By Jon Harries
Saturday proved that no matter how strong the team looks on paper, if you don’t have the desire and cannot stop the “actions” even at a relegation threatened team like Wigan, then you will struggle.
It would be unfair if I didn’t give massive credit to Wigan for their endeavour and the willingness to fight for each other, one thing is for sure, with some of the other bottom teams fighting equally as hard it will certainly be a tight relegation battle.
Wigan could have scored within two minutes, Callum Lang beating the offside trap forcing a good save from Fisher. They did however take the lead, a ball in from the left that the Dons defence failed to deal with, and George Johnstone was given all the time in the world to plant a header beyond Fisher.
Whatever plan Martin had before the game it wasn’t working and he acted swiftly replacing Houghton and Harvie with Surman and Jules respectively. It seemed harsh at the time, but after that we asserted some form of control. Ethan Laird forced Jamie Jones to tip his shot onto the bar, a definite penalty shout for a handball then Harry Darling hitting an absolute curveball of a shot that curled onto the post.
Halftime and once again we had work to do to get back into the game. We did though have a much better start to the second half, pressing the ball, moving it forward quicker and with purpose. But all the pressure meant nothing when Gavin Massey crossed for another unmarked man Callum Lang to head home. Joe Doodoo then wrapped the game up for the Lactic’s finishing a flowing move where they exposed the Dons 3 on 2 at the back from their own box to kill off any hope. We were denied another penalty when Laird was fouled in the box then Fraser rattled the bar, but in the end it would have been unjust on Wigan in my opinion if they didn’t get the win, for Russell Martin it’s a harsh lesson to learn but with another game Tuesday to rectify the errors all is not lost.
Blackpool head to Stadium MK with an outside chance of a playoff spot. I imagine their fans, who have had it all in the last few years would have settled for midtable mediocrity this season. The Tangerines have different ideas though under Neil Critchley the former Liverpool U23s coach who is quietly building momentum by the seaside with a squad that hasn’t got a “star player”, more of a cohesive unit. Unbeaten in their last 5 (3 wins, 2 draws) they could have timed this run perfectly with games in hand. They have beaten Portsmouth and Charlton away in that run so are no mugs. 9th in the away form table proves that. They drew with AFC Wimbledon at Bloomfield Road on Saturday, Ellis Simms strike on the hour cancelled out by Ollie Palmer in the 93rd minute. Blackpool fans post-match were frustrated at the lack of a cutting edge (sounds familiar) and to get a win which would have edged them closer to the play offs given the shock result of Portsmouth.
Chris Maxwell has brought solidity to the goalkeepers position, Dan Ballard has nailed down the CB spot with solid performances, and Luke Garbutt is a creative outlet from LB. Matty Virtue is beginning to settle in and with options like Sullay Kaikai, Elliott Embleton, the returning CJ Hamilton and Ethan Robson, the variety of threat and creativity in midfield is impressive. Up top although Gary Madine is out injured at the time of writing Bez Lubala and the aforementioned Simms are stepping up recently.
Jerry Yates was part of a successful Swindon team who won. L2 on PPG last year. Alongside Eoin Doyle they took teams apart with ease. Assisted now by teammate Keshi Anderson, Yates is beginning to settle into L1 life. 11 goals in 28 games he hassles defenders into mistakes as part of a high pressing team and still only 24, he’s nowhere near his prime and will definitely be the one to watch. If he gets the service he will hit the target.
Predicted Line Up
Laird – O’Hora – Darling – Lewington – Jules
Surman – O’Riley – Fraser
Grigg – Jerome.
I understand rotation this season, but a settled side would be nice to have especially now with our recent leaking of goals and lack of conviction up top.
I’m predicting and hoping for a 1-1 draw. Something steady and not spectacular. A confidence booster for the squad that shows them that the process is going in the right direction. To those who question Russell Martin remember this. In any process there will always be bumps in the road. Think about the bigger picture.
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