Latics got back on the bike at the weekend with a 2-1 victory over Charlton Athletic and are looking to keep that momentum going against a struggling Crewe Alexandra. A win would see us extend the gap to 3rd place to 5 points with 3 games in hand and really apply the pressure to those below us.
Wigan fans could be forgiven for looking ahead to Friday’s top of the table clash with Rotherham, but a good victory against Crewe on Tuesday evening would be a huge result in the context of the season.
Latics Team News
Given the fixture load we’re facing I would expect a few changes from the weekends game to ease the pressure on some players, especially looking ahead to Friday’s clash with Rotherham. The good thing about our squad is that even if we do look to rotate, the quality of player won’t drop significantly.
James McClean has supposedly been suffering with a long term injury that has required injections, so a rest for the ROI international might be good. Joe Bennett would likely take his place at LWB (or LB if we revert to a 4-2-3-1) and has shown his abilities this season albeit in fits and starts.
Captain Tendayi Darikwa is 1 yellow card away from a 2 match suspension but I can’t see him missing out tonight. If Leam does decide to protect him it could allow Gavin Massey to feature at RB, or Max Power will move out of the midfield to fill in and make space for someone like Graeme Shinnie to partner Tom Naylor in the middle.
In attacking areas Will Keane returned from injury at the weekend which is fantastic news for the club. January signing Jamie McGrath wasn’t in the squad against Charlton but that was just squad rotation according to Leam Richardson. Therefore, we could maybe see one Irish international replace another so that Will Keane can be protected.
Finally, the battle for the striker spot is heating up after Stephen Humphrys netted the winner at the weekend. Josh Magennis, who is seemingly first choice, is yet to find the net for Latics but there is clearly faith that he will do so soon. Tuesday nights match could be the perfect opportunity.
Its not an understatement to say Crewe are struggling. They’re level on points at the bottom of the league, have conceded the 3rd most goals and scored the 3rd least. They’ve lost 5 matches in a row, conceding 12 goals in those matches, and are free falling towards League 2.
Latics are yet to play Crewe in the league this season, with the eagerly awaited Boxing Day away game having been postponed, but the two sides have met in the EFL Trophy. On that occasion Crewe ran out 2-0 winners although they will face a much different (and better) Latics side on Tuesday.
A glaring issue for the Railywaymen is their lack of goal scoring opportunities being created. They take just 9.9 shots per 90, with only 3.3 of those finding the target so it is unsurprising that they have struggled for goals this season. Strikers Chris Porter and Dan Ageyi average a combined 3.2 shots per 90, which is less than Stephen Humphrys manages on his own (3.54).
They have used 37 players in the league this season which suggests cohesion is hard to come by in whichever starting 11 David Artell puts out.
This was evident against Accrington Stanley at the weekend when they conceded all 4 goals from set pieces, so this is definitely something we should focus on exploiting. With 6’2 striker Josh Magennis still looking for a goal he must be licking his lips at the prospect of getting an opportunity from a corner or free kick.
Player to Watch
Rekeem Harper arrived at Crewe on loan from Ipswich Town in January after a disappointing first 6 months at the Tractor Boys. Whilst he is yet to make a huge impression at Gretsey Road he is undoubtedly a player with the ability to improve this Crewe side, and has the potential to play at a higher level.
Harper is a creative midfielder who Crewe fans will be relying on to fix the aforementioned problem they have with producing goal scoring opportunities. He has experience playing in the Premier League and Championship where he showed promise, now it’s time for him to live up to the hype.
He will have his work cut out against 2 fantastic Latics midfielders, but he’s easily Crewe’s most likely man to unlock a sturdy defensive unit.
It’s about time we win a match convincingly and I’d suggest this is our best chance of doing just that. Crewe are really struggling at both ends of the pitch and we have the attributes to really punish this lack of confidence and ability.
A win would see us pull further away from 3rd place and go into the Rotherham match full of confidence. I’m confident of a win and I’m sure the lads will put in a professional and positive performance.
Latics 3-0 Crewe
Before the match there will be a minutes silence for Muhammad Al Jasmi, the son of Wigan Athletic owner Mr Abdulrahman Al Jasmi, who passed away recently.
May he rest in peace.