I said ahead of Sunday’s match with table topping Norwich that I wanted to see fight from Paul Cook and fight from his players.
We had that and more on Sunday, Paul Cook stated at the end of the match that he had wanted Norwich to know they had been in a game and that certainly rang true.
A number of changes from the Hull defeat on Wednesday saw Leon Clarke, Lee Evans and Kal Naismith come in to the side. Once again eyebrows were probably raised pre match but once again Paul Cook’s changes and tactical approach paid dividends.
Norwich were rattled in the first half, Latics quick pressing was reminiscent of the beginning of the season and Latics were well worth their one goal lead at half-time. Norwich naturally pressed forward but the Latics rear guard stood strong and as the match reached its last ten minutes it looked like we might have snatched an un-likely and valuable three points.
Norwich’s equaliser wasn’t unexpected but unlike the previous Wednesday, Paul Cook’s side didn’t fold. They went in search of the winner and they should have had one as well.
Leon Clarke scored in stoppage time to send the Dave Whelan stadium in to raptures – but the linesman on the near side had other ideas. Replays showed that the goal should have been given – whether that decision comes back to bite us over the next three weeks remains to be seen.
Regardless of that goal being ruled out it was still a remarkable result for Latics, it’s also a performance that importantly keeps us ahead of Rotherham but equally should give us all confidence that we can do this. If we can play like that against top of the table opposition we should have enough to get what’s required and get over the finishing line.
Daniel Farke was the latest in a long line of managers to comment on how well set up Latics are and how in his eyes we’re in a false position. Of course the fact remains we aren’t in a false position.
We’ve had countless opportunities to get out of the mire we now find ourselves in, but yes we are certainly a better side than our league position suggests.
The key now is to turn those warm words in to real, tangible results. Beginning with Leeds on Friday. It seems our fate could be decided on Easter weekend.
It’s not an easy set of matches for us to navigate either – like Norwich, Leeds are a formidable opposition. They can see the finishing line in sight and will very probably be returning to the Premier League this summer.
With our horrific away form and ability to shoot ourselves in the foot it may be considered one where we can’t expect anything. Sadly we need something – a win is too much to hope for, but a point? Play with all the heart and effort we did against Norwich and it’s more than a possibility.
Any sort of positive result against Leeds sets up perfectly for a truly do or die clash against Preston. North End turned us over when we were riding high in the league and we arguably haven’t recovered since then. A win over our Lancashire rivals would go a long way to ensuring we face each other in the Championship again next season.
But for now these are just permutations, it’s up to the players and Paul Cook to translate that in to action. This season hasn’t been perfect by any stretch but it can still have a happy ending. Let’s make sure it does.