Keep on keeping on

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Three matches – three wins, nine points, five goals, zero conceded. What a remarkable week for Paul Cook and his Wigan Athletic side.

I asked last week had Latics managed to turn a corner in the fight against the drop, I think it’s safe to say they definitely have. The fight now is to ensure that we stay out of the relegation zone, it’s been a long time since we dropped in to the bottom three and we have to ensure that we don’t find ourselves back there.

Although results have had an upturn since the new year performances have been markedly improved since the middle of December. Latics could and should have beaten West Brom at the DW in December, if only Jamie Jones hadn’t needed to quench his thirst.

Latics eventually got the win over West Brom that they deserved at The Hawthorns, Latics have experience of beating the league leaders after their win over Leeds at Elland Road at the start of February but I don’t think in Latics wildest dreams would they have imagined that a third win in a week could have been gained at West Brom.

Once again Latics as they have been for a number of weeks were the better side, this wasn’t a smash and grab win like the aforementioned one at Elland Road last month but one where Latics were the dominant side throughout.

All of the stats pointed to Latics being the better team and indeed Slaven Bilic agreed, Latics could again have had another two goals if Gavin Massey and Jamal Lowe had managed to convert their chances in either half.

Taking a look back at February and that total of 14 points from a possible 18 is a massive boost in the battle to beat the drop. At the start of the month it looked ominous at best for Paul Cook and Wigan Athletic, the turnaround in that time has been nothing short of miraculous.

So what can we put that turn around down to? Despite not getting results earlier in the season performances weren’t as bad as one would expect. What let us down, seemingly on a constant basis was a lack of fire power at one end of the pitch and a failure to convert chances to shooting ourselves in the foot regularly at the other end.

As well as an improvement in results there has been a change in style in recent weeks, something that Latics fans had been crying out for, for most of the season. Latics have returned to the possession based football that served them so well during the League One title winning campaign in 2017/18 and the early part of the Championship last season.

The defence in particular has been excellent since the turn of the year, Kal Naismith and Cedric Kipre formed an effective partnership at the heart of the defence earlier in the year before the signing of Leon Balogun from Brighton. Balogun has been an absolute revelation in central defence, and alongside the ever improving Kipre the pair have formed a fantastic partnership at the back.

On the other side Tom Pearce seems to have solidified his place at left-back whilst Antonee Robinson has been out of the side and Nathan Byrne is playing some of his best football in two seasons. That improvement has been transmitted through the rest of the side.

Kieffer Moore who looked for most of January that he would be leaving for Cardiff has been involved in 10 of Latics last 15 goals, his contribution to the side can’t be underestimated and the Welsh number 9 is doing his chances of a starting spot at Euro 2020 no harm at all.

There’s ten games left to go, ten cup finals and thanks to the performances of those in the bottom half of the table we can’t rest on our laurels. Saturday’s opponents Luton have picked up recently.

We know how dangerous Graeme Jones’ side can be after that awful defeat to Luton back at the start of December. Callum McManaman has been in and out of the Luton team and is struggling to establish himself in the starting eleven, much like during his return to the DW last season.

He’ll have a point to prove to both Jones and Cook on Saturday and if he does get on the pitch Latics will have to guard against what he can do to you. It will be good to see Graeme Jones’ return on Saturday, a bonafied Latics legend both as a player and assistant manager.

A win on Saturday could do wonders for our survival bid, we’re not out of this yet. Not by any stretch, so let’s get another big win and see where it could take us.

Sean Livesey

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