

Gary Thacker’s ‘Beautiful Bridesmaids Dressed in Oranje’ provides an illuminating and in-depth analysis of the Dutch national team and their dramatic failure to win a World Cup. This is an extensive history of Dutch football, but the narrative really gathers pace with the 1970s when they reached the World Cup finals in 1974 and 1978.

Review: Deadline by Erkut Sogut

Agent Erkut Sogut uses his own experiences to delve into the murky world of football agents in the pacey crime thriller ‘Deadline’. Sogut is the founder of the Football Agent Institute, and his clients include Mesut Ozil, Kieran Gibbs and Kerem Akturkoglu.

Review: Don Revie – The Biography by Christopher Evans

When football fans talk about the greatest English managers, Don Revie is often excluded. Revie is perhaps the most controversial figure in English football and has never been forgiven for resigning as England manager and moving to the United Arab Emirates.

Review: More Than a Game – Saving Football from Itself by Mark Gregory

Formerly Ernst & Young’s Chief Economist and Stoke City supporter Mark Gregory has produced a timely and in-depth analysis of why the English game requires radical reform and how it can be changed for the better.

Review – Not for Me Clive: Stories from the Voice of Football by Clive Tyldesley

Clive Tyldesley was ITV’s senior football commentator for 22 years and his autobiography provides an entertaining insight into the life of a commentator obsessive. Tyldesley has spent time with many of the big characters of the game including Sir Alex Ferguson, Bill Shankly, Brian Clough and Sir Kenny Dalglish and his encounters are well worth the retelling.

Review: Radical Football – Jurgen Griesbeck and the Story of Football for Good by Steve Fleming

Radical Football is partly a history of the ‘Football for Good’ movement, partly a manifesto for the future of football and partly the autobiography of Jurgen Griesbeck and how he came to become one of football’s great innovators. 

Review: ’71/’72: Football’s Greatest Season? By Daniel Abrahams

Many people regard the 1971/72 football season as the greatest and Danny Abrahams’ book certainly makes a very strong case. ‘There was a season when the world’s greatest footballers were all on show at British grounds. Best, Keegan, Charlton and Moore were joined by Pele, Cruyff and Eusebio, while in the dugouts Clough, Shankly, Revie, and Allison duked it out in the closest ever championship title race.’ 

Review: The Accidental Footballer by Pat Nevin

Pat Nevin’s memoir is a tremendously entertaining read. The former Chelsea, Everton and Tranmere Rovers footballer, writer and broadcaster wasn’t the typical professional footballer – he loved playing the game – but wanted a career as a teacher and had many outside interests. His win bonuses went on records, attending gigs, theatre, movies, galleries and travelling.

 

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Review: Deadline by Erkut Sogut

Agent Erkut Sogut uses his own experiences to delve into the murky world of football agents in the pacey crime thriller ‘Deadline’.

Sogut is the founder of the Football Agent Institute, and his clients include Mesut Ozil, Kieran Gibbs and Kerem Akturkoglu. He previously wrote a book on agenting: ‘How to Become a Football Agent’ but this is his first novel.

‘Deadline’ uses transfer deadline day as the centrepiece for a story about a secret cabal of super agents called ‘The Table’ who are involved in off-pitch criminal activities.

As the deadline looms the agent Ander Anaia is pitted against another agent David Miller as they try to get their own players signed by Manchester United, but events take a more sinister turn as the characters are plunged into a dark criminal world.

There are plenty of plot twists involving Ander’s kidnapped daughter Joska, his brother the Manchester United manager Marco and David Miller is pursued by Spanish gangsters.

Sokut’s personal experiences of the football agent industry ensure the novel has a plausible feel and the themes of corruption in football, the power of agents, and nepotism are already well known within football circles.

Two investigative journalists identify the criminality within the super agents’ cabal ‘The Table’.

“There are several incidents we think we can link to their meddling. Sex scandals, failed drug tests and more worryingly there have been some instances where players have picked up injuries off the field or on the training ground. The Table manipulates the whole game – it’s not just agents playing hardball to get their commissions, we’re talking big league gambling. Millions resting on whether a player signs for this team or that…”

The agents’ dirty tricks are generously sprinkled throughout the narrative, and we are kept engaged by the contemporary football references and real-life locations.

Sogut crams plenty of action into the short chapters as the story zips along to the final dramatic conclusion. Will the Machiavellian Ander get his way, or will David Miller secure his first major transfer?

‘Deadline’ provides an entertaining insight into the world of the football agent which will keep you gripped right to the end. The inclusion of a double murder is probably where belief is most stretched but for the most part this a believable and captivating football and crime thriller.

Deadline by Erkut Sogut published by CA Publishing. Price: £12.99.

This review first appeared in the June/July 2022 edition of Late Tackle magazine.

Posted in Book Reviews, Erkut Sogut, Football Book Reviews, Late Tackle magazine, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Review: Radical Football – Jurgen Griesbeck and the Story of Football for Good by Steve Fleming

Radical Football is partly a history of the ‘Football for Good’ movement, partly a manifesto for the future of football and partly the autobiography of Jurgen Griesbeck and how he came to become one of football’s great innovators. 

The catalyst for Griesbeck’s work into ‘Football for Good’ was the murder of Colombian footballer Andres Escobar who had been murdered after scoring an own goal at the 1994 World Cup against the USA. The death of ‘the Gentleman of Football’ had shaken Griesbeck to the core but had initiated his work with gangs in Medellin, in Colombia in 1997.

Griesbeck created a methodology for the gangs to play football against each other that had unfamiliar rules such as no referees. Fouls would be called by consensus. Teams would have an equal number of males and females, and the first goal of each side could only be scored by a girl or woman. A courageous move that eventually paid dividends with a reduction in crime. 

This absorbing book traces Griesbeck’s development as an international agent for social change through a vast range of creative football schemes and projects culminating in ‘Common Goal’ in 2017. 

Members of ‘Common Goal’ pledge at least one per cent of their salary to help support good causes around the world. Juan Mata was the first to sign up and has been joined by the likes of Megan Rapinoe, Paulo Dybala, Pernille Harder, Mats Hummels, Giorgio Chiellini, Jurgen Klopp and entire clubs, companies, and competitions. So far there are over 450 members including 200 professional footballers, but the challenge is to get many more to sign up.

Griesbeck is critical of the role many football agents play in preventing professional players from getting involved but he is still hopeful that by 2030, the 100-year anniversary of the World Cup, many more professionals will have become involved and significant progress will have been made.

The attempted breakaway of the European Super League has meant that fans are questioning, more than ever, the essence of football. Griesbeck says, ‘In a world facing so many challenges, this magnificent game, which binds people together like nothing else, must realise its potential and play a bigger role in protecting and improving our collective future.’ 

There are quite a lot of administrative details about the setting up the various ‘Football for Good’ schemes, but the narrative moves along quickly towards the setting up of ‘Common Goal’ and in the third half there are contributions from a Radical XI of disruptive ‘Football for Good’ innovators.

Radical Football is recommended reading for anyone who wants to know how football can do more. Griesbeck’s thought-provoking manifesto should resonate with football fans everywhere. Football can be a power for good and through great initiatives like ‘Common Goal’ it can be a catalyst for major social change.

Radical Football: Jurgen Griesbeck and the Story of Football for Good by Steve Fleming Published by Pitch Publishing. Price £14.99.

This review first appeared in the June/July 2022 edition of Late Tackle magazine.

Posted in Book Reviews, Football Book Reviews, Football for Good, Jurgen Griesbeck, Late Tackle magazine, Radical Football, Steve Fleming, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Latics lift the League One Trophy in style – Shrewsbury Town 0 Wigan Athletic 3

League One Champions 2022

  • Wigan Athletic are the League One Champions after an accomplished 3-0 victory at Shrewsbury Town.
  • Latics went ahead just before half-time when Max Power’s free-kick came back off the post and the rebound went in via Shrewsbury midfielder Josh Vela.
  • Early in the second half the visitors doubled their lead from the penalty spot when Will Keane converted.
  • The three points and the title were confirmed on 65 minutes when James McClean’s inviting free-kick was headed home by Golden Boot winner Keane for his 26th league goal of the season.
  • Latics finished the season two points ahead of second placed Rotherham and three points ahead of third placed MK Dons who enter the play-offs.

Leam Richardson made two changes to the starting line-up from the midweek game against Ipswich, Kell Watts came back into the centre of defence for Joe Bennett whilst James McClean replaced Tom Pearce at left wing-back.

Shrewsbury started well and Daniel Udoh drove forward into the penalty and hit a low shot which was comfortably saved by Ben Amos.

Latics then went close in the 10th minute, from a short corner McClean crossed for Watts, but the Newcastle loanee headed just over the crossbar.

The visitors looked the most likely to open the scoring and in the 23rd minute Power’s swerving 30-yard free-kick was superbly turned around the post by Marko Marosi.

As half-time approached Latics were ahead through an own goal. Power’s in-swinging free-kick from the left hit the near post before rebounding onto Vela and into the back of the net.

Latics started the second half strongly and made it two from the penalty spot in the 50th minute. Power’s shot from just inside the area hit the hand of the diving Tom Flanagan and referee Steve Martin awarded the spot kick.

Keane stepped up to send Marosi the wrong way from the penalty kick and cue ecstatic scenes in the away end.

Latics effectively sealed the three points and the title in the 65th minute when they added a third and Keane’s 26th goal of the season.

McClean’s in-swinging free-kick from the left-hand side was perfect for Keane to glance into the top corner and produce more memorable scenes in the away end.

Shrewsbury defend a Latics corner

The hosts had a rare opportunity to pull a goal back with 11 minutes remaining when Ryan Bowman capitalised on an error by Kell Watts and squared the ball to Udoh, but Amos did well to gather the ball. 

Latics comfortably saw out the remaining minutes of the game to secure the League One title and their third promotion from League One as Champions in six years.

Talking to the media afterwards, Richardson dedicated the title to the staff who had been made redundant during administration.

“There were times last season when we needed everyone’s support, and we certainly got that,” he said.

“None more so than from our own fans, who were there for us when we needed them the most.

“First and foremost, I’d like to dedicate this title win to the fans, and also every single member of staff who was made redundant during the administration period.

“This club has been through such challenging times, and for us to come through it, none of it would have been possible on my own.

“It comes from the support of others – your family, friends, players and the staff – who have all played their part.

“Every single accolade we get, and I get, it’s shared among everyone.”

It has been a remarkable transformation for the club from the dark days of administration. Only an amazing crowdfunding appeal has kept the club alive. Last season Latics had only escaped relegation to League Two by just one point.

Richardson had steered the club through the crisis and when the new owners Phoenix 2021 took over they recruited superbly and have managed the club in exemplary fashion.

Richardson has achieved almost godlike status in Wigan from when he performed CPR to save the life of striker Charlie Wyke.

The modest manager has had a Stand at the DW Stadium named after him and with a quick fire promotion to the Championship he has exceeded all expectations.

The future looks very bright with Richardson and Phoenix 2021 in charge. The League One title is an incredible achievement by everyone involved with the club, but they will not rest on their laurels and the preparations for Championship success have already commenced.

Player ratings courtesy of Whoscored.com

Posted in Leam Richardson, Phoenix 2021 Limited, Shrewsbury Town, Talal Al Hammad, Wigan Athletic, Will Keane | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Latics still waiting for promotion – Portsmouth 3 Wigan Athletic 2

Will Keane added his 24th league goal
  • League One leaders Wigan Athletic surrendered a two goal lead losing 3-2 at Portsmouth and require at least a point at Shrewsbury on the last day of the season to confirm promotion.
  • Latics went in front when Tom Pearce’s superb cross was headed home at the near post by Callum Lang on 38 minutes. They doubled their lead in first half stoppage time when Pearce again supplied the cross and Will Keane finished inside the six-yard box.
  • The hosts pulled a goal back on 62 minutes when George Hirst converted Marcus Harness’ cross although Pearce appeared to be fouled in the build up. Pompey were level two minutes later when Tendayi Darikwa slipped on the edge of his own box and Hirst curled the ball into the far corner of the net.
  • Worse was to come for the visitors when the hosts substitute Aidan O’Brien made it 3-2 on 87 minutes.
  • Leaders Latics are two points ahead of second place Rotherham with the same goal difference and three points ahead of third place MK Dons but with a six goal advantage. Portsmouth are in ninth place.

Leam Richardson named an unchanged starting XI from Saturday’s draw with Plymouth. Former Latic Michael Jacobs was in the Pompey team.

Latics had an early free-kick and when Jack Whatmough’s shot was blocked in the area Jordan Cousins blazed high and wide from the rebound.

The visitors then forced a series of corners but they couldn’t make them count.

Pompey started to gain more possession as the half progressed and they had a good opportunity when Tom Naylor was dispossessed in midfield And Hirst drove forward before firing narrowly wide of the target on 36 minutes.

But against the run of play Latics went ahead when Pearce’s superb left wing cross was headed powerfully home by Lang at the near post.

Ogilvie had an opportunity to draw Pompey level soon afterwards when his side-footed effort from 8-yards out was wide of the right hand post.

Latics doubled their lead in first half stoppage time with another superb counterattack. Pearce once again the provider with a left wing cross and Keane finished inside the six-yard box for his 24th league goal of the season.

2-0 at half-time but the hosts started strongly at the start of the second half.

Darikwa had to make a great defensive header at the back post to deny the incoming Pompey forwards.

The hosts pulled a goal back on 62 minutes when Hirst converted Marcus Harness’ cutback although Pearce was clearly fouled in the build up.

Pompey were level two minutes later when Darikwa slipped on the edge of the box and Hirst curled his strike into the far corner of Amos’ net.

Hirst had an opportunity put Pompey ahead when he chased a long ball but Whatmough got back to make a superb defensive tackle to deny him.

On 84 minutes Power’s clever free-kick down the right had side of the box found Naylor in space and the former Pompey midfielder forced a good save from Gavin Bazunu at his near post.

It looked as though Latics would get at least a point to confirm their promotion but with three minutes of normal time remaining Amos could only push away a Pompey shot and as Latics defenders failed to clear substitute O’Brien produced a left foot finish to thwart them.

Latics now need to at least match MK Dons or Rotherham’s results on the final day of the season to guarantee their promotion. A victory for Latics will guarantee the League One title.

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Latics so near to something incredibly special – Wigan Athletic 1 Plymouth Argyle 1

Jack Whatmough finished with aplomb

  • Wigan Athletic all but mathematically confirmed promotion to the Championship after a 1-1 draw with play-off contenders Plymouth Argyle.
  • Latics had early chances with Tendayi Darikwa, Jordan Cousins and Callum Lang all going close.
  • They continued their dominance in the second half but with Argyle’s first shot on target in the 63rd minute Ben Amos spilled Conor Grant’s tame free-kick and Luke Jephcott finished at close range.
  • Latics surged forward for the equaliser and they were back level 10 minutes later when Jack Whatmough fired into the back of the Argyle net following Max Power’s corner.
  • Late on Dan Scarr hit the crossbar for Argyle while Latics had two penalty appeals on Lang turned down by referee Seb Stockbridge.
  • Latics need one more point from their last two games to mathematically confirm promotion while a win and draw would guarantee the title. Argyle’s play-off hopes will depend on their final game against MK Dons.

Leam Richardson made two changes from the draw with Ipswich, with Tom Pearce and Jordan Cousins replacing Kell Watts and Stephen Humphrpys in the starting line-up.

Latics started brightly and from a short corner Joe Bennett’s delivery was cleared to Darikwa on the edge of the area but his volley was well saved by keeper Michael Cooper.

The hosts threatened again in the ninth minute when Power’s cross was headed over the crossbar by Cousins.

Latics then went close twice in quick succession. First, Lang forced an excellent save from the Argyle keeper before Pearce recycled the ball to find Keane who fired over from 12 yards out.

The hosts were peppering the Argyle goal and Lang had another great opportunity to break the deadlock but his low effort from a tight angle flew just wide of the far post.

Power almost curled the ball into the top right corner from his left sided in-swinging corner.

Just before half-time Power flashed a strike just wide of the far post and Latics fans wondered how they were not ahead after creating so many chances.

They started the second half in the same manner that they finished the first. Lang’s excellent cross from the right found Power in the centre of the box but the midfielder’s header went agonisingly just wide of the post.

Against the run of play and with their first shot on target Argyle went in front.

Grant’s tame free-kick was spilled by Amos and Jephcott had the relatively easy task of finishing from close range.

The visitors almost doubled their lead when the ball was set back for Grant on the edge of the area but the midfielder blazed over the crossbar.

Latics then pressed forward for the equaliser and they restored parity in the 74th minute through Whatmough.

Power’s in-swinging corner fell into the path of the central defender at the far post, and he finished with some aplomb.

Richardson’s men went in search of the goal that would seal their return to the Championship and Lang once again went close firing a low effort across goal, but Cooper got down well to make the save.

Lang went down in the box under a risky challenge by Scarr but the referee waved away Latics’ appeals.

Lang continued to be a big threat and when Darikwa picked him out with a low cross his effort was deflected narrowly wide for a corner.

But at the other end, the visitors almost snatched all three points when Grant’s corner was headed against the crossbar by Scarr.

As the game move towards the final whistle Lang went down in the box under another challenge but referee Stockbridge once again waved away Latics’ appeals.

Latics were frustrated not to have confirmed promotion in their last home game but they require one point from their remaining two games to be mathematically certain.

They are now so near to achieving something incredibly special after last season’s horrendous period of  administration.

League One Table

Richardson said afterwards that he was pleased with his team’s performance levels, though he believed that his side possibly deserved all three points.

“I thought the performance deserved more than the point, but at this time of year, all points are really precious,” he said.

“I thought the lads were excellent both in and out of possession. I felt on Tuesday that we weren’t as good in possession but really good out of possession, and I thought we brought that into today.

“They (Plymouth) have good players and are coached very well. I thought both sets of fans were excellent today, and they needed to win themselves to stay in the Play-Offs.

“It was always going to be a real tough challenge for us but I thought we took to the challenge from minute one. I thought we were good value for our point.”

Richardson once again praised the supporters for their magnificent contributions from the stands.

“I thought they were great again today and the atmosphere was fantastic. I really enjoyed – first and foremost watching the team – and then representing them like the fans from the sidelines.

“Both sets of fans were really good and it boded for a great atmosphere. I thought both sets of players represented themselves well.”

Player ratings courtesy of Whoscored.com

Posted in Jack Whatmough, League One, Leam Richardson, Luke Jephcott, Plymouth Argyle, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Latics on the brink of promotion – Ipswich Town 2 Wigan Athletic 2

Will Keane

Will Keane grabbed a brace

  • League One leaders Wigan Athletic showed great character to draw 2-2 against Ipswich Town at Portman Road and moved to within one point of automatic promotion.
  • Latics went in front when Joe Bennett’s in-swinging corner was superbly headed home by Will Keane just before half-time.
  • Ipswich drew level on 61 minutes when Latics failed to clear a cross into the box and Conor Chaplin finished into the bottom right corner.
  • Former Latics and current Ipswich captain Samy Morsy then looked to have won it for the Tractor Boys when he volleyed home from close range on 73 minutes, but Latics were not to be beaten and Keane equalised on 86 minutes from close range.
  • Latics are now five points clear of second place Rotherham who lost at Burton and third place MK Dons who lost at Oxford. Ipswich are eleventh place in the table.

Leam Richardson made three changes to the starting line-up from Saturday’s defeat to Cambridge with Jason Kerr, Joe Bennett and Stephen Humphrys replacing Graeme Shinnie, Gwion Edwards and Josh Magennis. 

Ipswich had former Latics players Samy Morsy and Christian Walton in their starting XI.

Richardson set his team up in a 3-4-2-1 formation after Saturday’s experiment with a back four had proved disappointing.

Latics started brightly and Tendayi Darikwa forced an early save from Walton.

Ipswich gradually grew into the game and got their passing game going. On 12 minutes the hosts Matt Penny blazed wide of the left hand post from a good position.

Morsy then tried his luck from outside the box on 20 minutes and Ben Amos spilled the shot but fortunately for the Latics keeper the mistake came to nothing. 

On 32 minutes Amos then did well to save from Chaplin at close range but the referee’s assistant had signalled offside anyway.

The hosts were in the ascendancy now and Latics had to defend a series of corners as the match moved towards half-time.

Against the run of play Latics went ahead in first half stoppage time. Bennett’s excellent in-swinging corner from the the right was met by Keane at the near post and the Latics top scorer angled his header into the bottom left corner.

1-0 to Latics at the break, but Ipswich started the second half in determined mood and the visitors struggled to touch the ball as the hosts maintained possession.

Morsy fired over the crossbar from the centre of the box on 52 minutes as Ipswich continued to threaten.

Callum Lang was then unfortunate to be penalised for a foul when tracking back to win the ball and from the resulting free-kick the Tractor Boys were level on 61 minutes.

Latics failed to clear the free-kick and when the ball ricocheted to Chaplin inside the box he finished into the bottom right corner.

The visitors were under the cosh now and having to defend resolutely, but they did have a rare chance on 71 minutes when a poor back pass set up Bennett inside the area and Walton did well to save at close range.

The hosts went in front on 73 minutes when Morsy was allowed to volley home from close range. It was a frustrating moment for all Latics supporters as the former captain took great pleasure in scoring against his former club.

Richardson immediately introduced Jordan Cousins for Humphrys in an attempt to strengthen the midfield. Then on 82 minutes he made a positive double substitution with Tom Pearce and Gwion Edwards replacing Kerr and Watts as they tried to rescue the game.

Power went close from a 30-yard free-kick and Walton saved well from Keane as the visitors pressed forward.

The equaliser deservedly came on 86 minutes when Power did well to get down the right hand side and cross for Keane to score yet another important goal from inside the six-yard box. The former Ipswich striker scoring his 23rd league goal of the season for Latics. 

For all Ipswich’s possession Latics had defended resolutely and had created chances on the break. Their character and determination had got them another vital point.

With Rotherham and MK Dons both losing, one point against Plymouth on Saturday should be enough for promotion with Latics’ superior goal difference, and three points would make it mathematically certain. 

League One Table

Afterwards Richardson praised his side’s character and work rate. He was full of plaudits for his players desire to take something back to Wigan with them.

“I thought the work ethic was fantastic,” Richardson explained. “It was an intense game and our distances were a little bit off in periods but I thought we still looked a threat going forward.

“The character, work rate [was there] and I thought we worked hard enough to get that result tonight.

“We set up to come and win; the fans in the top corner were fantastic and the energy that comes from them onto the pitch is great.

“I thought every player that stepped on the pitch was excellent.”

And Richardson continued that it wasn’t lost on the players and staff how much of an effort the 402 travelling supporters had made to get to Portman Road tonight.

“Our lads are quite senior and they don’t take anything for granted,” he added. “Tendayi [Darikwa] and Max [Power] are obviously the captain and vice captain and they mention it all the time because it’s obviously not cheap, it’s a rearranged fixture on a Tuesday night and the lads are very aware of that and hopefully we represent the shirt with that work ethic and energy we put on the pitch.

“We probably weren’t as fluent as we have been this year in possession but I thought we worked as hard as anybody out of possession and now and again you can try and control games out of possession because you have to respect the team in front of you. I thought in transition and on the counter we always looked a threat.”

Richardson had made a double change at 2-1 down as Gwion Edwards and Tom Pearce replaced Jason Kerr and Kell Watts.

Richardson explained his thinking,

“Let’s have a go!,” he said. “Every point is precious at this time of year and we wanted to try and be a bit more functional in the wide areas, and we wanted to put them on the back foot a little bit – I felt with the changes we did that.

“We have got two lads with Joe Bennett and Tendayi Darikwa on the outside who are comfortable stepping in, and I felt the two lads that came off worked excellently hard.”

Will Keane headed to the top of the Sky Bet League One scoring charts with his double, his 22nd and 23rd league goals of the campaign.

On his frontman, Richardson finished:

“If Keano keeps going in them areas, he will keep getting them goals and them chances – people will get confident enough to put it in them areas because they know you will be there. When you have the quality and the calmness that Keano has got, he will continue to score important goals for us between now and the end of the season.”

Player ratings courtesy of Whoscored.com

Posted in Conor Chaplin, Ipswich Town, League One, Leam Richardson, Wigan Athletic, Will Keane | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lacklustre Latics slip up – Wigan Athletic 1 Cambridge United 2

Tom Naylor reduced the arrears for Latics

  • League One leaders Wigan Athletic slipped to a shock 2-1 defeat to Cambridge United at the DW Stadium.
  • Latics produced a lacklustre first half display and the visitors deservedly went ahead when Joe Ironside set up Harvey Knibbs who finished clinically on 33 minutes.
  • Cambridge doubled their lead on 43 minutes when Sam Smith headed into the top corner from James Brophy’s excellent left-wing cross.
  • Latics rejigged their formation at half-time and they were much better in the second half.
  • Tom Naylor headed a goal back from a corner on 77 minutes and Latics were unlucky not to draw level in added time when Will Keane was denied by a superb save from goalkeeper Dimitar Mitov.
  • Despite the setback Latics remain top of the table four points ahead of both second place Rotherham and third place MK Dons. Cambridge move up to 12th in the table.

Latics made two changes from their goalless draw at Burton Albion in midweek, with Graeme Shinnie and Gwion Edwards coming into the starting XI for Joe Bennett and Jason Kerr.

Richardson surprisingly started with a 4-2-3-1 formation with Tendayi Darikwa at left back and Max Power at right back with Shinnie and Naylor the two men in midfield.

It was the visitors who started the stronger and from a short corner Jack Iredale’s cross found Lloyd Jones at the far post, but the central defender headed into the side-netting.

A U’s free-kick was then headed across goal by Iredale, but Williams was unable to get his effort on target.

At the other end Josh Magennis fired a dangerous cross into the penalty area from the right, but it just evaded Will Keane in the six-yard box.

Shinnie then had an opportunity when the ball came to him 25 yards out but his early strike cleared the crossbar.

Cambridge’s physicality and work rate was causing Latics plenty of problems with top scorer Ironside prominent.

They deservedly went ahead when Ironside muscled his way into the box and set up Knibbs who produced a clinical finish into the bottom corner of the net.

The visitors nearly added to their lead when Adam May’s volley from 25 yards out was well turned away by Ben Amos.

But they did double their lead just two minutes before the break after Smith powerfully headed home from Brophy’s excellent left-sided cross.

The U’s could’ve added to their lead when Knibbs battled his way into the penalty area, but this time, he fired narrowly wide under the challenge of Jack Whatmough.

The change in formation had not worked for Latics in the first half and Richardson reverted to three centre halves and two wingbacks for the second half. Tom Pearce and Jason Kerr replacing Edwards and Shinnie at the break.

Pearce was soon in the action and produced an inviting cross to find Magennis, but the striker’s header was collected by Mitov.

Latics were more energised now and Darikwa’s cross found Callum Lang inside the penalty area, but the Latics striker was unable to get any power on his effort.

The hosts continued to press forward and they reduced the deficit in the 78th minute when Naylor headed home at the near post.

Pearce played a corner short to Power and his first-time cross was headed into the top right corner by Naylor.

Against the run of play Cambridge almost added a third goal when Williams headed a left-sided corner towards goal, but Amos saved brilliantly to deny him.

In added time Keane thought he had saved a point when he headed Power’s cross towards the top corner, but Mitov produced a superb save before saving the rebound with Magennis closing in.

Latics nine game unbeaten run had come to an end but they remained at the top of the table.

Richardson’s formation change had not helped their cause with Darikwa playing out of position at left back in the first half. They had started slowly and were second best to Cambridge in the first half.

The visitors were extremely competitive and they deserve special credit for their first half performance. Latics had lacked energy and looked jaded but they were much improved in the second period. Only a superb double save had stopped them from taking a point.

Latics are still in pole position but they know they will have to be much better in the remaining four fixtures if they are to secure promotion to the Championship.

League One Table

Speaking to Media afterwards, Richardson felt that the League One encounter was a game of two halves, but the impetus is now on Latics to respond in the right manner ahead of the final four matches of the 2021/22 campaign.

“The result was disappointing,” he said.

“I thought the game was the old proverbial of a game of two halves. I thought we started the game a little bit slow in possession and you’ve got to give credit to Cambridge who worked hard to create some chances in the first half.

“They took their chances and we weren’t as productive in the opposition half during the first half. I thought in the second half, we played with a tempo and with a really good flowing mindset that we’ve had for most of the year.

“Fair credit to them (Cambridge United), they’ve come and fallen on the right side of the result. It’s up to us to do the right thing for Tuesday and the remaining games. 

“It’s important what we do now before Tuesday. We’ve got four games – and 12 points to play for – and you’re going to need a certain amount of points to be successful. 

“I’ve been fortunate – as have a lot of the lads – to have been involved in successful campaigns and you know what it takes. Tomorrow, we’ll certainly digest the result and prepare properly for Tuesday.”

Player ratings courtesy of Whoscored.com

Posted in Cambridge United, Harvey Knibbs, League One, Leam Richardson, Sam Smith, Tom Naylor, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Latics’ lucky escape – Burton Albion 0 Wigan Athletic 0

Burton defend a Max Power free-kick

  • League One leaders Wigan Athletic rode their luck in a hard-fought goalless draw against Burton Albion at the Pirelli Stadium.
  • Latics defence looked shaky in the first half and Burton had opportunities to go ahead through Michael Mancienne, Cameron Borthwick-Jackson and Harry Chapman.
  • The visitors best chance fell to Josh Magennis with a one-on-one with Matej Kovar but the Manchester United loanee keeper did well to deny him.
  • The second half was an even affair with both teams creating opportunities to break the deadlock.
  • The Brewers looked like they had won it in added time when Joe Powell lobbed Ben Amos but Kell Watts came to the rescue and produced an outstanding headed goal line clearance to save Latics’ blushes.
  • Latics’ point plus Rotherham’s defeat at Portsmouth puts them seven points clear of third place and four points clear of second place MK Dons and with a game in hand. Burton are in 17th place.

Leam Richardson named an unchanged starting XI from their 3-1 victory at Lincoln City on Saturday in front of a sold out away following of 1,650.

Latics made a bright start at the Pirelli Stadium, and they had their first attempt on goal in the 11th minute. 

Callum Lang cut inside from the left before setting up Tom Naylor for a first time shot from 20 yards out, but the combative midfielder couldn’t keep his effort down. 

Further goalscoring opportunities were limited until the visitors went close in the 25th minute.

Magennis did well to dispossess Deji Oshilaja in the final third and race clear on goal, but the Brewers goalkeeper Kovar came out strongly to deny him. 

Burton then went close when a cross was half-cleared into the path of Mancienne, but his volley from the edge of the area was superbly turned around the post by Ben Amos.

The Brewers were encouraged from Mancienne’s effort and came close just moments later through Cameron Borthwick-Jackson after his low strike from 20-yards was deflected narrowly wide of the post. 

Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s team had a glorious opportunity to open the scoring when they broke quickly following a Latics corner and Chapman latched onto a poor back pass by Power but he lifted his effort over the onrushing Amos.

Latics were under the cosh now and were defending desperately. Amos mis-kicked a clearance and the backline looked extremely vulnerable to the Brewers attacks.

The visitors upped their game in the second half and Naylor curled Tendayi Darikwa’s pull-back towards goal, but Matej Kovar was able to make the save.

Latics nearly broke the deadlock when Joe Bennett’s free-kick from deep was met by Keane, but the Brewers keeper tipped the ball onto the roof of the net. 

The Brewers had an opportunity in the 69th minute when after Tom Hamer’s deep cross found Niasse at the far post the substitute fired his effort wide from close range. 

With just seven minutes remaining Max Power’s deep cross almost sneaked into the net but it just skimmed the top of the crossbar. 

Substitute Stephen Humphrys then did well to cross for Lang to attack, but unfortunately his header came off Magennis and went behind for a goal-kick.

In added time Watts came to Latics’ rescue with an outstanding piece of defending.

After a goalmouth scramble, Powell looked to have won the game for the hosts when he lobbed Amos but Watts somehow managed to get back and incredibly head off the goal line and bring the Burton players to their knees in frustration.

The game ended goalless but Latics had been lucky to extend their unbeaten run to nine games. They had not been at their best but credit should go to a determined Burton team who nearly caused an upset.

Latics’ point plus Rotherham’s defeat at Portsmouth puts them seven points clear of third place and four points clear of second place MK Dons and with a game in hand.

With only five games remaining they are still in the driving seat for automatic promotion.

League One Table

Speaking to the media afterwards Richardson said,

“You can come to Burton on any given day, and you know that you’re going to get challenged,” he said.

“They keep you healthy all the way through the game, and they certainly didn’t disappoint. I thought it was going to be a game where something would be created on the back of a mistake, and thankfully we defended off ours.

“Credit to Burton, they pushed us all the way to the end. We were just waiting for that little bit of quality within the game.

“It was always going to be challenging and you have to meet them for the fight, and hope then your bit of quality comes through. Fair credit to Burton, I thought they defended resolutely, as we did for large parts. We’ll take our point and move on.

“I thought we got in some decent positions out wide and probably could’ve done better, but I felt we worked tirelessly hard  to get our point tonight.”

Latics will be hoping to move towards automatic promotion on Easter Saturday when Cambridge United are the visitors. Richardson is hoping the supporters can continue to provide their magnificent energy from the stands.

“Our fans won’t let us down. They will turn up and give us the energy levels that they normally do at this time of the year,” he said. 

“We need energy levels from all different places and different departments and I’m sure the fans will give us that on Saturday.”

Player ratings courtesy of Whoscored.com

Posted in Burton Albion, Kell Watts, League One, Leam Richardson, Wigan Athletic | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment