Easing the pressure

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If Paul Cook wanted a performance to silence his critics I doubt even he could have envisaged what we witnessed on Saturday afternoon as Aston Villa arrived at the DW Stadium. Latics comprehensively beat Dean Smith’s Villa side and despite the aforementioned Smith’s sour grapes in the post-match press conference this was no fluke, the stats show that Paul Cook’s side dominated from start to finish.

They managed to prevent Aston Villa having any worthy attempt on target and a superb defensive display managed to limit one of the league’s highest scoring teams to virtually no chances. Saturday’s display was like a throwback to August, gone was turgid build-up play of the las weeks, gone too were the long balls.

Instead Latics attacking play had purpose, it had guise and it had a touch of class.

The attacking play built from the back, Jamie Jones making his first league start of the season was solid and impressive. He deserved his start and he guarded his box with confidence, apart from one mishap between Jones and Cedric Kipre the defence were solid throughout and shut out a strong Villa attacking line. Latics finally had a touch of good luck, for what felt like the first time in months.

Getting the first goal was clearly a turning point on Saturday, in recent weeks we’ve started well. Failed to get that early goal, and then go behind. Many around me on Saturday thought it would go the same way as Josh Windass was denied with an early chance, luckily we managed to get that first goal and you could see the confidence in the lads grow as a result.

Anthony Pilkington settled in to the side right away and on a free transfer he could well be the steal of the season.  His turn and subsequent lay off for his old team mate Gary Roberts was a thing of beauty, whether it was bettered by Kal Naismith’s vision for the second goal as he set up Michael Jacobs I’ll let you be the judge.

Both Roberts and Naismith should get a lot of praise for what they bring to this Wigan Athletic side, whenever called upon by Wigan Athletic Gary Roberts has never let the side down. He’s going to be 35 soon but looks like he is simply getting better with age, eye brows may well have been raised when the club signed him last season. Even more so when he was given a contract extension last summer, but he has more than re-paid the faith that Paul Cook put him in. He runs himself in to the ground, has a touch of quality and is a genuine attacking threat whenever he plays.

As for Naismith I feel he’s been unfairly criticised since he arrived at Latics, due to the injury of Antonee Robinson he’s had to fill in at a position he clearly isn’t a specialist in but has managed to always offer an attacking threat, and despite the criticism he’s received I feel he’s improving every week.

Saturday was important in many ways, Latics getting their first win since November was of course important. It’s been a torrid time for the club since the win over Blackburn at the end of November. The lads have been close on a few occasions and seemingly miles away on others, the pressure surrounding Paul Cook was beginning to overshadow what our real aims this season need to be.

Survival is the primary aim this season and with the confidence flowing following Saturday’s win the hope has to be that Paul Cook’s side can now go on a run, that will go a long way to achieve that. Next up is Sheffield Wednesday, another club in its own form of downturn, Steve Bruce who will be taking up the job at the start of February should have enough to keep Wednesday up but they’re not safe by any means and Saturday should be an ideal time for Latics to try to capitalise and get that second away win of the season.

Things are looking up, and although we’re not out of it by any means with more reinforcements due in before the end of the transfer window, players returning from injury and our goal scoring touch seemingly re-appearing we’re in a better place than we were last week. Amazing what a week can do in football. It’s important that we now build on that and we keep the momentum flowing.

Sean Livesey

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