Latics drew blank in a league match for the first time since last Easter in a frustrating 90 minutes against Cheltenham Town. In what was probably our most disappointing performance of the season Latics registered just 9 shots with 2 on target against a side low on confidence following a torrid time in recent weeks.
It may sound harsh considering we’re 19 games unbeaten, but a result like this isn’t overly surprising after some of our recent performances. Matches against Doncaster, Morecambe and Gillingham all ended closer than expected, with the problem in those matches being leaking goals we shouldn’t have done. However, the issue yesterday was something we haven’t struggled with at all this season, scoring goals.
The decision to drop Stephen Humphrys seemed strange considering he’d scored in the previous 2 matches, but it gave Josh Magennis the opportunity to make his Latics debut. But the introduction of Magennis, a 6’2 target man, saw a clear change in the team’s mentality. We played 32 long balls, the majority of which aimed at Magennis, but nothing seemed to stick for the Northern Irishman.
Up against 3 towering centre halves it was always going to be difficult, which begs the question would it have been better to adopt a different style of play. Supporters on social media seemed desperate for the introduction of Thelo Aasgaard and Stephen Humphrys, both of whom would have encouraged a different style of play.
But one thing is certain. Leam knows best. I’m sure there is extremely good reason for the style of play and team selection, and unfortunately for Latics it didn’t come good on the day.
Player of the Match
Yesterday was Latics’ first league clean sheet since the 2-0 victory over Burton Albion in October, and that was largely down to the heroics of Ben Amos. The Latics stopper was dominant in collecting high balls launched into his penalty area and made a couple of solid saves to preserve the clean sheet.
At the beginning of the season, it was our defensive record that was gaining all the plaudits, but in recent months we have given away too many goals. Hopefully, this sparks another run of clean sheets and defensive solidity that will ease the pressure on our attackers.
There is no need to panic! 19 games unbeaten and just 1 point off top spot with 2 games in hand is a fantastic position to be in. 4 games in a row against teams battling relegation, all of whom tried to frustrate Latics rather than go out and beat us.
To pick up 10 points from these games is a fantastic return, and despite what the league table suggests we will have far easier games in the second half of the season.
Things could be a lot worse. For example, we could’ve lost 6-0 to a struggling bottom half side away from home in front of a sold out away end like one of our promotion rivals…