Win at all costs

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I spoke last week about it being a crucial week for Paul Cook’s Wigan Athletic – two games against play-off chasing sides and our only game in hand on the chasing pack below us. Sadly it was a week that didn’t deliver much.

One point from two games where we really could have done with a minimum of three – wasn’t enough for the Latics, with sides below us including Saturday’s opponents Reading picking up wins to close the gap we really needed something more from this week. I thought we played well enough on Saturday, if not truly troubling the Middlesbrough defence. We were solid and looked more than happy with the point we eventually earned.

When you break it down and look at the respective sides – where those two sides are in the table and the difference in resources available to both Tony Pulis and Paul Cook we should probably see a point against Middlesbrough as a decent point. But of course in our position a point isn’t enough, partly due to us not earning all three against Ipswich and Rotherham last month.

Despite this Latics travelled to Pride Park to face Frank Lampard’s Derby County © with a spring in their step, it was always going to be tough facing Derby but the supporters may have thought there was a chance of an upset following Derby’s torrid run of form.

Despite a shaky first fifteen minutes Latics settled in to the game and got themselves in front thanks to an excellent breakaway goal on the counter attack, Gavin Massey back on the scoresheet following that win at Stoke back in August. In true Latics style we once again failed to take our numerous chances, Leon Clarke and Michael Jacobs both guilty of letting decent chances pass them by.

Sadly only our second away win of the season after that Stoke game wasn’t to be, a wonder goal for Derby got them back on level terms and after that there was only going to be one outcome as Latics fragile confidence on the road showed once again. After having an enviable nine point buffer between ourselves and the bottom three last month Latics inability to get the wins required both at home and away have seen that buffer withered down to just three points.

So what now for Latics and Paul Cook? Well to put it simply wins, we need wins as soon as possible. We’ve been conservative in our approach over the last few months. A necessity for a club in our position some may say, others will say that’s exactly why we find ourselves in the position we do. I’ll let you decide where you think we fall in that debate. But regardless there is nothing else we can expect from the game at Reading but three points.

Three points at the Madjeski would be a huge boost to our bid for survival, it would give us the chance to open up a bigger gap between ourselves and our relegation rivals. It would also mean that we would have broken that ridiculous away win duck – the humour of that situation has long since dissipated.

All season I’ve said we’re too good to go down, I also predicted a finish of 16th place – both of those targets are well within our reach but we need to start picking up three points as soon as possible. If we reach April without making much headway through our current situation we’re going to be up against the odds and with all the sides below us picking up points in recent weeks it’s imperative we get a win – starting this weekend in Reading.

Nick Powell he who had supposedly had such a big bust up with Paul Cook last week that he would never play for Wigan again was back on the pitch as a substitute against Derby. With him and Gavin Massey back and fit it should point to a more attacking line-up than recent weeks. I’d also like to see Garner get a start on Saturday, ahead of the aforementioned Leon Clarke. Garner works hard and is clearly a goal threat, probably more so than Clarke is at the moment.

It’s a worrying time for Latics fans at the moment, one has to hope we have enough to stay out of that bottom three. There’s nothing worse than sleepwalking to relegation – I still believe that won’t happen to us. But Paul Cook and his side need to start showing us that it won’t happen. And soon.

Sean Livesey

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