Wigan Athletic extended their lead on 3rd place with a 1-1 draw at home to play-off chasing Oxford United and are now 20 games unbeaten in all competitions. As predicted in the match preview Latics faced a tough test against a very capable Oxford side, and had it not been for some tactical intuition from manager Leam Richardson and his coaching team things could’ve been very different.
Oxford started the game well and saw plenty of the ball in the early stages, admittedly partly down to Wigan’s constant misdirected long balls. But just as we started to get a foot hold in the match Oxford hit Latics on the counter and scored a beautifully crafted goal through star striker Matty Taylor.
Whilst the goal was well crafted from an Oxford point of view, it was not unstoppable as Leam pointed out after the game. There were certainly moments where a tactical foul would’ve been handy and the positioning and tracking back of some players could also be questioned.
After the goal a tactical change for Latics saw Tendayi Darikwa move from Left Back to his favoured Right Back slot, with Max Power pushing into midfield and Callum Lang moving out wide. This had an almost instant impact when Power received the ball in acres of space in the middle of the pitch and proceeded to play a lovely pass to Lang, who cut in from the right to finish smartly across the keeper.
This was one of the first times in the match we played through midfield and it paid off in a huge way. A reason for this might be that whilst Graeme Shinnie and Tom Naylor (the starting midfield pair) are excellent ball winners they don’t possess the play making abilities needed to unlock a defence. The introduction of Power to the midfield changed this, and my guess is players like Thelo Aasgaard and new signing Jamie McGrath will help add the attacking quality to the middle third.
The second half was all Latics and had it not been for excellent goalkeeping Jack Watmough might’ve netted a hat-trick! The cultured centre-back was not the only one rueing missed opportunities, substitute Josh Magennis thought he’d scored his first goal in Latics colours only for the linesman to raise his flag and disallow it.
In the end a point each is probably fair, but Latics can be hugely encouraged by the 60 minutes of football they played after falling behind.
Player of the Match
Latics fans will be delighted to see Callum Lang back in the goals following a brief stint out with injury. the 22 year old grabbed our equaliser yesterday and his hard work kept us on the front foot in the second half.
When played on the right their aren’t many better players in League 1, so hopefully that’s where we’ll see him deployed for the rest of the season. Goals, assists and a little dose of prime Wigan shithousery, it’s no wonder Langy is a fans favourite and performances like this will only improve his relationship with supporters.
We won’t face many more difficult challenges than that this season! Oxford United offer threats all over the pitch and I have no doubts in saying that they’ll take points of our promotion rivals in the weeks and months to come. For Latics we come into one of the most important months in the clubs 90 year history on a 20 match unbeaten run, and if we end the month with that run still intact we will go up. Believe!