Fan’s View 2020/21 – No.16 – Wigan away

Article by Paul Beasley Saturday, November 21st, 2020  

SEASON 2020/21 – FAN’S VIEW No.16: WIGAN AWAY

Pre-match

I had thought of producing a list of the many glaring weaknesses that have become increasingly clear to almost all observers as our game count grows (after the Swindon game we’ll have completed a quarter of the league season). Things like – no midfield creativity, no service to the striker etc. Then just using that as a tick box exercise with the briefest of comments for forthcoming FVs.

However I decided to hold fire on that for now. Bad as we’ve been we’re not the only ones. At present we’re (well I am) into just looking for four teams that come the end of the season are going to have accumulated fewer points than us. That’s the extent of my ambition as things stand.

The League Table may be rather skewed with Accrington having played just nine games and others 12 but points per game played can be informative. That says we’re 21st as does the listings for real. Whilst I’m at it – for goals conceded we’re 22nd with an appalling 1.9 per game. Surprisingly if its goals scored you’re focusing on we shot up to a heady 14th placing but I’m going to piss on that little bit of optimism and point out that in 60% of our league games we’ve scored a big fat ZERO.

So who else have been pants so far? Oh, there are a few so all is not lost. For now I’ll start, and finish, with Wigan Athletic. They’ve got one point from their last seven games.

A whole book could be written about their demise. A new owner putting them into administration about the day after he took over. A points deduction sending them down. Without that they would have finished 13th in the Championship last season.  Talk of this all being engineered due to betting in the Philippines. I’ve no idea where they’re at now but I thought I’d heard somewhere that the administrators had found new owners however I can’t find any evidence of this.

Anyway, much as I have both huge sympathy and empathy with fans of other clubs who are being shafted by unscrupulous owners and other sharks swimming around their beloved entity, for a day or so the only thing I truly care about is that we beat them on the field of play. If we can’t do that then what can we do?

Towards the end of the Crewe game my wife said “I don’t know if I can keep watching this”. What she meant was watching us playing in the way that we now are in most games. Not that she was going to leave the room for the final fifteen minutes but I knew what she meant.

As home games have been paid for by season ticket holders it would possibly be cutting off ones nose to spite ones face not to watch. NB: I’m not having any of this “free” to season ticket holders. No it is not. Actually as a family we’ve paid twice and I suspect some will have done so thrice or even more times. Much as we love our club it is a two way relationship and a bit of VFM has to come back the other way.

Away games are different as we know. A tenner has to be invested/spaffed. Which it is depends on what the Yellows do on the day. Our record on the road in 2020/21 is won one, drawn none, lost five. That points more to spaffing.

After the hollowness that was left following the Crewe debacle, for a minute or two I contemplated sound only for the trip to the DW Stadium. But no, that’s throwing in the towel. They’re bottom. I can’t quite see how it’s going to happen but we’ll win. That’s what I’ve predicted on OUFC Picks. Goals three – why not? We’ve hit three twice this season. Button pressed, tenner spent and yes, ridiculous as it may sound, I’m looking forward to it already even though it’s only Friday evening.

I’d be looking forward to it even more if tomorrow after breakfast a trip up north beckoned. Wigan is a place I’d like a really good poke around. By that I probably mean visit a few pubs in the town. If I recall correctly we’ve only played at the DW twice and each time I only arrived early enough to have a beer in drinking establishments close to the ground. Many decades ago I spent quite a lot of time working in Wigan and for a while now have wanted to get back and see if the hostelries in the centre jog any memories. My recollections are of big fairly run down pubs that served pretty decent cheapish typical northern beer. Google maps tells that The Swan and Railway is still there. If only I could be too.

 

Wigan, what a place. On my first night there walking back from the office to the hotel or pub I was stopping at I needed to cross a fairly main road. I pressed a button at the crossing as a car was coming. The car went on its way with no green light for me to cross but as there was nothing else coming I proceeded. As I walked on my way the lights then turned to red for the traffic. Another car was forced to stop, a window was wound down and a loud aggressive northern shout proclaimed that I was a “c**t”. Another recollection I can’t forget is going to a game at Springfield Park to see Athletic play Stockport and looking down noticed that the old boy next to me had come to the game in his slippers.

It’s getting harder and harder not being able to get out and make new memories, football or otherwise, but it brings home to me how much we should cherish those times when they return and one day they will.

For me now though it could be a lot worse. My living room is the stand.  I’ll still get to see 90 minutes, good or bad, and I have my wife and son for company in suffering or joy.

Wigan Athletic 1 Oxford United 2

Best to start with a win is a win because that’s what it is and three points are three points. So time to raise a glass as we’re out of the bottom four and have games in hand on the majority of teams in L1.

But if we’d not beaten this Wigan side it would have been time to lie down in a dark room and possibly never come out again. My son rightly said that I’d probably forgotten a lot of those forgettable (well I would have wouldn’t I?) games over the last four and a bit seasons but surely this has to rank as one of the poorest quality wise and as for the opposition, I can’t recall any worse since our return to level three. Yet we still couldn’t keep a clean sheet and therefore had to endure squeaky bum territory for the last eight minutes.

The only time I wasn’t on edge and a massive edge at that, was during the three minute period between James Henry putting us two ahead and Thelo Aasgaard heading home for the hosts in the 89th minute.

Was this an enjoyable experience? Absolutely not. Would I rather not have gone through it? Again, absolutely not. That’s what football supporters do. It’s all part of it. We must like the pain and torture.

Have I come out the other end with a feeling of optimism ahead of Tuesday’s visit (for the team, not me) to fourth placed Portsmouth? Again, absolutely not. Have I written this off as a defeat? That’s an easy answer to guess. Pompey have lost as many games at Fratton Park this season as they’ve won.

I took a bit of positivity when I saw the starting line-up. We had a defender at right-back and the return of a hopefully fit Rob Atkinson. That bloody orange kit was a negative though, especially for someone like me who is colour blind.

Even a biased insane deluded fool like (ex) President Trump would have been hard pushed to come up with an argument that Oxford were not the better side in this but no way does that mean we were much cop. Against even mediocre L1 opponents we could well have come away with nothing and if we’d been facing the very best may have ended up with an embarrassing defeat. Wigan, at this point in their history, probably dream of being in the mediocre category.

At half time it was one of those times that frequently occupy football fans’ minds when it’s all about ruing not making the most of having the majority of possession and not in any way being sharp in front of goal. Some of our passing was wayward in the extreme. Where the ball should have been played simply from one orange shirt to another it went from orange to blue and white stripes. Others were hit long, way too long and harmlessly out for a goal kick and it wasn’t just one player whose radar needed adjusting, there were quite a few.

Also we didn’t look totally confident at the back but they were much shakier than we were so surely it had to come right during the second half, didn’t it? The chances created and the pressure on the Latics grew to a crescendo as the first period came to a close. In the final minute or so Jordan Obita and James Henry both went close and we had an effort from a corner headed off the line.

And sure enough we began part two as we’d conducted ourselves in part one but ffs we’ve now got something in our DNA that we need to eradicate. In the fifty third minute Wigan had a free-kick which Simon Eastwood tried to catch where possibly a punch would have been a better option, but he made a complete pig’s ear of it. This resulted in the easiest of tap-ins to put us a goal down and as the RadOx commentators kept saying could well have destroyed us confidence wise. Just as well for us that Wigan were awful – the ball went wide.

So it remained 0-0 but we still needed to score and we did with an hour just gone on the clock. The goal suggested that there is a very good footballing team hiding away in there somewhere, one that may have the potential to recreate some of the magic of last season even though we’ve given ourselves a mountain to climb if we’re to get anywhere near the play-offs.

The ball was passed and passed again in purposeful yet simple fashion with skill and a top top finish to round the move off. At last something really delightful to admire. Josh Ruffels to Atkinson. Atkinson’s second touch a forward pass to Matty Taylor.  One touch from him to Obita. His second touch sent the ball down the line to Marcus McGuane. A first time low cross into the box where Taylor had now placed himself. What Matty did next I’d argue was world class. Okay, we’ve been starved of anything to marvel at for a while now but this was quite special. He took the ball with his left leg and flipped around all in one movement burying it with his right but it wasn’t just that; it was the arrogant way he reacted to the goal even before it had gone over the line and he’d hit it with some power from close range. I thought there was something a bit Cantonaesque about it. Shame he had no collar to raise. Then after a split second he ran, slid and was embraced by his team-mates. A clear release of pent up emotion. It really did mean something. Don’t give me that old bollox that the players don’t care. Up to then Matty’s touch had not been great and like most others he’d been guilty of passing to the wrong coloured shirt but it was evident he wanted to get things moving and turn the game our way. He was coming a little deeper and I remember him doing so and taking a quick free-kick. That showed a man who was desperate for his team to win. In and around the six yard box is where he does his real damage though, just give him the service. Outside the box big centre-halves can fly in and win the ball; inside they can’t for fear of giving away a penalty.

The pattern of the game now indicated that we’d add to the one goal. Jamie Jones in the Wigan goal had to go down low to send another Taylor effort round the post this time from much further out. Next Elliott Moore hit the post from a corner and soon after we put together another very good move which ended with a shot from Henry which wasn’t of much use. There was then yet another Taylor effort, this time a header from a Sam Long centre, which resulted in a corner.

Without that second it was never going to be comfortable however well we were now playing and on 72 minutes a Wigan effort from some distance was only narrowly wide. That said some of the long balls they were playing were atrocious and just sailed out of play giving us a goal kick.

Nevertheless they were now giving it a bit of a go in their own way and having a lot more of the ball. I couldn’t make up my mind if this was a good or bad thing. Knowing the way we have defended for many games now we could buckle but on the other hand a quick break was always on. That happened more than once. Mark Sykes was brought down a few yards short of winning a penalty but Olamide Shodipo’s free-kick was low, wide and pretty hopeless.

The next counter produced a much better outcome. Another passing move that ended in a goal. This is the Oxford United that needs to come out and play rather more often than we’ve seen to date this campaign. Henry won the ball in our half and played it to Taylor who was only a few yards away doing his more defensive duties as is needed at such a stage in the game. A very long way from goal Taylor set off on a run with no Wigan man anywhere near him. About eight yards outside the penalty area whilst looking one way, with a flick of the outside of his right boot he sent the ball the other to the supporting Sean Clare who didn’t mess about. The ball was immediately delivered to Henry who did likewise passing it with authority into the back of the net.

That’s it we’ve won now I said and stupidly relaxed.

Wigan’s goal was like so many we’ve leaked so far. A player out wide who’s unmarked and can get a cross in without being challenged. The scorer getting his head on the ball unchallenged. To be fair it was quite a good glancing finish but they didn’t really have to work for it. It was basic stuff. As it turned out it didn’t really matter but on another day against another team – a better team – it will.

For all that poor passing in the first half there’s no player that came out of this game without some credit although there’s still clearly room for a huge amount of improvement from many. There are definitely signs of improvement. Whether we can sustain that and push on further is another matter because the men we’ll be facing in three days’ time will be an altogether different challenge than that posed by a very weak Wigan.

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