One step forward, two steps backwards

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One step forward, two steps back – it’s a mantra that can be applied to our season at any point since October. We seemed to have got over a mini blip in November with an excellent win over Blackburn, and a point on the road at Bolton. Only to go on to lose the next four matches in a row, Latics fans could have been forgiven for expecting something better from the trip to Sheffield – especially with how the lads had systematically taken Aston Villa apart the previous week.

Sadly it was a case of more of the same on Saturday. Our record on the road truly has been awful this season, there have been matches away from home where we’ve been close such as QPR and Swansea and there’s been ones where we’ve been miles away. This probably fell somewhere between the two, we weren’t outclassed by Sheffield Wednesday but equally we didn’t actually show any threat either.

Michael Jacobs made a welcome return to the side once again but there were injury concerns with Anthony Pilkington, Cedric Kipre and Will Grigg. That one step forward, two steps back adage again. After the flowing attacking football the previous week it was disappointing to see a lack of verve and cutting edge to our play, one shot on target tells its own story.

The player’s confidence away from home seems to be shot to pieces, passages of play that come easy at home fail to work away from home and our play seems to be stifled in a way that it isn’t at the DW. Many will blame Paul Cook’s tactics away from home which I don’t really buy in to; this seems more of a mental block and something we need to resolve as soon as possible.

We need an away win from somewhere and with any luck that would lead to us getting past this mental block. Whether that will come against Nottingham Forest remains to be seen. Martin O’Neill’s return didn’t get off to the best of starts last week with defeat to promotion chasing Bristol City. That probably makes our visit that bit tougher.  Another sell-out crowd awaits Paul Cook’s side at the City Ground as Forest will look to crown O’Neill’s return with a win.

We seem to perform better against the stronger sides in the division and with a sell-out crowd and a decent away following the scene is set for us to actually get something, whether we manage to do that remains to be seen.

It’s getting tight at the bottom of the division and the table seems to be settling in to place now, there’s still plenty of football left to play but Latics need to start picking up wins on a regular basis to secure our Championship place for next season. A win on Saturday could move us up to the lofty heights of 19th place. Not many will give us a chance on Saturday afternoon but we had the better of this Forest side in August and we can do again with a bit of belief and a bit of good luck.

Off the pitch there’s just under a week of the transfer window remaining and it’s been a relatively quiet January at the Dave Whelan Stadium so far. Those persistent rumours of Will Grigg’s departure won’t go away, I still hope that there’s nothing in them and our most dangerous striker remains in place. We need reinforcements at the back, and arguably up front.

If we manage to get some deals across the line and with those players returning from injury – it will hopefully give us the boost we need going in to the final third of the season. IEC did explain that they wouldn’t be throwing money at Latics, which is definitely the approach to January so far. Something that seems to have been lost on some of our supporters who were expecting City level spending once the Whelan family handed over the reins.

Sean Livesey

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