Five minutes in and the over-riding thought of Warren Joyce’s first ‘proper game’ at the DW Stadium (it’s only right, for so many reasons, that we wipe the Reading game from our minds) is that at least we’re not 2-0 down (I said “only fair”, we were 2-0 down after 5 minutes, that sort of thing isn’t easy to forget). But with Derby and Latics holding the dubious honour of being the Championship’s joint lowest scorers, that was hardly ever going to happen.
Especially not when Joyce decided to employ the “Rashford-esque” qualities of Yanic Wildschut ahead of, I don’t know, an actual, experienced centre forward. If only the new had a 20-goal a season man on the books, everything would be alright, eh? Meanwhile, Will Grigg and his six goals in 12 starts somehow managed to squeeze onto the bench.
Derby were in a rich run of form coming into this game, four wins on the bounce. Then again, Latics had only lost one in the same period, the main difference being that we knew full well that those games had been scruffy, scrawpy and more than a bit sh*t really. Then again, imagine how bad Derby must have been before that if ten of their 17 goal had come in the last five games?
I suppose what I’m saying is, that this never looked like it would be a classic, and it delivered on that expectation. Derby playing like a team who suspected that the opposition would gift them a goal at some point, Latics resuming the role that had become very familiar under Gary Caldwell of a team that plays, “you know, alright?” but with little, or no, attacking threat.
Shaun MacDonald would claim that he didn’t gift Bradley Johnson a free header for Derby’s goal, indeed he seemed to be making that very point to the linesman as the visitors celebrated in front of the South Stand. He might have a point, but, even if there was a suspicion that Johnson was climbing over the Welshman’s back as he headed it over Jaaskelainen, it was all a bit soft. This was a fairly standard set piece routine that Latics need to learn to contain if they’re to get the most out of games like this.
And, to be fair, Latics had more than enough of the game to get something out of it. It’s difficult to say how much the early Derby goal contributed to Wigan’s subsequent dominance of possession and opportunities, but whether they sat back or were forced back, Steve McClaren’s men were left playing largely on the break as Latics took the game to them.
All too often, Wildschut’s tendency to drift into more natural left-wing/inside-forward positions left Latics short in the middle and Grigg’s introduction on the hour definitely upped the ante. The Irishman’s all-round contribution again proving there is more to him that the poacher that he’s being painted as and highlighting the need (if he isn’t already) to get him fit and back in the starting line-up.
As it happened, the defying chance of the game fell not to Grigg, but to one of the lads vying for the whipping boy position this season. Max Power (possibly having the best game of his season) seeing his header come off the bar and away at a time when a Latics goal could have turned the game (and our season) around. It would have been deserved, but that’s the season all over really.
The late introductions of Le Fondre and Woolery proved the point that having more forwards on the pitch doesn’t necessarily equate to more chance of scoring. The loss of Perkins and Power from midfield making the last ten minutes or so a more scrappy affair as the game petered out to grumbles at the final whistle.
Which is an improvement from Joyce’s first game in charge and it was an improvement on the pitch too. Plenty will disagree with me, but this was a much better performance than in the win at Huddersfield, with the only real concern being that we’ve missed a month of the team not getting what they deserve whilst Warren Joyce has settled in.
Then again, at least we can now get back to arguing about that, rather than his shorts…
See you on the other side.
Clam down from yesterday’s “excitement'” by catching up with the Pie at Night Podcast. In episode 13, the lads cover all the usual nonsense, with some football thrown in. Listen on the player below, on iTunes, searching for us in your favourite podcast app or by accessing our Buzzsprout Page or RSS Feed.