If the rest of this season is anything to go by then this game is already a lost cause. Sheffield United have proved themselves up for a fight, Latics haven’t, but the rest of the season no longer matters. In fact Sunday is our season and our only chance to get things right. It’s our cup final, but then again, with our recent record on that front, we might be better off looking for another analogy.
So here we are. A 38 game season and it comes down to the last bloody one. There might be three teams in it, but only the laws of natural justice should be paying any attention to events at Old Trafford. Only one result will do for Latics now and all our focus should be on getting that.
The situation for Neil Warnock’s men is a little less simple. A draw will get them what they want and even effect doesn’t necessarily doom them. They may be able to take a more cagey approach but that may make them and their fans more nervy and you suspect that they’ll want to take the quickest way out and beat us.
You may have your suspicions about the commitment of our players. Rumours of get-out clauses and moves lined up won’t help, but you can’t worry about that now. It’s time to put the past behind us, for one day, and concentrate on the job at hand. Whatever team Jewell puts out on Sunday, remember, they are wearing our shirt, they our representatives on the pitch and they have one last chance to prove themselves worthy.
We have to give them that chance, no matter how frustrating it might get, as long as they don’t give up and allow the home team to run riot there’s a possibility of victory.
An early goal for either team could be the clincher almost certainly so if it falls to the home team and neither side will be going hell for leather from the off. Still you have to suspect that the longer it stays goal-less, the more brick walls that Latics run up against, the harder it will become. If we’re still in it as the end approaches, expect plenty of flapping but the real test will be how much oomph they can put into it.
If it’s proving difficult to remain positive ahead of this game try to take solace in the last time we played there. Our promotion bid was floundering on the rocks of a mid-season slump and Latics needed a win and a good performance to get things going again. No one fancied our chances but against the odds we game away with three points in the bag.
It may be a vastly different Latics team that will take the field on Sunday but the task is just as plain. All it requires is a bit of belief and a whole lot of fight and they can manage it. I know that sounds like an impossibility but even if the players have given in, we shouldn’t if we are going to go down then at least one part, the most important part, should do it with pride.
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