Following the City game, Latics were heading in the right direction and fans were rightly confident that we’d avoid a sticky end of season. Even if the result against Fulham did suggest that the last few games may be more damp squib that big bang. If you left the JJB after that frustrating and, above all, dull 90 minutes thinking it was the beginning of the end of our second Premier League season, then events since will have had you wondering if it was the start of our Dear John letter to the big boys.
What’s clear is that the confidence of a month ago has petered out leaving Latics’ men and ladies with a simple feeling of bemusement and our eyes set firmly on a trip to the land of camp electro pop and bad rock music as the probable deciding point of our season. It seems a big jump, but we’re fickle folk and little account had been taken of the possibility that West Ham and Charlton might actually stop losing games.
Enough prevaricating, I’m here to catch up on the last three games, so with barely a pause for a brew let’s get ourselves off to our friend Mr Pardew’s new house…
Charlton (A) 0-1
If we were another team then you’d have to say that Jewell got his tactics right for this one. Unfortunately Latics are missing some vital components to play in a more measured style. We simply lack the creativity and the nous to concentrate on keeping possession and wait for our chance to come.
Similarly we find it difficult to keep it up once we’ve got that lead. The result is simple, 22 points lost from winning positions, and there’ll be more on that later. How much better would the table look if we’d taken even half of those? A quarter of them would do us at the moment (I’ve checked with our pedantic department and even they wouldn’t even bother commenting that they don’t actually give half points out, so leave it).
The by now compulsory refereeing gripe falls, obviously, to the penalty award. The confusion over why it was given doesn’t help but I can’t honestly that I share Jewell’s view that there shouldn’t have been one, more ridiculous was Motty’s suggestion that it should have been two.
A point at the Valley would have been a reasonable result given their form. But we’ve only ourselves to blame if we think that we should have got more than we did. If you don’t create chances you don’t score goals, and if you try to hold onto a nil all when you’re prone to throwing goals away… well you can work it out for yourself.
Bolton (h) 1-3
If there was a moment that defines the despair of this season then this may be it. I for one had taken a great deal of smugness from our record against the neighbours since joining the top flight. Losing to them wouldn’t be so bad if we hadn’t taken the lead before gifting them three of the softest goals you’re ever likely to see.
Jewell could have fielded 11 of the away crowd from that “Bobby Campbell hat-trick” game for the second half and they’d have stood up better to Bolton than our current bunch did.
Then again if the majority of home fans couldn’t be bothered for the last ten minutes then why should the players. Less of a “we can see you sneaking out” more, “where’s everyone gone?”, one minute I’m looking at a reasonably full East Stand, I put my head in my hands for a minute, look up and they’ve all been teleported somewhere.
I’ll leave the last word on this one to our friends from Manny Road, you couldn’t sum the game up better than their chorus of “One – nil, and you f****d it up”.
Villa (a) 1-1
It’s one thing losing points because you’re not very good, because you’re not fit enough or because you come across a better team, but when time and again you watch your team snatch defeats and draws from the jaws of victory because of stupidity it’s hard to know what to do.
Not that I’m saying that we’d won this game if Louis Valencia hadn’t taken the opportunity to show off his long jumping skills, but it would have given us a much better chance. It was good to see us defending hard to get something out of the game but in the end we lost out on more than the two extra points.
In addition to the winger’s ban, Hall and Unsworth both ducked out of this one with injuries. With Ary enthusiastically pursuing his new hobby of failing fitness tests and Boyce looking unlikely to feature again this season, we’re now left with the choice of an owd man, a unproven youngster and a player who may or may not be a defender or midfielder or both or neither.
So there you have it and we’re back up to date. Ordinarily, two draws in away games against Charlton and Villa wouldn’t be the end of the world. Neither would a home effect against a top six side (let’s pretend it wasn’t Bolton for the minute). However whilst Latics have stuttered, other teams have pushed on. In particular, the form of Charlton and West Ham gives more than a little cause for concern.
Going into this run of games, two wins would have probably seen us safe. Since then, results elsewhere mean that nothing much has changed on that front. With Spurs and Liverpool in the equation we could be looking at needing six points from nine. Would you put any money on that?
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