Who doesn’t love a three-all draw? Especially one with a last minute equaliser, eh? Me neither, but whilst we’d probably all prefer ten, exceedingly dull but never in doubt, 1-0 wins to see us to the end of the season that would give us nothing to talk about. That would be a shame given that I’m just getting back into stride with this blogging malarkey.
Anyway, just in case Latics do manage to turn the rest of the season into a borefest, I’d better get on with shooting from the hip, lip, err… keyboard…
The wheels on the bus
With ten games to go and the finish line in front of us, nerves can be excused but any talk of “the wheels coming off” is at best glass half empty territory. Ok, Millwall, Peterborough and Colchester shouldn’t have presented Latics with too serious challenges, but if we’re honest, they’ve been three very different draws and anyone trying to weave them together into a common thread is either trying to protect their emotions from the prospect of failure or must prefer to wallow in misery.
Actually, I lied when I said that Millwall shouldn’t have been too much of a challenge for Latics. Any trip to the Den is a tough one and playing with ten men for an hour or so is just going to make it tougher. Coming away with a point and a clean sheet might have been cause for celebration anyway, but in the context of the game everyone was happy with the outcome.
Peterborough was different, despite being a bit sluggish, we did plenty enough to win the game, but things weren’t quite firing up front and the Posh pulled off a freak goal to snatch the win off Latics. Caldwell’s hand had been forced through three first half substitutions, no-one really knows how things might have gone had he been able to change things around late on.
Onto Colchester and a bit of a ding dong do. Conceding three goals against a team in the relegation places gives cause for concern any day of the week and this result was as much about defensive frailties as anything else. Two long range efforts where players should have been closed down and a penalty (a slightly dodgy one from what I can tell) where Wabarra was asked to do too much but could have still stayed on his feet tell their own story and take away from an attacking performance that deserved more.
One of football’s great cliches is that good teams take things away from games where they don’t play well and that’s definitely the case here. We could well end up looking back at one, or all, of them and say they cost us automatic promotion but at the moment we’ve still not been beaten since November and we’re still (just about) in poll position for second place so panicking might be a case of…
A couple of weeks back I was thinking about how nice it was to be having a fairly steady season. A slow(ish) start, building as the team gels into a potential celebration of one kind or another. A growing excitement based on anticipation rather than expectation one without quite so many ups and downs.
Since the unexpected (but not unlikely) away wins at Bramall Lane and the Bescot, that’s not been the case. Talk quickly turned from how well Latics were doing to being shoo-ins for promotion to us winning the bloody thing. Then we fail to win three games on the bounce and everyone’s head goes to pot. All I wanted was a nice season, with as little drama as possible and suddenly it’s all aboard the Latics roller coaster for another round of screaming, wailing and Boy Scouts trying to eat their dinner.
I suppose what I’m saying is, sit back remember last season and enjoy what’s in front of you. Get behind the team, hope it comes together and don’t panic. What will be, will be – and no, I’m not trying to tempt fate for a Wembley trip by using that phrase, I’m still paying for the last lot.
I may be a little more prone to running round waving and screaming if the news breaks that Jason Pearce is out for the rest of the season. Our form this year can be pretty much be judged on whether he was in the side or not. Largely, we struggled without him for periods early in the season early and eventually Caldwell switch to playing 3 at the back. Then he came back and it maybe took longer than it should have done to realise that Morgan and Pearce might be better off without one of Barnett or Daniels getting in their way.
On Saturday, Latics were probably a bit previous in assuming we’d be fine without him, only switching to three at the back when we were chasing the game. Maybe, then, it would be more true to say that our form this season can be judged on how well the team has adapted to him not being in the side.
He might not be the best player in the team, the cleverest or perhaps even the best defender. But he’s a proper defender, he loves a tackle, loves winding forwards up and he’ll put his body on the line rather than let a shot go on the cheap. He’s a real leader as well and the only two real problems with his time so far are that he’s not been on the pitch as much as he might and that we haven’t seen the same goal scoring rate that he’s had elsewhere.
Then again, hopefully he’ll get chance to remedy that over the last ten games.
Where there’s a Will
Speaking of scoring rates, Will Grigg really had come on leaps and bounds in recent week. There was a stage of the season where he looked like he was struggling to fit in with Camping (Gaz) seemingly stuck on working his attacks around a big man, whether that be Davies or Revell, who may have well been from Cardiff Corinthians for all the impact he had.
Since the turn of the year, first with the renaissance of Vucic and then the signings of Colclough and McAleny, Grigg has started to look every bit the million pound man David Sharpe turned him into last summer. He’s a key cog in what is now a mobile and flexible front line and most things that are good about our forward play will have involved him, either in the build up or at the finish.
Grigg’s minutes per goal is second only to Swindon’s Nicky Ajose and if he keeps fit over the final furlong then surely that mythical twenty goal mark will be broken at Latics for the first time in more than a decade.
We’ve got the P-P-P-Power
I’m not sure whether it shows how relaxed we are about the whole going up thing, how not bothered we are or how nervous we are that we have to distract ourselves with pointless conversations, but the topic on the group chat me and a few other lads from the football have turned to player of the season yesterday. There was talk about Jaaskelainen being in the running but at the end of the day I reckon there’s four people in the running, Pearce I’ve already mentioned, Power will be a popular choice with many, then you’ve got Perkins and err, P-Grigg.
What’s that, can I rewind a bit? Yes, I really did say Perkins.
For many, the little number four is a mark of everything that’s wrong with Latics. Often slowing things down, playing short, ball retaining passes rather than the incisive through balls that don’t exist no matter what people in the stand think. He’s the least popular person on the pitch with many who sit around me, with only the away subs getting more stick (because they’re generally stationary targets) over the ninety minutes.
But can you remember the relatively few minutes our team has had to manage without him on the pitch? There’s only one word to describe them, shambolic.
Perkins is the glue in our side, the water carrier, the man who everything goes through and the one who dictates the pace, direction and style of play. I made a great deal out of the need to find the perfect midfield three when yon Spaniard was in charge and in Morsy, Perkins and Power I reckon Caldwell’s not far off. Perkins though is key to the whole piece and one of the best things about Morsy joining the squad is that he’s now free to play that key role in forward areas as well as at the back.
Honestly I’m still not sure who’ll get my vote, but Perkins won’t be far off, even if it is pee-ing into the wind of all those Wildschut voters.
See, definitely avoiding tempting fate that time. Saturday brings Bradford to the DW and a team that’s on it’s uppers a bit more than our last couple of opponents.
I’d rather be playing teams who’ve got more to play for than getting one over on Wigan Athletic at this stage of the season though. Unlike their last visit, it’s not going to be enough for Bradford to turn up, try to stifle us and hope they can grab something on the break or from a set piece. They’ll be looking for a win to strengthen their play off credentials and may have half an eye on an automatic promotion come May.
That could bode well for our chances, creating space for Latics to exploit, providing they can shore up this weekend’s defensive frailties. All eyes will be on the Thursday press conference for news on Pearce and McAleny. Caldwell appears to love putting on his poker face and keeping a lid on team selections though so no news may be good news…
Until then, Keep the Faith
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