Fan’s View 23/24 – No.14: Wigan away

Article by Paul Beasley Thursday, October 26th, 2023  


This can very much be split into two: pre-match in Wigan and the game itself. The very enjoyable and the not very pleasurable at all.


We knew from the two visits here in the 21/22 season that this northern town, situated almost equidistant between Liverpool and Manchester, has some very welcoming drinking establishments. On this trip it was just the same.

Our meeting place was Real Crafty, a contemporary pub in an old building which formerly housed the Royal British Legion. The pint was so good the temptation to stay put until we headed to the DW Stadium was high but knowing there was quality to be had elsewhere too we moved on to two pubs we’d been to previously: the Tap ‘n’ Barrel and the Raven. Both independently run, the former a modern building the latter not. Each had their own unique appeal.

In the Tap ‘n’ Barrel.  Oxford fans everywhere.


I’ve gone along with all this how wonderful things are on the pitch this season so far once we got going after Cambridge and Bristol City – and why wouldn’t any Oxford United supporter? I genuinely believed. I still do but not quite to such a great extent. It’s way better than the dreadful 22/23 campaign. All teams have little wobbles if that’s what it is, picking up only one point from the last six we’ve competed for.

We’re still second but a handful of rivals are now moving themselves to within touching distance as Pompey go marching on at the summit.

No team is ever quite perfect but when your lads are winning and playing so well, with some on outstanding form, it’s just little imperfections on the periphery. We know they’re there but don’t think they’re particularly relevant. That can be dangerous, as can moving to the other extreme and thinking that if we don’t address them we’re doomed.

However, there were two what I consider significant issues here that struck me not for the first time. In the goal-scorer, centre-forward, striker stakes we’re weak. Mark Harris and his replacement Gatlin O’Donkor didn’t look good enough here. I strongly believe that’s an area where we, if finances permit, need to strengthen in the January window. Easier said than done of course and we tried I believe this summer.

Linked to that is the strength of the bench. Yes we’ve got Marcus Browne and Kyle Edwards out injured but at any point in time there’s likely to be a couple out. I’m not so sure we’ve got the depth I’d convinced myself we had.

For reasons of saving time I’m rattling through this one, as I did the Blackpool game, without watching any replays.

Us taking 11 shots with six on target to Wigan’s 10 and six therefore surprised me. I don’t remember us having much of a goal threat.

The DW is an impressive stadium for L1, as is to be expected as it’s seen a fair few Premier League seasons. The pitch looked immaculate even with Wigan Warriors having played on it up until early this month when the rugby league season ended.

That perfect grass carpet suited our passing game down to a T.

In the first half an hour or so our ball retention and the ease with which we moved it about and found space without busting a gut was a thing of beauty, mesmeric at times. However whilst this was going on the home side had one attack and scored and we weren’t creating much if anything. Carrying on like that was no way to win a football match.

If by playing that way you tire out the opposition then go for the kill, then all well and good but Wigan never looked like they were vulnerable or getting hurt in areas where real damage could be done. They were probably very happy with the way the game was going.

We may have been better off letting them have more of the ball, final stats show they only had it 35% of the time, but perhaps they didn’t want it.

We were never able to mould the pattern of play into such a form where we could hit them on the break. That being so Stan Mills in particular was really ineffective.

I wasn’t quite sure what our game plan was here.

Wigan of course went 1-0 up in the 17th minute with a breakaway goal.

As we entered the final third of the first half we were no longer knocking the ball about so well.

I was struggling to see where a goal was coming from and that thinking continued throughout the second half.

We didn’t play particularly well in that period but at just one down all it takes is a set piece to come off or a bit of individual magic and you’re level and the momentum of the game can turn.

That didn’t happen.

A free-kick conceded to the Latics on the edge of our box with 10 minutes of the regulation time remaining and we’re two down. Game over.

Plus we needed a couple of very good James Beadle saves otherwise there would have been a bigger number in the conceded column.

We missed Cameron Brannagan big time in this and Liam Manning’s statement two days before the Wycombe game that our no.8 had lost a lot of weight having been hit quite hard by the illness that has been going through the camp doesn’t bode well.

That’s it. One of the shortest ever FVs.



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