They say you often have to hit rock bottom before you can begin to see a change, and a change is definitely what we saw on Tuesday night. First off let’s look at the starting line-up and the first half – Joe Gelhardt earned his first start for the club and was part of a bolstered attacking line-up again with Kieffer Moore leading the line. The enigmatic Josh Windass was once again conspicuous by his absence with the press North of the border linking him with a return to Rangers, meanwhile Moore who was himself the subject of interest from Cardiff at the start of the month made his first start since the defeat to Luton at the start of December.
The first-half was a typical Latics performance this season, dominating possession, restricting chances for the opposition before giving away a soft goal and failing to get on the score sheet ourselves. The only difference this time around was that was conceded first instead of going ahead first – hey it was worth a try, we’ve tried everything else in this wretched season so far.
Half-time and that familiar feeling came but despite the desperateness of the situation there was no mass walk-out, no anger towards those in the dugout (that would come later) whether this was the feeling that Latics were still in this match or apathy and resignation to our plight I’m not sure.
Latics had that renewed sense of vigour in the second half, but we’ve had that so many times this season just to fall to a sucker punch from the opposition or fail to score ourselves. As Kieffer Moore scored the equaliser and Latics first it was time to push on and see if we could finally banish those demons, there was anger towards the bench as Paul Cook decided to take Joe Gelhardt off and to the dismay of many keep the ineffective Jamal Lowe on the pitch. The boos rained down on the dugout which couldn’t have helped Michael Jacobs waiting to take over from young Gelhardt.
Joe Gelhardt is going to be a great talent, his record in youth football and in the glimpses we’ve seen in a Wigan shirt shows that but the fact remains on Tuesday he hadn’t managed to get in to the game for the most part. Michael Jacobs offered that bit extra in the attacking third as Latics went for that desperately needed second goal. Jacobs offered a lot more than in recent weeks and one will hope that he has managed to put those injuries firmly behind him – a fit and firing Michael Jacobs is nothing but a benefit to Wigan Athletic in the final few months of the season.
Jacobs was involved in a gilt edged chance as the clock ticked down to 90 minutes as the Sheffield Wednesday keeper made a glorious save, seconds later Kieffer Moore missed the chance to double the lead and his tally with a header that was inches wide of the post. That familiar feeling of spurning the chances when they come to you descended on the DW but the sparse yet enthusiastic Latics fans there roared the team on.
With little more than a minute on the pitch Joe Garner who had come on flicked the ball over the head of a defender on to the head of Jamal Lowe who casually flicked the ball towards goal and over the Sheffield Wednesday keeper.
It’s been a long time since I’ve celebrated a goal like I did on Tuesday and that same sort of relief was evident amongst the players with everyone running over to celebrate with Lowe. It’s a funny old game football, Paul Cook could have made the easy choice when he made his changes and kept Gelhardt on instead of Lowe. As it is he’ll feel a certain level of vindication in his decision, his substitutes a constant source of anger and bewilderment across the fan base worked on Tuesday night. With Michael Jacobs and Joe Garner in particular driving the side on and in Garner’s case getting the assist for the winner.
The goals for Lowe and Moore should do them a world of good, Moore once again put in a fantastic shift and with some more luck could have had two goals let alone one. Jamal Lowe has probably struggled more than most to adjust to the Championship but that winner on Tuesday and the reaction from the squad shows the faith the club have in him. If he and Moore can start converting on a more regular basis we may well see what we were promised at the start of the season.
Back on planet earth we can’t get ahead of ourselves, we’re still deep in the relegation mire. But it was a start, it was something to cling on to, it was a display that showed that this squad of players and indeed the manager do care. All we need this season is to get enough points to get us to fourth from bottom. Nothing more, certainly nothing less. If we somehow manage to achieve the impossible we can look back at the Sheffield Wednesday win as a turning point, Cook himself said as much in his post-match interviews. Let’s hope he’s right.
The transfer window will be done with tomorrow evening and as of yet Latics haven’t made any real moves in the market, with Antonee Robinson still attracting interest from Italy and France it’ll make for a nervous last day of the window. If there is to be any movement let’s hope it’s in through the door rather than out.
This time last year a similarly relegation threatened Wigan Athletic surprised everyone by selling Will Grigg to Sunderland for £4m, whilst this week Grigg didn’t even make the Sunderland bench for their win over Tranmere and has turned down a move to Salford City. What a terrible waste of a career for one of the most natural strikers we’ve ever had.
What chances of him returning to the DW tomorrow?