If ever a victory was needed Saturday was it, relegation wouldn’t have been confirmed if we had failed to beat Bolton but the damage wrought by a defeat to our nearest rivals could well have been terminal. Terminal for our survival prospects and rightly or wrongly terminal for Paul Cook’s future as Wigan Athletic manager.
Tension had been bubbling away for the best part of a week. The heavy defeat to Blackburn had made this match do or die. Cook’s pre match press conference – usually good natured was a tetchy affair. It’s clear the situation was getting to even the coolest heads in the room.
Luckily for us Latics turned in one of their best performances in recent weeks to put Bolton to the sword. Gone was the defensive style employed against both Middlesbrough and Ipswich in recent home games, instead Latics showed a return to their early season form.
The impressive Joe Garner gave Latics the perfect start, heading in the first goal within four minutes. An early goal will always settle the nerves and the relief from all around the DW was clear to see.
If not for the torrential downpours and horrific conditions coupled with some last ditch Bolton defending Cook’s side could have been further ahead.
As it transpired a narrow 1-0 lead was all we took in to half time. No worries though as Latucs turned it up a notch in the second half. The impressive Gavin Massey made it 2-0 with a fantastic run and goal.
The afternoon took another bizarre twist as Michael Jacobs, jogging back in to position spied his chance – dispossessing Bolton’s hapless goalkeeper Remi Matthews before squaring to Nick Powell for one of the funniest goals you’ll see this season.
I say funny, I’m not sure our friends from over the hill thought as much. Despite pulling one back, Latics would soon get further ahead with the impressive Michael Jacobs being denied twice in two minutes before scoring a stunning goal to re-store Latics three goal advantage.
Leon Clarke would complete the scoring as an impressive Latics side scored five goals for the first time this season. In the process they seem to have all but relegated Bolton Wanderers in the process. As Latics fans sang in the rain at full time you would be forgiven for wondering ‘pressure – what pressure’.
But that pressure on Paul Cook and his side was there for a reason. It was there because despite Latics often dominating games they had failed to be as clinical as they were on Saturday afternoon. The pressure was there because despite Latics formidable home record, away from home Cook’s side simply haven’t been good enough.
All of these things of course can be worked on, and although survival is by no means secured yet Latics made a huge stride towards safety on Saturday afternoon.
With Ipswich and Bolton seemingly down we are looking at one relegation spot for four teams – Reading, Rotherham, Millwall and ourselves. Whatever we do we have to make sure we’re not included in that four.
With a week off it gives Cook a great chance to get those players not on international duty recovered and fighting fit for the final eight matches of the season. We’re nearly over the line – if we can replicate Saturday’s performance over the next six weeks we’ll be looking at another season of Championship football in 2019/20.
Which is what everyone wanted at the start of the season.