Wigan Athletic vs Fleetwood Town Match Preview

As the dust settles on Saturday’s disappointing 3-0 loss to Sunderland Leam Richardson’s Wigan side will look to rectify things against Fleetwood Town on Tuesday night. Latics’ Tuesday night problems were eased last week with their 3-1 victory against Wycombe and we’ll be looking to make it 3 midweek wins in a row for the first time this season.

With this game being one of our 3 games in hand on 3rd place MK Dons it is imperative that we look to extend the gap with a victory, especially off the back of such a poor weekend performance.

The reverse fixture saw 5 goals in an incredible Latics comeback, but I imagine Leam and co will be hoping for a more straightforward victory this time around.

Latics Team News

There is a tendency for managers to make wholesale changes after a humiliating loss, but Leam Richardson doesn’t strike me as that type of manager. After the game he spoke about the need to quickly move on from the game and put things right immediately, which makes me thing a similar side will be put out.

I’d like to see Kell Watts replace Curtis Tilt as I believe the Newcastle loanee possess more quality on the ball, and you’d expect Latics to see a lot of the ball against this Fleetwood side. If fit, Joe Bennett should also come into the side to allow James McClean to play in his favoured Left Wing spot where he has played his best football this season.

Tom Naylor and Max Power will likely continue in the middle of the pitch but will have to improve their playmaking abilities in order to break down the Fleetwood defence. Assuming Jamie McGrath is still absent through injury Will Keane will continue in attacking midfield, but similarly to Naylor and Power Latics will be hoping to see more creativity from the 28 year old.

Callum Lang’s goal started the comeback at Highbury Stadium in November and he will certainly keep his place in the side. However, he’ll have to be careful because a yellow card will see the 22 year old pick up a 2 game ban which would see him miss matches against AFC Wimbledon and more importantly MK Dons.

Welsh winger Gwion Edwards was credited with changing the game and inspiring the comeback in his substitute appearance in the reverse fixture but I expect to see him from the start tonight. If Joe Bennett comes into the side James McClean could take Edwards’ place, whilst Gavin Massey could also be picked to play out wide too.

Josh Magennis is still searching for his illustrious first goal in Wigan colours since his January move from Hull City, but his time in the starting 11 is surely running out. Stephen Humprhys is certainly the supporters preferred choice but it seems like Leam still has faith in the 31 year old. If Magennis gets the start lets hope he grabs his goal, because Latics fans patience with him is running out quickly.

The Opposition

Fleetwood Town find themselves in a relegation scrap this season, sitting in 19th place and 2 points clear of the drop zone. Former Latics Left Back Stephen Crainey is at the helm, and with the Cod Army currently 7 games without a win times are getting desperate.

It is worth noting their last victory came against table topping Rotherham United so perhaps they are more suited to playing the division’s better sides. With recent draws to play off chasing Plymouth and MK Dons, Fleetwood’s underdog mentality is something Wigan will need to be wary of.

Fleetwood tend to line up in a 4-3-3 system, but have played 5-3-2 in a few matches recently. Averaging just 48% possession per game Crainey’s side look to soak up pressure and take their chances from counter attacks and set-pieces. Their previous game against Portsmouth saw them have just 28% of the ball, but they still managed to score 3 first half goals, all of which came down their right hand side.

Paddy Lane and Anthony Pilkington have been the Cod Army’s best attackers this season and will fancy their chances down Latics’ left hand side, our weakest area at the weekend. If James McClean does play at LB he will have a job on his hands to nullify the threat posed by Fleetwood’s two biggest threats.

Former Latics man Pilkington has flourished this season, averaging 0.68 goals per 90 minutes and taking 2.65 shots per 90. He will likely play on the right of Fleetwood’s front 3 or as part of a 2 man strike partnership depending on the formation, and uses his trickery and technical ability to create and score. I’m sure most Latics fans will have fond memories of ‘Pilks’ from his time at the DW and he’ll likely get a warm welcome back.

Whilst they have shown promise in attacking areas the reason Fleetwood find themselves towards the bottom of the table is their leaky defence. Conceding an average of 1.75 goals per 90 it is a weakness that Latics will be confident of exploiting on Tuesday night. They allow over 12 shots per 90 minutes and considering the fact that Wigan have the best conversion rate in the league you’d expect us to get on the scoresheet at least once.

We know we will have chances, the main thing for Wigan will be keeping the ball out of our net and searching for another surprisingly rare clean sheet.

Player to Watch

Paddy Lane has had a breakout year in the Fleetwood Town midfield this season and his performances have been extremely impressive. The 21 year old has played 27 matches in his debut campaign and has registered 5 goals and 8 assists at a rate of 0.6 goal contributions per 90.

His goal at the weekend, a 25 yard screamer, was one of 3 goals he’s scored from outside the area this year so closing him down within shooting range is imperative. As well as goal scoring, his creative abilities are also excellent. Lane averages over 1 key pass per 90 and completes around 50% of the dribbles he attempts.

On Tuesday night it is vital that the Latics midfield keep Paddy Lane quiet throughout. If given time and space he has the ability to pull the strings and cause problems for our defence in a similar way to how Barry Bannan, Callum Wright and Mark Sykes all have done in recent weeks against us.

My Prediction

Latics will be itching to put things right after such a humbling defeat at the hands of Sunderland on Saturday and tonight offers them the perfect chance to do so. Fleetwood pose a genuine threat but I believe that their defensive weaknesses will be exposed by Latics and the home side will come away with a victory.

That being said given Latics’ own defensive frailties I can see Fleetwood scoring, probably through one of their former Latics men Joe Garner or Anthony Pilkington.

Latics 2-1 Fleetwood

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