After 9 weeks, 19 games, 11 wins and 34 points Wigan Athletic finally have a week off. The gruelling run caused by covid postponements and cup runs saw Latics’ squad depth and resolve tested harder than ever would’ve been expected, but they passed with flying colours.
Fatigue, injuries and suspensions that would’ve crippled many other sides were expertly navigated by Leam Richardson and his coaches and the entire back room staff deserve huge credit for the mammoth effort they put in.
Games like this, a 4-1 demolition of Morecambe at the DW Stadium, hopefully make all that effort worthwhile. The performance from start to finish was professional, skilful and clinical which showed exactly what Latics are capable of.
Leam made 1 change to the side that defeated Crewe 2-0 in midweek, with James McClean replacing Joe Bennett at LWB. McClean was available again after his 3 match suspension and will now be off on international duty with the Republic of Ireland squad, as will Will Keane.
Playing 3-4-3 against the divisions worst defensive side seemed to raise a few supporters eyebrows, but straight away from kick off it became evident the system was far from defensive. Both wing backs played extremely high and both wide centre backs, particularly Jason Kerr on the right, would venture high up the pitch to create wide overloads.
This allowed Latics to dominate possession around the halfway line which in turn caused Morecambe to be drawn out of their defensive shape in order to press. When they did so we would switch the play and look to hurt them from wide areas, with wing backs and wide centre backs.
The opening goal came from this exact situation, as you can see here.
The goal was excellent but for 10 or so minutes afterwards it was the away side that looked like grabbing the second goal of the game. Ben Amos made a stunning reaction save to deny Aaron Wildig and Cole Stockton’s 25 yard volley was deflected over the bar for a corner.
However, after surviving the brief flurry from the Shrimps it was Latics that found the elusive second goal.
Stephen Humphrys unleashed a fierce left foot effort that was well saved by Trevor Carson, but from the resulting corner the home sides lead was extended.
James McClean’s inswinging corner was flicked on at the front post by Tom Naylor, and Jason Kerr was there at the back post to prod home. For a moment it looked as though Carson had kept it out brilliantly, but nothing was denying the Scotsman of his first goal in Latics colours.
We went into half time with a comfortable lead and it looked as though the platform was there to build a 3 or 4 goal lead and boost our goal difference. With Rotherham a goal down and a man down at the break the DW was buzzing at the break.
But just 2 minutes into the second half Morecambe had halved the deficit. Cole Stockton’s shot hit the hand of a Wigan player and the referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot. Dylan Connolly converted the penalty and memories of the Gillingham game came to the forefront of Latics supporters minds.
Credit to the lads though, they didn’t panic and instead looked to take greater control of the game. Another stinging strike from Humphrys created havoc in the Morecambe penalty area, and eventually we made our pressure count. Tom Naylor’s header was all but over the line, but Will Keane made sure and grabbed his 19th league goal in the process.
That makes it 20 for Keane in all competitions this season as he enjoys the best spell of his career. It was also his 9th headed goal of the campaign which has proved to be a brilliant attribute of his.
Less than a minute later Latics had a 4th with Stephen Humphrys getting in on the act with a brilliant volley. Considering Humphrys is naturally right footed the 3 left footed attempts he took yesterday suggest otherwise. Having a 2 footed attacker makes things extremely difficult for defenders to stop and yesterday was proof of that.
It could’ve been even more comfortable for Latics had Will Keane not tripped as he looked to add his second of the game late on. There were also some beautiful spells of possession, as well as some free flowing attacking football that had supporters ‘ooooing and aaaahhhing’!
The game was a brilliant watch. We played some of the nicest football I’ve seen us play in months and you could tell every player was playing with confidence. After the game a mini lap of honour was done by the squad, probably as a thank you to supporters for our continued support in these busy 9 weeks.
Travelling in numbers, outsinging opposition fans everywhere and spurring the lads on has played a big part in our successes this season and it’s good to see players and staff acknowledging that every week.
Elsewhere, Rotherham lost 3-0 at home to Shrewsbury which saw the gap between us and them shorten to 1 point. We also have 2 games in hand on the Millers which puts us in the driving seat for promotion and the league title.
Player of the Match
This award could go to any number of players but I’ve gone with a player that I think has been superb in his first proper run in the side.
Jason Kerr was nothing short of immense yesterday and to make things even sweeter he grabbed his first Latics goal. Kerr’s last goal actually came from the penalty spot in a Europa League tie for St Johnstone against Galatasary, but I’m sure he’d agree this one’s just as important..!
As previously mentioned he contributed brilliantly in possession too, with his positioning in wide areas allowing Latics to dominate the ball. No player touched the ball more than Kerr (90) and his 52 completed passes was the third highest too.
Defensively he made an astonishing 9 interceptions, as well as 7 recoveries and won 4/5 aerial duels. Dominant in defence and profound in possession, Kerr was excellent all over the pitch yesterday.