Tics Takeaways – 5 things we learnt from Huddersfield (H)

Latics finally got back to winning ways with a 1-0 victory against relegation rivals Huddersfield Town in Shaun Maloney’s first home game in charge. Here are 5 things we learnt from the game…

1) That’s what winning feels like!

Things that have happened since our last win: An entire World Cup was played, we’ve appointed 2 permanent managers, Christmas and 91 days have gone by. To put that last point into perspective, 91 days from now our season will have been over for a week…

So it’s been a hell of a long time and whilst I’m not sure it was entirely worth the wait, it was definitely a joyous moment. To grind out a result against a team in the bottom 3 like us was huge, especially as we weren’t playing to our full capabilities. We scored with 15 minutes to go and never looked like conceding an equaliser which is something we’ve done far too often in games that we’ve scored first in before.

We need the London Bus theory to come into play now though. Wait ages for one, then two come along together…

2) A solid base to work from…

This is the first time Latics have registered back to back clean sheets since March last year. That’s mental. When Maloney was appointed I spoke a lot in my articles about how well he set his Hibs team up defensively and that I fully expected him to do the same here. Granted, we’ve not played the most potent attacking sides in the division but we really haven’t looked like conceding in either game and have conceded just 0.82xG combined in the past 180 mins.

If you don’t concede you don’t lose and right now we need to get as many points on the board as possible. If you stay in the game for long enough you can grab wins from a set piece or moment of magic like we did yesterday and whilst we definitely need to improve in terms of chance creation we’ve got a solid defensive structure to hopefully rely on.

3) Strength in depth!

That’s probably not something you’d associate with Latics this season but I feel like yesterday we showed it. Omar Rekik and Martin Kelly both missed the game with injury and considering how vital they were against Blackburn people were rightly anxious to see how we’d cope without them. The truth is we managed perfectly fine.

In possession Charlie Hughes was as good as anyone and really cemented his spot as a key player in the side. Ryan Nyambe was given the nod on the left side and struggled on his weaker foot, but when he was moved to the right looked much better. Tom Pearce made a big impact coming on at left Centre Back and gave us so much quality on the ball whilst Thelo, Fletcher and Naylor all contributed very well off the bench too.

There’s competition for places and that’s exactly what you want at this stage. When you consider players like Cousins and Rekik are going to return from injury too, we’re not looking too bad.

4) Finding their feet…

One thing I’ve been really pleased to see is that players are starting to show their true ability all of a sudden. Players like Jack Whatmough, Tendayi Darikwa, Max Power and Callum Lang are all starting to show a level of performance that belongs in the Championship, or at least doesn’t look out of place there. It’s no secret that several players have struggled with the step up but under Maloney they seem to be finding their feet.

I think I should give special mention to the Captain and Vice-Captain, both of which I’ve been critical of at times this season. Yesterday I felt like both looked so much better and seemed to have a bit more confidence about them which is nice. There’s room for improvement as there is for everyone but the step up has been noticable.

Whatmough looked so calm in defence and never seemed under pressure, whilst Lang looked lively again before being subbed off. It was a tough game for all of our forwards yesterday as Huddersfield came and defended with 11 men behind the ball, but we still saw sparks to suggest our number 19 is on the up.

5) The 12th man!

A lot has been spoken about the impact us supporters can have on the team and their survival chances, and yesterday proved how true that is. The atmosphere in the first half was so so, mainly due to the cagey nature of the game and the nerves everyone was feeling. In the second half though, wow, some of the best it’s been in a long time.

It’s no coincidence that as the crowd started getting up, the team started to dominate and it felt like a goal was coming. When it did and the entire ground started singing the Shaun Maloney song it made us feel invincible for that brief moment. That’s something we haven’t felt in a long, long time.

It’s important to make sure that atmosphere is created at every game now, because every game is bigger than the one before. We find ourselves in a better position than we did this time last week now, let’s keep building.

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