Shaun Maloney’s unbeaten start at Wigan Athletic continued as his side battled to a 1-1 draw away at in-form Bristol City. Here are 5 things we learnt from the game…
1) Another point on the board…
If you were offered 5 points from Shaun Maloney’s first 3 games in charge at Latics I’m sure you’d have taken it. We’ve lifted ourselves off the foot of the table and within a win of escaping the drop zone which is the kind of impact we desperately needed after the disaster of Kolo Touré. In fairness to the board the appointment is already having its desired effect.
We’ve extended the gap between ourselves and the bottom two, as well as closing the gap on Cardiff in 21st who picked up an annoyingly important win against Birmingham City on Tuesday night. At this point we just need to keep ticking along and getting points on the board. If we remain consistent we’ll ensure survival.
2) A positive performance!
Whilst it literally isn’t more important than the fact we’re getting points, the fact every game is an improvement on the last feels like the most important and exciting thing about Latics in these last 3 games. Against Blackburn we looked pretty decent at both ends of the pitch but not excellent at either. Against Huddersfield we were superb defensively but still not great going forward. Yesterday, going forward we looked much better but had a lapse of concentration at the back.
This is all good stuff. In theory once things click for us and the defensive solidity combines with more flowing football going forward we’ll be loving life. I thought there were several passages of play that were really promising yesterday and with a bit more work on the training ground they’ll become more successful and frequent. As long as they come without us sacrificing defensive solidity we’re onto a winner.
3) An avoidable goal…
The only real negative from the game is the Bristol City goal, and that’s because it was so avoidable. From the initial foul leading to the free kick to the awful marking, or lack there of, in the middle allowing their biggest aerial threat to attack the ball in acres of space and power a header into the net. Its something we’ve managed to limit in the last 2 games so its a real shame to have it slip in once again.
On a more positive note the reaction to their goal was excellent and its clear that the players weren’t let off lightly by Maloney at halftime. He said how disappointed he was with the goal in his post match interview and didn’t pull punches in saying so, which is good to see. Ashley Fletcher also described how disappointed the players were with their defending so its clear accountability was taken. As long as lessons are learnt from it that’s fine.
4) Fletcher’s off the mark!
I think the phrase to describe this one is ‘a long time coming!’ Ashley Fletcher’s time at Latics has been a challenge for all involved and you’d be forgiven for losing hope on things coming good. Before yesterday it was 13 goalless games for the Watford loanee and given his reputation and reported weekly wage many supporters were feeling underwhelmed by his contributions.
But what a huge goal this could turn out to be! He was in the right place at the right time to fire home from Max Power’s cross and hopefully the floodgates will now open for his goal scoring tally. I thought he offered very little in the first half but was aided by the subs at half time and looked much better in the second half. Now that monkey is off his back you’d like to think he’ll kick on and find some more form.
5) Impactful substitutes… again!
Perhaps the most impressive part about Maloney’s reign so far is his use of substitutes. In all 3 games there’s been a notable improvement in the side after his substitutions and yesterday was no different. Although in a way it kind of was, because 3 of the 4 substitutions were made at half time! Bold, brave and brilliant from Maloney.
Lang and Keane both helped Fletcher out more than Thelo and Sinani whilst Tom Pearce provided a natural left footed crossing option from deep areas, something Ryan Nyambe simply can’t on his weak foot. Tom Naylor’s introduction late on helped secure the point too so kudos to the manager for his decision making. Its all very positive at the minute and long may it continue.