The wheels are off…

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Uh oh! That wasn’t what we ordered. Do we need to start looking for wheels? Chasing those stray wheels around a deserted retail park in the early hours of Wednesday morning perhaps due to them apparently coming off.

Or maybe we’ve been found out! Guilty of the crime of winning football matches due to sleight of hand and Jedi mind tricks designed to instil fear in the opposition and hypnotise them into believing that we are a good football team when we are in fact predictable and completely useless?

Both above theories are utter rubbish I should add, but there is definitely something amiss at the minute and a need to freshen things up. It shouldn’t matter how we play: in this division nine times out of ten, we will have the better players on the field and the capability to beat the other lot.

Similarly, the desire and fight has been there in abundance all year and that combination of ability and work ethic has seen us home in many games. Yet now it has deserted us. Somehow, we need to re-start that process and maybe the distraction of the City cup game has been both a curse and a blessing.

The last two performances have been unacceptable but you can guarantee the same players will be running around like Tasmanian devils in front of the TV cameras on Monday night. Aside from the formidable opposition, it could provide a gentle buffer from our declining league fortunes and we can come out of the other side firing on all cylinders again.

Let’s face it, we need to! Blackburn and Shrewsbury fans will quite rightly have their tails up after our slip ups and look to capitalise. Our games in hand are relatively easy ones, but so were Southend and Blackpool on paper.

In some senses, it is a little unfair for any of the three of us to miss out, as indeed one of us will. If you extrapolate points achieved to date until the end of the season, Latics would have 97, Shrewsbury 95 and Blackburn 91. It’s a harsh league if any team exceeds 90 points and fails to get promoted.

By comparison, Luton in League Two are on 67 points after 33 games, are 10 points clear of the play offs and are only on course to hit 93 points. Last year in League One, Sheffield United smashed it with the much-fabled 100 points but Bolton squeezed into 2nd with a mere 86 points.

Essentially, in any other season, any one of the three top teams would be clear by a distance already and it’s unfortunate that there are three strong sides scrapping it out. None of this help us though, especially given we have failed to stretch this with the last two results and a few disappointing nil-nil draws over Christmas and early Jan.

Even so, if we’d played and won the two games in hand, we’d be running towards a 99 points total now and be 5 points clear on 69 points. In any other year, we’d still be at least well clear of the play offs.

As it stands, we are the team in decline out of the top three, and far from suggesting that Shrewsbury or Blackburn might have a wobble, it seems to be our turn to give a passable impression of a plate of jelly going down Parbold Hill on a skateboard.

Let us hope that it is just a minor wobble, and an inspiring cup display on Monday can return our team’s form to its previous rock solid status. Otherwise, if we can’t finish in the top two, we may as well finish 7th given our record in the play offs.

Article first published in the Wigan Evening Post’s 12th Man column on Friday 16th February 2018

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