The Saturday-Tuesdays are back! Fresh off the back of Saturday’s 1-1 draw with local rivals Bolton, Latics face up to another North-Western opponent in the form of Accrington Stanley.
John Coleman’s side currently sit 14th in the table with nothing really to play for, but you’d imagine they will be keen to get revenge for the 4-1 drubbing Latics handed them back in September.
The reverse fixture was one of my favourite ever away days and I’ll always remember Charlie Wyke’s first goal for the club, as well as the celebrations which were incredible. We’ll of course be without Wyke tonight but hopefully someone else will terrorise the Stanley defenders this evening like he did.
Latics Team News
Unfortunately after Saturday’s game it’s looking likely we’ll have to make some changes for tonight’s game. Injuries to Curtis Tilt and James McClean look to have ruled the left sided pairing out for the next few games at least, which offers a chance to some of our squad players.
Replacing Tilt is a tricky one. The obvious option is to bring Kell Watts into the side at LCB which he has done several times this season, but he tends to play in a back 4 rather than a back 5. If we do move to a back 4 I’d expect it to be Watts X Watmough as it was at the beginning of the season, but that then feels really harsh on Jason Kerr who’s been fantastic recently.
I guess this is the benefit of having strength in depth, it gives these selection headaches that are really positive. My guess is we’ll retain the back 5 and Watts will slot in on the left hand side but don’t be surprised if we change to a 4, especially without McClean at LWB.
Speaking of which, there are 2 obvious options to replace Jimmy Mac; Tom Pearce and Joe Bennett. The latter was on the bench on Saturday and can probably count himself unlucky that he wasn’t introduced given McClean’s problems. Both Bennett and Pearce have had their injury problems this season and it could genuinely come down to the toss of a coin as to which gets the starting spot.
Ahead of them it sort of goes without saying for Latics. Tom Naylor and Max Power will almost certainly play, and the front 3 of Lang, Keane and Magennis seems pretty set in stone too. I’d like to see Jamie McGrath play, just so I know he actually exists more than anything, and Stephen Humprhys is always brilliant off the bench. We have a plethora of options in attacking areas and I hope we see as much of it on show as possible.
Positive news for Latics is that Jordan Cousins and Thelo Aasgaard seem to have completed their roads to recovery and could be back in the squad soon. Both will find it hard to get back into the side but the fact the option is there can only be a good thing for Leam Richardson and his side.
Accrington Stanley are punching well above their weight yet again this season and have all but confirmed they’ll be playing in the third tier for a 5th consecutive year. John Coleman’s side have been one of the divisions most entertaining sides this year, their open attacking style has seen them involved in some high scoring encounters.
Their last 3 games have seen them concede 10 goals, 4 to Portsmouth and Cheltenham and 2 in a disappointing 2-1 defeat to struggling Gillingham. Perhaps this is early signs of Stanley’s players being ‘on the beach’ now there’s nothing much to play for and Latics will be hoping they continue that trend this evening.
As I’ve mentioned though they are an exciting side. They take more shots per 90 than any other side in the league (15.6) as well as conceding 12.2 so there will be plenty of goal mouth action you’d imagine. The reverse fixture had 30 shots, 11 corners and 5 goals in total which is pretty staggering, will things pan out the same this time around?
There are some glaring weaknesses in Stanley’s side that Latics can focus on exploiting. I seem to say the same every week but against these sides that play 3 at the back we will get lots of joy in the space behind their wing backs and outside their centre backs. The space we’ve found in these areas in recent weeks has seen us create numerous chances and build plenty of pressure in positive areas, and I really think the same could be the case tonight.
The sending off of defender Ross Sykes on Saturday will hurt Accrington tonight and I for one am delighted to see him missing. Sykes has been very impressive this season and I can’t see him being at this level for much longer (hopefully we go up and sign him, but more of that in the close season…) , and his absence makes them weaker at centre half.
Offensively they have goals all over the pitch and we cannot underestimate the threat they offer, especially defender Michael Nottingham who seems to love scoring against us. At set pieces they are dangerous, they have a big powerful side and as we saw at MK Dons we can be susceptible to conceding goals in this way. Part of the reason I’d start Josh Magennis over Stephen Humprhys is the fact he’ll help us in this area.
The facts are Accrington haven’t won an away match since November and a trip to the DW is probably the last thing they want at the moment. Without a clean sheet in 10 it will be a struggle for John Coleman’s side but they are gritty and the no nonsense Scouser in charge won’t let them slack off.
Player to Watch
Had he not picked up a 92nd minute red card against Cheltenham I’d be writing about Ross Sykes here, but thankfully for Latics he won’t be featuring. Therefore, I’m going to focus on 21 year old midfielder Tommy Leigh, who scored 2 goals on Saturday afternoon in the manic 4-4 draw.
Leigh was signed from Bognor Regis in the summer and has made the step up to League 1 football very well. With 6 goals in 18 games (11.5 full 90s) he offers a threat from midfield with his elusive intelligent runs and good technical ability. He averages 2.95 shots per 90 and 1.21 SOTs per 90 so Ben Amos can expect to be called into action at some point.
He still has a lot to learn and it should be remembered that this is his first full season of professional football. You could probably describe him as a bit wet behind the ears, he was recently sent of for lashing out at a Charlton player in Stanley’s 2-1 victory (a game Leigh had scored in).
Coming up against Latics mean defence will be a big challenge but he has shown a fearlessness so far this season that could stand him in good stead tonight if given the opportunity.
At this time of the season there are teams that ‘need’ it and there are teams that are ‘on the beach’. Latics definitely fall into the bracket of a team that needs it and I expect them to come out on top tonight. Accrington are in poor form, we are playing well and should have enough to get the 3 points.
As I’ve touched upon Accrington usually guarantee goals wherever they go and I can see the same happening tonight. I do think they’ll get themselves a goal but we should have more than enough to overpower Stanley.
Latics 3-1 Accrington Stanley